Women in Business: Darlene Kelley, Kelley's Quality Sewing Center

Women in Business: Darlene Kelley, Kelley's Quality Sewing Center

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 the business back and renamed it Kelley’s Quality Sewing Center. The store landed in its current location at 3432 55th St. NW in Rochester six years ago.

Kelley's Quality Sewing Center

Darlene Kelley of Kelley's Quality Sewing Center

The store specializes in sewing machines and anything you need to sew a project: patterns, books, threads, scissors, sewing machine feet, and trimmings, along with an ever-growing yarn section, where you can find all your knitting and crocheting components. Kelley’s Quality Sewing Center is also known for its wide variety of classes. From embroidery machines to crochet corner, kids camps, and teen sewing clubs, Darlene and her staff can teach you everything from learning to knit to the most intricate of quilting techniques and more.

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Darlene Kelley

Is this the first business you’ve owned?

My husband owned the Read More Bookstore in downtown Rochester for four years. When they tore down the Zumbro Hotel, he joined with me.

What advice would you give someone who’s thinking about 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.

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What is something you really love about what you do?

Seeing people smile when they learn something new.

What are your future goals?

To continue increasing the business. We are expanding our yarn selections and growing that part of the business, we are expanding our machine variety. ... We try to keep up with what’s available and what’s new in the industry. We go to training programs every year. Before we can buy any machines to sell to our customers, we have to take trainings to learn how to service it, learn how to use it, and sell it, so it’s a constant training atmosphere. 

Do you have returning customers? 

Yes. Over the years I’ve seen the generations of customers, and their kids and their grandkids.

What do you wish you had known when you were starting?

How difficult it is to find people to work with that are qualified to help in this business. It’s not a place for everybody to work because it requires some additional knowledge of crafting and sewing and selling. But right now we have a wonderful staff.

What do you think gives a small business staying power?

The face-to-face contact and help, advice that we can give that you can’t get from the internet or online. Service too. We have people come in every day that need help with something. Either they don’t understand a pattern that they’re 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, the other staff members, and good customers. … Without the customers, we would be out of business.

Four things you think every sewing room needs to have.

A good sewing machine, furniture to organize and use, the right equipment, and the knowledge to use your equipment. 

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