Kay Kindall, Owner/Designer, is the daughter of Dorothy Kaiser, who began Draperies by Dorothy in Newton, Kansas in 1953. Dorothy relocated to Topeka in 1967. The 1215 Gage location was chosen in 1971 where our shop remains. Kay’s background in multiple businesses in Boulder, Colorado included helping in the designing and building of several custom homes and included training in interior design. When Dorothy retired at age 82, Kay filled in to keep the business going “temporarily.” Twenty-seven years later, she may finally be cutting back on hours as she continues to coordinate teamwork.
Sherry Oliver, Master Seamstress & Bookkeeper, joined Draperies by Dorothy in 2006 after a lifetime as a highly skilled seamstress. As head of what was called The Work Shoppe in North Topeka, Sherry was manager of multiple seamstresses, many of whom she trained. She and her crew sewed for twenty-five designers and decorators during the era in Topeka when formal draperies and classic swags were the rage. In many ways, Sherry is to the window treatment business as good old-fashioned English teachers are to grammar. She knows the “right” way to fabricate window treatments. With sewing, as with the English language, it may be said that one must know the correct way to sew or speak before they deserve the privilege of varying those rules. Wrestling heavy fabrics and standing on hard floors takes its toll, though, so we mostly have Sherry behind a desk now figuring bids and deciding how much fabric we need for which job.
Leah Martin, Design Consultant, came on board as a full-time staff member in September 2016. The variety of experience she has had with other businesses in the home design field provides a broad perspective of options she offers customers in one-on-one consultations. She worked for Windows, Etc., Marlings and Gardners and brought with her a variety of ideas from each. When she worked in the window treatment department at Penney’s, they sent her to California for training. She also took design at the original Kaw Valley Vocational Technical School. Besides help with designing all kinds of window treatments, she is certified as a Hunter Douglas Products Consultant. That she was a manager for Pier 1 for some of those in between years adds to her wide spectrum of interests and ideas.
Carla McInteer, Design Team Coordinator, joined us recently to do exactly what her title suggests. She could be called shop manager, though a more fitting term might be Organizer to help our business flow even more smoothly and efficiently. Before joining Draperies by Dorothy this spring, she was an integral part of the Topeka business known as Delta Designs. She helped them grow from infancy to an internationally known company over her thirty years there. She considers her work with us her second career. We are happy to have her aboard and look forward to her help as we grow from this fifty-year mark onward.
Shirley Gustafson, Creative Seamstress and More, loves a challenge and has the talent and determination to creatively complete each one. Twenty-three years ago, a customer told Kay she had a neighbor who was an exceptionally good seamstress and she’d like to introduce us. Shirley graduated from K-State with a degree in clothing design, which transferred nicely to learning the professional skills involved with window treatments. Rossville Schools have captured most of her time teaching everything from algebra to wood and metal work in the school shop – where many girls now participate along with the boys. Still, Shirley accepts several projects per year for Draperies by Dorothy customers, including several of Topeka’s annual Designers Show Homes.
Joyce Abernathy, Seamstress for All Projects, from the simple to the most complex, came to Draperies by Dorothy as a former manager at JoAnn’s Fabrics when they were next door to our shop. Joyce loves to sew and explains, “This is what I do.” After working full-time in shop for seven years, she now works mostly from home for us as well as others. We are blessed with her presence and skill as she fabricates project after project. Her range of sewing and construction skills is unlimited.
Mary Gerstner, Perfectionist Seamstress, also sews from her home. In past years, she owned and operated her own window treatment shops in Wamego and other Kansas towns. She came to us in so-called “retirement” with a full background of experience. Besides sewing for us, she volunteers at the library, the Police and Fire Departments and plays the piano in retirement homes several times each week. She also finds time for regular activities with friends and becomes a world traveler with her husband several times each year. Mary fits the adage that if you want something done, ask a busy person. We are fortunate she fits in time to lend her perfectionism to making pleated draperies for many of our customers.
Velda Hodges, Perfectionist Seamstress, and much more. She was our shop manager from 2000 to 2006. Her patience and steadiness guided us through much change. Ultimately, her dream of owning and operating her own farmette in the form of The Country Bumpkin Pumpkin Patch near Harveyville has come true. An October visit there would be well worth your while. In the meantime, we can still count on her expertise anytime she sews for us.
Dennis Phillips, Installer, puts the final touches on most of our projects. His skill and efficiency has been developed over the past 40 years. He began installing window treatments at the same time as he was working as a fireman and then our fire chief. In his “retirement” he has more time for us and our customers. However, we keep asking him to find a younger firefighter to begin training as there will be more need for skilled installers as time goes on. A good installer can make or break a job, no matter how well planned. Before Dennis, we give credit to Junior Hodison, Bill and Craig Bond, and others who have come over from Kansas City to help us
Gratitude: Thanks to Kathy Slimmer for her role with designing and sales from the time Dorothy was in charge to present time. Kathy has been employed by Unique Design for the past twenty years and collaborates with Kay on window treatments for their customers. What Kay has learned from Kathy over the years has played a big role in the high quality of our product.
Past Seamstresses are too numerous to name all, but they include Doris Greene, Arlette and Joanne Eckhardt, Anna Rising, Geneva Booth, Jean Reed, and Flora Montague. Rick Pittman not only sewed numerous projects for us but installed them to perfection as well. He currently resides in Florida, but we have not excluded the possibility of sending work to him there.
Sewing Room, Study Hall and Nursery Kay’s daughters have worked at the shop on multiple occasions. Jill was learning to sew from Dorothy during the time her infant son was growing from a babe in arms to a toddler who could no longer walk under the sewing tables without conking his head. Then Jordan went to preschool, and Jill went to college. Youngest daughter Leslin later studied toward her teacher’s certificate while carrying her son Zac in a backpack between phone calls and walk-ins. Zac went from backpack to daycare. In 2006-07 eldest daughter Kelly brought her already developed sewing skills to assist with sewing while completing her undergraduate degree from Furman University and gaining her R.N. degree from Washburn. Minimum wage work at the shop helped support these three young women in becoming a teacher, an L.P.N and an R.N., who specializes and teaches hospice care. Each also continues the long process of paying back student loans.
Priorities All employees with grandchildren are given time off for family events. In past years, Kay-Leigh and Zoe joined us when not in school. Kendall Abernathy visited on occasion and stopped by Sherry’s desk where there were always treats.
Visions in Business: A thriving business is a sort of an organism. Once the foundation of purpose is laid, an “owner” is a little like a parent who guides and directs the flow of growth as it occurs. Each person, each aspect, each level of growth is both essential and non-essential – including each customer. The process of fulfilling and/or exchanging wants and needs is endless.
Win-Win Is ours an unconventional business? Probably so. We believe that has also contributed to our success and longevity.
Fifty Years Strong &Growing