Women in Business: Darlene Kelley, Kelley Quality Sewing Center – Post Bulletin
Darlene Kelley opened her first sewing shop, Quality Sewing Machine Center, in 1985. She and her husband ran the business until 2003, when they sold it to an employee. In 2008, the two took over the business and renamed it
. The store landed in its current location at 3432 55th St. NW in Rochester six years ago.
The store specializes in sewing machines and everything you need to sew a project: patterns, books, threads, scissors, sewing machine feet and trimmings, plus an ever-changing threads section, where you can find all your knitting and crochet components. Kelley’s Quality Sewing Center is also known for its wide variety of classes. From embroidery machines and crochet corners to kids’ camps and teen sewing clubs, Darlene and her staff can teach you everything from learning to knit to the most intricate quilting techniques and more.
Is this the first business you own?
My husband owned the Read More bookstore in downtown Rochester for four years. When they tore down Hotel Zumbro, he joined me.
What advice would you give to someone thinking of opening their own business?
Be prepared to work a lot. It takes a lot of time, a lot of work and patience. Have a plan and stick to it.
What is one thing you really love about what you do?
See people smile when they learn something new.
What are your future goals?
To continue to develop the activity. We are expanding our yarn selections and growing that part of the business, we are expanding our variety of machines. … We try to keep up with what’s available and what’s new in the industry. We participate in training programs every year. Before we can buy machines to sell to our customers, we have to go through training to learn how to maintain, use and sell them, so it’s a constant training atmosphere.
Do you have loyal customers?
Yes. Over the years I have seen generations of clients, their children and their grandchildren.
What did you wish you had known when you started?
How difficult it is to find people to work with who are qualified to help in this endeavor. It is not a place where everyone can work, as it requires additional knowledge of crafts, sewing and sales. But right now we have great staff.
What do you think gives a small business the ability to stay?
The face-to-face contact and help, the advice we can give you that you can’t get over the internet or online. Service too. We have people who come every day and need help with something. Either they don’t understand a pattern they are knitting, and they can come here with their pattern and get personal help and if they made a mistake they help them correct it. You can’t get that online.
Three things you can’t do your job without.
Training, other staff and good customers. … Without the customers, we would be bankrupt.
Four things you think every sewing room should have.
A good sewing machine, furniture to organize and use, the right equipment and the knowledge to use your equipment.