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Santa Cruz Sentinel 9/5/97

Businesswoman shows her true colors

Ben Lomond woman harbors
dyed-in-the-wool love of hues

Soquel — Jenny Keller didn't want to part with her faded but favorite gray terrycloth bathrobe. So she took it to Sherry Smilo, the color lady at True Color in Soquel. The gray bathrobe will be returned periwinkle blue. And Keller, a science illustration instructor at UC Santa Cruz, will have a like-new robe.

Dyeing clothes for people like Keller, says Smilo, is indeed a viable and growing business for the fashion and cost conscious. From her converted grain and hay barn in Soquel Village, Smilo dyes items for up to 1,000 clients all over the country. She dyes maids' uniforms that have faded, black pants for Safeway workers, students' public school uniforms, towels and gowns for chiropractors, and clothes that have been stained. She's done shoes, shoe laces, socks, and hair bands. She's dyed sweat pants and exercise clothes, slipcovers, tablecloths, and old hippie skirts—and, of course, the ubiquitous bathrobe, usually coffee stained. She even dyed a white wedding dress black for a bride who got married on Halloween.

Smilo, a Ben Lomond resident, found her true blue business several years ago in a newspaper business-for-sale advertisement. The business was owned by a French woman who ran it from the back porch of her home, had six colors, and did all the work by hand. Smilo bought the business name, the approximate 200-name customer list, and the ability to ask as many questions as she wanted of the former owner.

Initially, she operated from her Ben Lomond home and a tiny office near East Cliff, promoting her business to uniformed workers everywhere. Meanwhile, she played with colors—a lifelong love. "Color, light, texture, shape, and contrast have always filled my thoughts", Smilo said.

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