Rosalyn’s Custom Interiors a life-long passion for Ionia designer
By Kelly Terpstra, email@example.com
Rosalyn Miller vividly remembers when she learned how to sew as a child growing up in northeast Iowa.
“I just loved it. I just knew it was an ‘aha’ moment – a lightbulb moment,” said Miller.
Little did she know at the time, but needles, shears, fabric, plenty of stitches and an eye for design would become part of one of her life’s passions in Rosalyn’s Custom Interiors.
The New Hampton native started her custom interior window treatment business in 1984, which she runs out of her home just outside Ionia. She focuses mainly on draperies, curtains, pleated shades and vertical blinds.
“I’ve been making drapes for 43 years,” said Miller.
She’s slowing down a bit, but retirement isn’t in the cards just yet.
At the first of the year, Miller, 71, decided to focus on just soft window treatments. That means she won’t be installing blinds anymore, which was about two-thirds of her business. But she’ll still pack up her van with plenty of samples and drive to customers in a 50-mile radius.
“I go to them. My van is my store,” said Miller.
A large portion of her clientele resides in Charles City, but she said she has driven as far north as Albert Lee, Minnesota.
“I love the people. I adore them, I really do,” said Miller, adding that when she goes to a house and meets someone for the first time she leaves feeling like she’s known them forever.
“We share life stories and stuff. I always respect people and they respect me back,” she said.
Miller – a middle child of nine kids raised south of New Hampton – saw her love of design take hold when she got involved with a 4H sewing class when she was not even 10 years old. She said 4-H leader Jerry Huffman helped get her started.
It was when her second oldest-sister, Marlene Chapin May, began to help hone her craft as a seamstress that Miller’s skills really started to take off.
When she was hired to work in the office of White Farm Equipment in Charles City, she began to sew clothes for workers there. Soon she met Sylvia Meyer, who taught Miller how to make drapes.
“These people are instrumental in a way,” said Miller. “I want to especially express my gratitude to those people because they made a difference in my journey.”
After she was laid off at the White plant in 1976, she worked with Meyer for seven years making drapes.
“She treated me very well, but I worked hard for her, too,” said Miller.
It wasn’t long before customers were requesting Miller to sew their drapes for them. That’s when a friend, Norma Brummond, gave Miller perhaps the best advice of her career.
“She is the one that gave me that last little push that I needed to just go on my own – that I could do it. And thank God she did, because the rest is history,” said Miller.
Miller, a 1966 New Hampton High School graduate, said her business really began to flourish in 1987, three years after she started it. There have been highs and lows since, but she said she wouldn’t change much over the course of her 35-plus years of being involved with her custom-made designs and consultations.
“I could have probably built my business bigger but I chose not to,” said Miller, explaining that she instead decided to devote time to her family.
She has a daughter who lives in South Dakota and a son in Waterloo, and four grandchildren.
She said she attended almost every school event her children took part in at New Hampton.
“I only missed one event and that was because I was on a bus tour,” she said.
Miller said she makes diapers for children in Haiti at her church in Ionia, St. Boniface, and now that she has more time she may take up quilting with a group at the church.
Miller said she isn’t sure what the future holds, but she knows she will remain involved with people.
“I’m kind of leery about retiring, actually,” said Miller. “I’m struggling because I love what I do.”
And to set the record straight, her name is pronounced “ROSE-uh-lin.”
“People have trouble with my name. My name is ‘ROSE-uh-lin.’ My mother was Rosemary. My dad was Lynn. I’m the middle child of 9, so I got their namesake. So I don’t go by RAAZLihN’,” laughed Miller.
“My husband, Mel, he says ‘when are you going to give that up?’ Never. I’m the only one with a namesake.”