Taft Corners Shopping Center at capacity

Alteration, needlecraft shops open

By Luke Baynes

Observer staff


Owner Bonnie Stygles (left) and store manager Claire Denning reopened The Whistling Duck, a Taft Corners-based needlecraft specialty shop, in February after a five-year hiatus. (Observer photo by Luke Baynes)

The common thread linking the two newest businesses in the Taft Corners Shopping Center is just that – thread.

Nina Alterations and The Whistling Duck opened within a week of each other in early February. The former, as the name suggests, specializes in clothing alterations. The latter, named after a subfamily of the Anatidae family of birds, is focused on the forms of needles and threads used in cross-stitch, crewel and needlepoint.

Nina Vu (above), a native of Vietnam, runs the clothing alteration shop Nina Alterations in the Taft Corners Shopping Center. (Observer photo by Luke Baynes)

Located just five storefronts away from each other, the openings of the two businesses bring Taft Corners to full occupancy.


Nina Alterations is run by Nina Vu, a 24-year-old native of Đồng Nai, a province in Vietnam northeast of Ho Chi Minh City.

A former resident of Houston, Texas, she and her husband moved to South Burlington last year to be closer to his family.

“I love to work with clothes,” Vu said. “When I (came) to America (in 2003), I went to work with my cousin, because he had a store like this – tailor and alterations. But now I don’t do tailoring.”

She explained that tailoring businesses are more prevalent in Vietnam, because the best clothes are exported, meaning that consumers can often get better quality clothing by purchasing raw materials and having a tailor do custom designs.

In addition to providing alteration services for all varieties of men’s and women’s clothing, Vu also alters curtains for customers and sells dresses and other women’s wear purchased in Houston.

“In Houston they have more styles,” said Vu. “I go around (here) and I don’t see any styles, so I don’t like it at all.”

Vu said that despite the lack of colorful clothing in Vermont, she loves the state’s natural colors and is pleased with the location of her business.

“I really love Williston, because downtown (Burlington) you have a lot of businesses like me,” she said. “I see Williston is ready to grow more. They have a Best Buy and Old Navy, so I think it’s going to grow more.”


Although The Whistling Duck is new to its present location, it had been a mainstay of the Taft Corners area for over two decades prior to closing five years ago.

“It’s funny,” commented owner Bonnie Stygles about the reopening. “(Customers) will open the door and they’ll look in and say, ‘It is the real Duck!’”

Stygles decided to close the shop when her mother, who served as co-proprietress, became ill. She passed away in 2010, but the Stygles needlecraft legacy lives on through Bonnie.

“My grandmother and my mother had always done needlework, and they started me when I was about five or six years old, and I’ve always done it,” said Stygles.

The Whistling Duck sells jewelry, floral arrangements and home décor, but its niche focus on needlepoint, cross-stitch and crewel supplies is what attracts customers from far and wide.

“We get people from Montreal; we get Ottawa, Plattsburgh; we have some ladies who come from New Hampshire; we have several who come from Connecticut,” Stygles said. “So we do get people from all over.”

Stygles runs the store with manager Claire Denning, who has been with her for 23 years.

Despite The Whistling Duck’s lengthy hiatus from the Taft Corners shopping scene, Stygles and Denning have maintained a base of loyal customers, such as Bristol resident Shelly Cousino.

“Us stitchers like to feel the fabric; we want to see the colors,” Cousino said in expressing her preference for The Whistling Duck over comparable Internet sites. “It’s like a kid walking into a candy store. That’s how I feel about it here.”