Story and photos by Amy Falkofske
Xiao-Yin Byrom, or Tang as she’s affectionately known, was born into the business of tailoring. Now she is the successful owner of Tang’s Alterations – Bridal/Bespoke in Manassas, the area’s go-to shop for alterations and bridal gowns.
When Byrom first set out on her own, she didn’t have dreams of being a tailor. She wanted a college degree, even though women in her family were not encouraged to go to college. In fact, after one year of community college in California, her mother wanted her to quit college and move to Montgomery, Alabama, to help her run her tailoring business. Her mother even told her she wasn’t college material. But Byrom fought that notion.
“My dream is to finish college. I want to get a college degree,” she told her mother Byrom’s goal was to prove that women could go to college too and she wanted to be the first one in her family. “I didn’t care what degree it was in, I just wanted that piece of paper,” she said.
Eventually, her brother, Tang, who was also going to college at the time, stepped in and volunteered to come home and help with the family business. Byrom remembers exactly what he said.
“You know what? Stop this! I’m not college material. I’m coming home. I don’t want to go to school anymore. Just go ahead and let sister go to school. I will just come home, and I will take care of the family business,” he said.
Byrom ended up getting a degree in art and went on to be an art teacher, but she was shocked many years later after her brother had passed away, to find out from one of his friends what he had sacrificed for her to go to college. He was studying architecture and was one of the top students when he suddenly decided one night to pack up and leave school.
“I learned that he gave up school so I could get my degree,” said Tang.
Byrom is still in awe of her brother’s sacrifice.
“How can somebody sacrifice something that they’re building towards for somebody else and without telling anybody? I will never forget that,” she said.
A Business Born out of Necessity
Byrom eventually realized that teaching art just wasn’t her cup of tea. After teaching in Belgium, she moved to Manassas. She needed an income to provide for her three children, so she decided to do what she knew best and open a tailoring business. That business was initially supposed to be for Tang. The plan was that Byrom would start the business and then eventually retire to raise her kids and let Tang run the business.
Byrom’s kids were young at the time, and two of them had peanut allergies, so she had very specific requirements for where she wanted to start her business. It needed to be close to both a hospital and a daycare. In 1999, she found just what she needed at her current location in Manassas.
“This shopping center happened to have a daycare next door and a hospital across the street, and there was an empty space,” she said.
Plans changed when four years after starting the business, Byrom found out that Tang was sick with lung cancer. Sadly, he passed away in 2004. Byrom ended up running the business and now employees 13 people.
Byrom says she and her brother worked very well together, that he was the quality control in the back and she was the face of the business. His quality of work inspired her work and what she expected of her employees after he passed away.
“I wanted to not only be the face, but I wanted to make sure the quality was just like the way he left it for me. I hire very good people. I’m very particular about who works here,” she said.
Byrom feels good about where she is today.
“I worked really, really hard to get to this point, but it’s all rewarding. Now I’m able to help more people by making more jobs,” she said.
A Ray of Hope During a Pandemic
Tang’s made headlines at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic by donating thousands of masks to medical workers and first responders in our area. Byrom said it started with a nurse who came into the shop in tears because the one mask that she was allotted for the week was broken. Byrom felt that she needed to do something.
“We did a little research about that, and then I walked to the back and I told the girls and Kenny, who is the vice president in our shop, we need to make masks. We need to do this,” she said. After making 20 different prototypes of masks and getting one approved by her cousin who is a doctor, Byrom and her staff got to work. To date, they have made 11,500 masks that have been sent not only locally, but to seven states, even Germany and France. The first ones went to medical staff and first responders, but they are now for sale in the store.
Byrom said that she considers making the masks an honor.
Loved by Prince William
Tang’s is well-loved by the Prince William community. If you go onto the Western Prince William Chatter Facebook page and ask for recommendations for someone who does alterations, almost every response will be Tang’s.
Nancy writes, “They are the best and are so nice … They do amazing work.”
Dawn writes, “Tangs definitely! Great work and an awesome local business that loves and cares for their local community too!”
Those are just two of the many compliments that Tang’s has received on Facebook.
“If you do the right work, people are going to talk about you, and then they’re going to spread your word, and the best way to really promote yourself is to do the best work you can and everything will take care of itself,” said Byrom.
Tang’s is located at 8675 Sudley Road in Manassas. You can call them at 703-393-8458.
Amy Falkofske is a freelance writer and photographer. She has a Master’s degree in Film-TV with a concentration in screenwriting. She lives in Bristow with her husband, two boys and two Beagle dogs.