Fabric store

The fabric store survives decades without a problem

Since opening in the 1980s, Ryco Trimming Co. has undergone various modifications.

In 1984, Pat Ryan and her husband, Donald Ryan, founded the fabric trim manufacturing company in Stamford, Connecticut, before moving the company to their current location, a former factory at 25 Carrington St. in Lincoln, in 1989.

When Donald Ryan retired in 1995, Pat Ryan continued to run the business and opened a retail store, Ryco’s Creative Sewing Center, in the same building.

Today, the 15,000 square foot fabric store represents the bulk of the business. The company still makes toppings, but only on a small scale, and sells its products in stores as well as to Amish retailers.

The company has 12 employees, two full-time and 10 part-time, and each staff member is responsible for a different aspect of the business, from novelty trims and cotton fabric to long-arm quilting.

In an interview, Ryan spoke about his experience as a small business owner in Rhode Island. Here are some excerpts:

How is your business different from similar businesses around you?

What makes my business unique is that it is mystical. It is magic. You come here and you feel happy. You feel happy with the sewing, happy with life. You enter this building and you enter a creative and exciting world. This is probably the best thing I can say. People come into our store and stop at the entrance and say “Wow”. And that’s what makes us different.

How has the business evolved?

Since our opening, the world has changed. NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, was introduced. Then bankruptcy laws changed, retailers going bankrupt left and right, which meant manufacturers were not getting paid. Then at some point, retailers stopped having real buyers. Buyers didn’t really care about the product anymore; they just cared about the price.

My husband retired around 1995 and I continued. I opened a retail store, selling all kinds of crafts, and that made up for the difficulties in the manufacturing business. As the retail business has grown, so has manufacturing activity. Then in 2005 we had a major flood here. We had 3 feet of water inside the building and everything was destroyed. I had to decide what I wanted to do with myself and I was too young to retire.

My dream was to be a very good fabric store, specializing in cotton. So I started all over again and now I have a fabric store. When you go into business, you have to change when the world changes. And now a new change is happening: the Internet. The internet affects bricks and mortar, so bricks and mortar must change the way customers think by integrating the internet.

What is the company’s turnover?

The answer to this question is that I have been eating and surviving from this business for 34 years, and it is pretty good. But the thing about starting a business is not how much money you make. You are trying to make a difference in the world. You have a thought and you follow it, that’s the reason you do it. It’s your life, it’s your passion. This is the reason why you get up every day. It’s always demanding, but I like it so I don’t really see it as work.

What are some of the challenges you have encountered?

I think every 10 years you had better reorganize your business because the world will change and you might find yourself without a business. The biggest challenge I faced was the flood of 2005. You can’t imagine what it is like to have a huge and successful business and you walk in the door the next day and that’s it. mud. People thought we were bankrupt. We had to start all over again. It was the biggest challenge I have faced in my life. It was an astronomical thing to see millions of dollars floating in the mud.

What do you need to grow and succeed in the face of challenges?

I have a saying that I developed around the time of our flood, and it’s, “You get 24 hours of self-pity, so you better figure out how to dig a hole.” This is really it. The first step was to clean up. We had no money; our inventory was our money, so we cleaned it up. I stayed at home for a few days making the insurance claims, which were monumental. And when I came back to the store, some of my employees had taken a few rows of fabric inventory and set it up, because it survived. Anything more than 4 feet from the ground survived. And I looked at him and I said, “I think that’s what I want to do.” So I did some research and started all over again.

Did anything surprise you about being a small business owner in Rhode Island?

My husband had a philosophy when we chose to stay here. He said it’s better to be a big fish in a small pond than a small fish in a big pond. And it’s true: in the 30 years that I have been here, I have met a lot of people. It really is a good thing.

What are your goals?

I wish to continue to grow our business and extend the reach further than the reach we have. What I mean by that is people go 100 miles and don’t blink an eyelash to come to my store, so now I want to grow the internet side of the business. We joined Etsy in January, so customers can buy our products there. We’re just getting started. It’s tough when you’ve been a decent sized brick and mortar, but that’s the kind of growth we’re looking at.