Lady from Brazil weaves way to American Dream
By Paul Gauvin
No matter how good or how bad the Cape business climate may be, it will always be sew-sew for Havila Caus who has launched Cape Cod Alterations at 1686 Falmouth Road in the Centerville Plaza.
And however people might feel about the current immigration issues, Ms. Caus stands tall as an example of willing legal assimilation into United States culture and its promise of converting hard work into proprietorship.
Eight years of patience, eight years of green cards, red tape and paying taxes; eight years of legal expenses, eight years of long hours of labor to work and raise two children as a single mom, have now parlayed into permanent resident status and the pride of ownership – an intangible sensation manifested by Ms. Caus’ bright smile and bounding enthusiasm for her new enterprise and her prospects for full citizenship in a year or two.
"When I lived in Brazil," she said in accented English, "I had businesses. I had a bakery", then, sweeping an arm across the small newly painted store, "alterations like this and then a small factory making auto seat covers … but people don’t pay."
At one point, she said, she was selling furniture from her apartment to pay bills. "One day I say ‘enough’ and decide to leave. I thought first I would go to Italy. My father is Italian and I have citizenship there."
But a visit to a sister on Cape Cod offered another option, one she liked better. "When I came here I say, ‘This is where I want to be.’"
She did the necessary paperwork, packed up her two children, Vinnie, now 23, and Raisa, 16, (pronounced Ha-ee-sa) a student at Barnstable High School, and hired out as a seamstress, often working long hours but making friends in the process.
She adapted her basement where she and several friends also made slipcovers and cushions, pillows and other projects for extra income – services that have now become part of Cape Cod Alterations.
But this is as much a love story as a business report. A little more than two years ago, she met Marty Coyne in a work environment. "I was helping a friend do some painting and decorating on a wall and Havila was there. Four months later we had our first date …it was June 12, 2004," he said, a detail most men forget like yesterday’s lunch.
They talked about past hard times and shared an optimism for the future. "He was so nice," Havila says looking at him admiringly. "When I saw him, she says with a bright smile, "I say ‘he’s gonna be my husband some day.’" Then she extended her hand. "He give me a diamond."
They plan to marry next year.
Coyne is a silent partner in the alterations business. "We had talked a lot about her going on her own. I would tell her it was about time and we would look around for a place. When we saw this one, it was once a tailor shop, we talked to Mr. Poyant (landlord Rene Poyant) and our credit was good enough for us to get it."
Coyne, who works for his stepfather in the painting and decorating business, said he painted the place – pale blue with white trim – and helped finance the tools of Havila’s trade.
Besides one-hour hems and cuffs, Ms. Caus offers repairs in general – zippers, waists, sleeves, tapers, slip covers, cushions, pillows and other projects.
What lifts her spirits, she said, is the reception she has received from customers, some of them from her basement operation, and some new. "The people are so nice. Not one person comes in, ah, mad. They are all happy and they wish me good luck."
One thing seems evident. Any article left for repairs or changes will leave in an altered state.
from the September 14, 2006 issue of The Barnstable Patriot.
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