It’s been just a bit over 20 years since Lilly Retelas took a leap and opened her own business. A leap of faith for a single mom who had relocated to Oakdale with a skill and determination. And while many who know Retelas would likely say it’s her kindness and personality which have maintained her shop for the past two decades, her wisdom and business savvy play an equal part in the success of her business, The Lilly Pad Sewing.
“I decided to move to the Valley. I bought a house here in Oakdale and I was going around to the businesses like a politician with a clipboard and I was asking everybody. Taking a survey,” she said of her initial business idea of opening a sewing machine and vacuum repair shop. That was a job she had done while living in the Bay Area.
Four years after starting her business at the 1214 W. F St., Oakdale location, Retelas was able to relocate to a larger suite in the same building, due to a new demand. Her favorite quilting shop in Modesto had closed, which left the go-getter with only one option: to start carrying fabric.
“The business switched from sewing and vacuum sales and repair and classes to sewing and quilting. No vacuums anymore,” the entrepreneur said.
“I’m a hard worker. I love a challenge,” she continued, “and I guess I have a natural ability to go with the flow. So I switched my business because the economy was asking for this. I’ve been blessed to be able to recognize the signs and I guess I have a knack for business. I take care of my customers.”
In addition to the quilting items, sewing machine sales and repairs offered at the Lilly Pad, Retelas also hosts private classes for small groups; maximum four people. Teaching the machines, beginner quilting, advanced quilting and different techniques.
“You can make beautiful projects,” she said of the art of quilting. “It’s rewarding. It’s also a very therapeutic way to take care of trouble and anxiety. It has lots of benefits.”
Proving to be committed to her craft as well as her clients, Retelas shares her passion for the art of quilting by way of offering all that her clients may need to create the work which lines the walls of her shop.
“I make all the samples because I buy all the patterns. I coordinate the way I like to coordinate and make my own bundles to make the kits,” she said of putting her own creative touch on the quilt kits she sells.
Yet 20 years of business, most especially post-COVID and in a small town takes more than commitment and passion, it takes hard work.
“All the old school businesses that are still here and they grow it’s because the owners are hardcore. They believe in what they do,” she said. “They take care of their business. They take care of their customers and they don’t spend their money as soon as the money comes in on this and that.”
Retelas added that it also is important to focus on the customers.
“When a person decided to drive and come into my store, I feel honored. And I feel obligated and excited to see how I can help them. I cannot ignore them. The person has to feel welcomed,” she explained.
When asked the secret of owning a business 20 years, Retelas didn’t hesitate.
“I truly believe the trick to it, is to pay attention to your clients. Specifically, now that everything is available on line,” she said. “Trust is what you build with a client. It might not happen right away. It may not come for years, but it can come.”
Manageable hours of Tuesday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., have come hard earned over the years. The hours, however, help Retelas maintain a healthy life balance and a continued love for her clients and the business.
“My oldest son George claims my shop is an extension of my living room, because I treat people the same way as if you come to my home,” Retelas concluded. “I cannot change. I don’t have a different hat for business. I am how I am. Everybody knows this is the happy place. I take really good care of you.”