■ By Rusty Strait / Senior Reporter
It’s easy to be drawn into Little Patty’s Home Decor, the used furniture shop at the corner of Florida Avenue and Harvard Street in downtown Hemet. The door opens into a wonderland of furnishings that have enjoyed the good graces of their former residences. Patty Marquez will greet you with a beaming smile that embraces you as a welcome.
Marquez greeted this reporter like a friend who had come from far away to join family and friends for the holidays. How, I pondered for a moment, did all of this small wonderland come about? She was ready to answer that question with the story of real American enterprise and ingenuity.
“It all began with my family,” she says. Marquez was born in Pomona, California; the eldest of six children. “My family moved to Hemet when I was young where my father was what you might describe as a buy and sell business man. I knew from an early age that I wanted to take what he was doing and personalize it.”
Patty continued, “I learned by watching him on so many Saturday and Sunday morning art flea markets and yard sales. He was a real street merchant. Going with him on those ventures taught me how to deal with people and I knew that someday I would have my own business.”
She and her husband have three children of their own; they have two daughters and a son. Their daughter, also named Patty, is a partner in the business. This is also not their first shop. “Seeing my total desire to have our own place of business, my husband supported my dream from the very beginning and joined me in opening a small store in San Jacinto several years ago. It wasn’t big, but we loved it. In June of 2017, we decided to upgrade to a bigger shop in Hemet. It was a bold move, but I threw myself into the place with all the gusto and energy I had to offer. My husband had my back all the way, as he still does today.”
She kept her regular job in the produce and garden section of a Stater Brothers until she felt secure in the new store. Meanwhile, her husband has his own separate business. “I’m not cookie cutter,” she explains, “Not into antiques or that sort of thing. My business is more into the home style furniture, the unique furniture, real bones furniture. Today, mostly everything you see is disposable. Older, comfortable furniture brings into a home the aura of times remembered and blends well with the modern home atmosphere.
I asked her if the new location was making money.
“We don’t own the building, of course, we lease the premises. We are making a living, but last summer we had at least one terrible month. Since then, we have downsized to half the total space we originally occupied. However, the ambiance lends a more intimate situation that fits our clientele,” said Patty.
“Most of my customers are hard working people, often barely getting by. I understand their situations. That’s what makes us a bit different. Folks come in and I try to make deals to meet the needs of their budgets. I’m always willing to negotiate.”
Often she is asked why she doesn’t have sales on her pieces. “It is because I want them to come in and talk with me like friends. That’s the fun part of my shop. I want my customers to shop with me in a comfortable homelike atmosphere. I love this community and, being a part of it, I understand that we are not Beverly Hills. We are a small, but growing, town and have not adapted the hard, uncaring ways of a big city.”
She says she likes to feel that she has lifted someone’s sense of comfort. “I like to see customers leave my store feeling better than when they came in. I think we owe that to each other. Our valley still has that hometown feeling. Folks here are plain friendly.”
How does she decide what kinds of pieces to purchase for the shop? “I always select pieces based on discussions I’ve had with my clients over the years. One
gets to know the clientele. That makes my shopping selections for the store so much easier. I treat anyone who comes through the front door as guests in my home. You know, sit down, let’s have a conversation.”
Because of her close relationship with clients, she doesn’t have to do as much searching at flea markets and garage sales for items to sell.
“I get calls all the time from people who have purchased items here. They say they have a piece that might interest me. Like family, we know each other’s taste. I recently had a call from a lady who said, ‘Patty my mother passed and she left some pieces I’m sure you would be interested in.’ I still go to estate sales and sometimes I host such sales.
Patty concluded the interview saying, “I have customers who have followed me from my San Jacinto store and those I’ve accumulated here in Hemet. They are no longer my customers. They are my friends.”
When was the last time you’ve been invited to sit down and have a nice chat at a Walmart or Target? That’s what I thought. Isn’t it nice to have a friendly, hometown shop?
Rusty Strait is a senior reporter with The Valley Chronicle and can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.