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Heirlooms Forever a decadeslong sewing passion for owner

December 14, 2018

TUPELO, Miss. (AP) — In 1984, Kathy Pizza started her small business with 100 yards of fabric and 100 yards of lace in a 700-square-foot house.

“I thought I could teach the world to smock and do heirloom sewing, and create a business,” she said.

Fast forward to today, and that business, Heirlooms Forever, is nearing its 35th anniversary.

In the early 1990s, after starting to sell some sewing machines inside a store in what had been Hancock Fabrics, Kathy and her husband, Rocco, determined they needed their own building. They did just that, opening Heirlooms Forever on Cliff Gookin Boulevard.

But they soon discovered it wasn’t quite big enough.

“When we got here, it looked big when we had nothing in it, but when put everything in, we needed more room,” Rocco said with a laugh. “So a couple of years later we expanded. So now we have all the sewing machines on one side and the fabrics, notions and laces on the other side.”

The 7,000-square-foot building also has classroom space, where Kathy teaches customers how to sew, embroider and quilt.

Rocco also repairs sewing machines, a job that was a part-time gig when he was a systems manager at Delta Manufacturing. After work there, he would come to the store and repair machines. When Delta closed, Kathy jokingly said she gave her husband a job to do that full time.

And being a sewing machine mechanic is rare; Heirlooms Forever is the only shop within 100 miles of Tupelo that does that kind of work.

Certainly, the business had changed over the years.

“The heirloom part is just a tiny speck of what it was,” Kathy said. “Six years ago, we added vinyl. A lady asked me to learn this machine, and to do a program in Oxford for 75 people. She told me I’d probably sell couple of dozen, and we sold 56 of them the machine, and it just grew, and now we’re a distributor for this. It’s become a very big portion of our business, the machines.

“People still sew. People still quilt. People still craft and embroider,” she continued. “It’s a very viable part of our business, and we’re here to teach people how to do that and to inspire them.”

Business is as good as ever, and with the introduction of technology into sewing, things are far different than the day’s of grandma’s sewing days.

“We happened to come in right at the evolution of a machine changeover,” Rocco said. “It used to be grandma’s machine was strictly mechanical. Today’s machines are strictly computerized.”

If you’re looking for an old-school mechanical sewing machine, you’ll find only one at Heirlooms Forever. Everything else has some electronic component.

And that’s one reason why classes are offered — to teach customers how to use the technically advanced sewing machines of today.

It’s that customer service that also sets Heirlooms Forever from others.

“It really goes back to how much technology is there,” Kathy said. “You really need to talk to a person and you need to offer the services face-to-face. That’s key.”

Heirlooms Forever has grown far beyond what Kathy envisioned. When they started, Rocco had his job, and Kathy had hers.

“It’s become a family business; it’s put two kids through college,” Kathy said. “It is our livelihood. It’s a passion and a hobby that has been successful.”

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Information from: Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, http://djournal.com

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