Betty Pilkington remembers when she opened her fabric shop in San Luis Obispo in 1973.
“It was during the great flood,” she said. “I remember there were just waves of college students going up and down Higuera (Street) in canoes.”
Pilkington has been in the fabric store business for 58 years, operating Betty’s Fabrics locations across the Central Coast. Her Santa Maria store closed its doors in 2016, following in the footsteps of shuttered Betty’s Fabrics stores in Lompoc and Santa Barbara.
Now her San Luis Obispo location, at 1229 Carmel St., is slated to close by the end of the month.
“Its just that we have two generations of people who never learned how to sew,” Pilkington said. “Talk to anybody in college or in their thirties today and they can’t even sew a button on their shirt. It’s just different times, and we’re going the way of the buggy whip.”
Betty’s Fabrics is selling off the last of its stock: sewing machines, notions, yarn and, of course, fabric.
“I’ve sold a lot but I still have a lot yet to sell,” Pilkington said. “I’ve collected a lot of items over the years, so I’m even selling off some antique items that I’ve been holding onto for a while. They’re selling well.”
Pilkington already has plans for a lot of her leftover products — donating them to causes she’s supported over the years.
“I’m going to donate some things to (PCPA-Pacific Conservatory Theatre) in Santa Maria and theater programs in colleges nearby,” Pilkington said. “I’ll also donate some yarn to senior citizens homes because they like to knit, and I already have.”
Pilkington said she’s loved every moment of her career.
“I’ve had wonderful customers and some great girls,” she said. “We’ve had very talented quilters who make their own clothes as well, which is very important to me because I run a full-scale store.”
For Pilkington, the customers made the experience.
“We had a lot of regular customers and it was always wonderful seeing what they worked on,” she said. “The customers were really good to me, and even though they’re sad to see me go, I’m just happy for what I got to do.”