Dowagiac business celebrates 40 years

DOWAGIAC — Tom and Donna Pacheco have much to be thankful for.

Their business, Pacheco Fabric Specialties, recently celebrated 40 years of business serving the Michiana area. The family-owned and operated business specializes in the art of upholstery, custom furniture and antique restoration.

“I’ve had an opportunity to do a lot of different things over the years,” Pacheco said. “From boats, to antique cars, to all kinds of furniture. I’ve custom-built furniture for custom homes and things like that, so a lot of specialty things. I do antique restoration and even some organic upholstery, where I’ll use only organic materials like cotton. It’s been a good way to have a good life here, and I enjoy it. Now that our children are grown and out of the house, it’s just Donna and I working together.”

Pacheco, 61, is a second-generation craftsman who grew up playing in his father’s workshop. After his family and its upholstery business moved to Dowagiac in the early 1970s, Pacheco began working in his father’s workshop at the age of 16 and started his own business in 1980 at the age of 21.

“Our goal is to be concerned about our customers and make sure they’re happy,” he said. “One of the things we always say is, ‘It doesn’t leave the shop until it’s right.’ That’s what my dad taught us so we kind of carry on that theme.”

Donna joined Tom in the business in the late 1990s. According to Pacheco, her artistic expertise has been a boon for the business.

“She came into the business having never been a part of it before,” Pacheco said. “She’s integral to what we do as a business. She brings that artistic aspect to it, which is really nice.”

Forty years is a long time to be in business, but according to Pacheco, it is the variety that comes with the business that keeps him engaged and ready for the next project.

“It’s a variety,” he said. “It’s not one thing I have to do all the time. I’ll do one project, then I’ll move on to something else. I’ll be working on a boat, and then I’ll be working on someone’s antique piece, someone’s in-home furniture, so it’s a variety of things. I get to use my creative ability and creative thinking to try something new. That keeps us going.”

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has thrown many local businesses into disarray. Even so, Pacheco said he has been keeping busy with projects.

“It’s been hard, but we’ve been real busy, though,” he said. “We’ve had a good amount of boats, and we’ve got a lot of furniture to do. The biggest downside is that everything is slower. Every time we do things, there’s always extra cleaning, with cleaning all the doorknobs, equipment and so on. Most of the mills our supplies come from are in China and Mexico, and so a lot of that was slowed down. I used to get fabric in a couple of weeks, sometimes a couple of days. Now, I’m still waiting for fabric three months later after ordering fabric. That’s kind of the challenge right now, just trying to get things done. I don’t know how long it’s gonna last, but we just keep working.”

While the pandemic has presented its fair share of challenges, the Pachecos have done their best to keep their customers safe.

“We’re very concerned about our customers,” Pacheco said. “In fact, that’s the way we’ve always been. We’ve always been concerned about our customers, and our neighbors, too. We certainly don’t want anyone to be ill. There’s been so much tragedy already in this situation we have today. So we have always been conscious of wearing gloves and wearing our masks. We pretty much keep our shop clear of people. If we have an appointment, we’ll have them stand in a certain section of our shop if necessary, but we try to keep everyone outside as much as possible.”

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