EDDYSTONE — It’s often been said that if a person digs deep enough into any nationally known project or program—whether it’s a film, a business venture, a Broadway show, a hit song, or a medical breakthrough — he can discover a slight touch of Delaware County in there somewhere. So, it shouldn’t surprise many to discover the “touch of Delco” in the film classics “Titanic” and “Taps,” and in just about every military officer’s uniform worldwide.

Anthony D’Alessandro of Ridley Park is owner and operator of Accent Uniforms, Inc. at 200 Saville Ave., Eddystone. His company not only made the double-breasted custom uniform that Bernard Hill wore when he played ship captain, E.J. Smith, in 1997's “Titanic,” but Accent Uniforms also dressed George C. Scott in three different sets of uniforms for his role as a general in the 1981 drama, “Taps.” Accent Uniforms makes and supplies officer uniforms for the U.S. Navy, Marines, Army and Coast Guard.

According to D’Alessandro, about 95 percent of all officers’ uniforms, in all branches of the military, are made right there in his Delaware County plant. The company also produces uniforms for West Point, the Naval Academy at Annapolis, Virginia Military Academy, Valley Forge Military Academy, and many others.

“I enjoy the business or I wouldn’t still be here,” D’Alessandro, 79, said with pride gleaming in his eyes as he looked out over a room humming with the sound of sewing machines. “It’s in my heart and in my blood. Next year will mark our 50th year, one half of a century, in business.”

Accent Uniforms makes the basic officer uniforms, including the buttons, and then supplies them to the uniform exchanges, where the customizing takes place at the point of purchase. At the exchange, military officers will choose their uniform and the exchange will take care of the finishing touches like rank stripes, patches and custom fitting.

Accent makes 27 styles of uniforms on site, for both men and ladies, and each uniform is carefully crafted by hand. D’Alessandro has an eye for quality, and chooses all material himself. He must bid government jobs, and has built a reputation for his company from consistent high quality and fine craftsmanship. Accent is the only business of its kind in the Philadelphia area.

“I take pride in my work,” D’Alessandro stated. “And I want every person who wears a uniform made here to wear it proudly.”

In 1998, with Accent Uniforms thriving, D’Alessandro opened ARD Uniforms Enterprises, another business under the same roof. The company, which has a retail storefront, sells uniforms and accessories for law enforcers and first responders, including police, fire and EMS. ARD supplies uniforms for the Chester and Wilmington Police Departments, Crozer EMTs, SEPTA Transit Police, the fire departments in Lower Chichester, Trainer, Tinicum Township and many others in and out of the area. He also supplies uniforms for state troopers across the country.

In all, ARD and Accent have over 100 employees and produce and sell about 70,000 uniforms upwards each year in the modest 22,000 square-foot Eddystone plant. His workforce is diverse, a melting pot of many nationalities and backgrounds.

“Many here are immigrants to America, just as I was,” the entrepreneur explained. “If am happy to give people an opportunity to work hard and get ahead, just as I was given.”

D’Alessandro also owned ACM School Uniforms, at the same location, from 1975 until 2000. He closed the business when uniform sales took a dive in the late 1990s after school enrollments shrank and other stores got into the business to serve public school students who began wearing uniforms in some school districts. He said the school uniform business “just wasn’t lucrative anymore.”

D’Alessandro has the talent of knowing "when to hold ‘em, when to fold ‘em.” His other uniform stores, ARD and Accent are thriving. The businesses operate 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays.

According to D’Alessandro, Accent Uniforms has about 100 sewing machines, 30 utility pressers, and 12 open seam irons. The second floor is used for generating patterns on the computer and cutting the materials to pattern. All uniforms must be made to government specs.

“In America, if you work hard at what you like, the opportunity is here and you get rewarded in the end,” D’Alessandro explained his success as he walked around the factory floor, nodding his approval at the uniforms in production.

In some ways, D’Alessandro is like most typical American dream stories. The business owner immigrated to America from Pescara in the Abruzzi Region of Italy. His mother sent him to a tailor for sewing lessons when he was only 8 years old. He says that, even as a young boy, he dreamed of being a tailor in America.

In 1960, at age 20, he and his young wife Maria left Italy and traveled to America. He had just finished four years of design school. The D’Alessandros made their first home in Chester, where he went to work for an accomplished tailor on Edgemont Avenue, making cadet uniforms for Pennsylvania Military College in Chester. In 1964, the D’Alessandros moved to Ridley Park.

In 1970, when the owner retired, D’Alessandro took over the Rothman Uniform Co. with two partners. The company moved to Eddystone in 1978. In 1986, the partners retired and D’Alessandro bought them out, becoming sole owner. He expanded the Eddystone building and the company’s growth has never stopped.

“Every year in business has high points and low points,” D’Alessandro said philosophically. “But I’ve always kept up the quality of our uniforms. I’ve worked 60 and 70 hour weeks many, many times, to make this business a success. Styles change among many other factors, but we’ve had to learn to change with the wind to keep current.”

These days, D’Alessandro’s daughters Anita and Carla keep the business flowing, alongside of their father. Anita D’Alessandro is ARD manager and sales associate and Carla D’Alessandro is office manager. Anthony’s wife of 59 years, Maria, worked in the businesses for years until her retirement.

“She wanted more time with her grandchildren,” D’Alessandro smiled.

The walls of D’Alessandro’s offices and factory floors are lined with awards. In addition to earning accolades for his businesses, D’Alessandro has been awarded for his many contributions to the community, especially the Italian-American community.

Staying true to his roots, D’Alessandro is a pillar of many Italian-American community groups, holding offices in most and always promoting and cherishing his Italian roots and culture. In 1965, he became a U.S. citizen, and although he is a proud and faithful American, he has never lost his passion and love for his homeland.

For many years he was chairman of the Club Amici Radio Italiana.  D’Alessandro is one of the founders and active member of the Coalition of Italian American Organizations of Delaware County and the annual Delaware County Italian American Heritage Festival which takes place in Rose Tree Park each June.

He is one of the founders of the Association Regionale Abruzzese of Delaware Valley. In 1991, he and several others founded Asoociation Regionale Abruzzese Delco, of which he is past president and current active member. He is also a member of the executive COMITES of Filadelfia, the Sons of Italy 12th October Lodge, Filitalia and the Christopher Columbus Memorial Association of Delaware County. Additionally, the Italian government named D’Alessandro a “cavalieri,” which is the prestigious equivalent of being knighted by the queen in England.

There's no question about the fondness that D'Alessandro has for his native country. But, the uniform entrepreneur makes it clear, in almost every conversation, how much his adopted country means to him. 

"I love America," D'Alessandro stated about his adopted country. "If you work hard, America is truly the land of opportunity."

Accent Uniforms, Inc. and ARD Uniforms Enterprises, Ltd. are located at 200 Saville Ave., Eddystone. For more information, call Accent at 610-874-4871 or ARD at 610-874-8773.

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