People in Your La Jolla Neighborhood: Meet the seamstress/entrepreneur behind Kiki's Alterations

Editor’s Note: La Jolla Light’s “People in Your Neighborhood” series shines a spotlight on notable locals we all wish we knew more about! Light staff is out on the town talking to familiar, friendly faces to bring you their stories. If you know someone you’d like us to profile, send the lead via e-mail to editor@lajollalight.com or call us at (858) 875-5950.

Kiki has owned and worked at her 7742 Hershel Ave. Kiki’s Alterations workshop for the past 27 years. At 78 years old, this native of Greece stills fits clients when they come in and stitches, seams and hems as needed. Like many seamstresses, she needs glasses after a life of looking closely at the needle of her sewing machine. Her hands are soft and strong at the same time. She speaks softly and with a strong accent, but the pitch of her laugh comes across as easy as pie.

What’s your full name?

“Vasilike Spounias Kiki, but everybody knows me as Kiki.”

Where are you from?

“I’m from Greece. I came to Toledo (Ohio) when I was 22, got married and moved to San Diego.”

When did you come to La Jolla?

“When I came to San Diego, I didn’t speak much English, so once I had my children, I stayed at home. I had a few clients in La Jolla, so I would come to their homes, fit them, and do the alterations back at my home. Then in 1983, I started to work in La Jolla for another alteration store that was where mine is today. The owner left and went to the end of Girard, but I stayed. That was 1990. I’ve been open for almost 30 years.”

What services do you provide?

“All kinds of alterations leather, suede, jeans … anything you can imagine. We have also added wedding dresses.”

What is the craziest thing people have asked you to do?

“Once we made a custom dog suit. A lady brought us the sun protective fabric and we made a custom full outfit so the dog, who had surgery, didn’t get skin cancer. And we had to fit the dog! Can you imagine that? (laughs)”

Who works here with you?

“I was by myself for many years, now, my daughter Tami, has been working with me 10 or 15 years, and I have three more employees. I have a specialist, who works on wedding dresses, I do the fitting and she does the sewing.”

Where did you learn how to sew?

“In Greece, when I was 9 or 10 years old. I come from a very small village, and every winter it snowed, so we couldn’t go out and work on a farm. There was a seamstress coming to town, and she taught me and three other girls.”

Why did you come to America?

“In 1959, my aunt (my mom’s sister who lived in the United States), came to visit us in Greece after three or four years away. I told her I wanted to come to America. I said, ‘Please, aunt, take me!’ And one day I received a letter, and when I opened it there was an $800 check inside. I felt like I was flying! She brought me here for a one-month visit to learn about couture. In 1961, I arrived in New York after 11 days on a boat, and I came to Ohio. But, for me to stay, I had to marry someone who was an American. So I married my husband, who passed away years ago.”

Why did you stay?

“When I came to the United States, I felt like I was in heaven, I loved it.”

What do you like to do for fun?

“I’m a little workaholic (laughs). I get up in the morning at 6 a.m. and I go swimming, there’s a pool where I live. I swim half an hour, I go home, take a shower, and come to work. I just love coming to work. Sometimes I travel. I go to Ohio, and last year, I met my cousins there and we took a bus to New York with a group from church, and it was awesome.”

Do you miss your family?

“After three years, I became an American citizen, so I brought my mom and two sisters, who still live in San Diego, but my mom passed away. I still have some cousins in Greece, I go there some times, but it’s so far away ... and there are so many beautiful places here.”

Where do you live?

“I live in a condo behind the La Jolla Hotel. I bought my house in the 1990s. I used to live in North Park and drive here every day, and I was working so hard when my kids were in high school, so we moved closer to here, and finally we moved to the condo.”

Do you do a lot with family?

“Yeah, we get together, we’re very close with my daughters and son. They come to my house for dinner, I make Greek dishes. They like pastitsio, lasagna, moussaka, salads, lamb and roasted chicken with lemon.”

What’s your favorite time of the year in La Jolla?

“I like the sunny and hot days, I don’t like it when it’s cold and rains.”

What do you like to do around town?

“I like to go walking at The Shores, going to the nice restaurants there, walking to The Cove and shopping around to support the local people. I love it here.”

Describe your marriage?

“I got married by arrangement. I knew him for four days when we got married. He was Greek, too, but he came here when he was 13. But we were happy, because love comes and goes, but if you respect the person, it stays.”

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