When Joaquin (Jack) Picazo came to the United States, he didn’t speak much English and had little formal education. What he did have was ambition, drive and motivation. He had a work ethic and a dream. It was the American Dream: to be successful owning a business doing what he loves to do while working with his wife and raising a family.
Draperies By Picazo, San Diego, CA, is all that and more. It is
a high-end wholesale workroom specializing in custom window treatments
and catering to the area’s top interior designers. It is family-owned
and operated with its second generation at the helm and an extended
family in the workroom. It is a company, now in its 26th year, based
on customer service, hard work, detail and perfection. It has weathered
bad times, which saw it on the brink of bankruptcy, only to work
itself out—literally—to regain success and make it stronger.
It is a company that fosters lasting relationships with customers
and employees, but there is no more important relationship than
that between Jack and his wife, Martha, who took a big risk in 1977
to buy the workroom Jack installed for and make it their own.
IT’S ALL ATTITUDE
Although these days Jack’s involvement in Draperies By Picazo
is reduced due to health concerns, he still is the patriarch and
mentor of the business and his attitude still prevails.
“He is Mr. Customer Service. He is customer oriented. He will
do anything for the customer to make him happy. He’ll go out
of his way,” says his son Joaquin. Jack’s daughter,
Sandra, who now runs the day-to-day operations, acknowledges that
her father’s work habits established the company’s outlook,
which she describes as: “Patience. It can be done. It can
“The business is a lot like it was when we first started,”
says Martha. “It’s all geared for service. We work for
decorators only. We want them to be confident that we are not out
to get their customers. We’re working for them. We try to
be as creative as they are.”
The attitude at Draperies By Picazo is that they work for the best
and their clients expect the best from them. Decorators tell them
what they want, and Draperies By Picazo delivers whether it be side
panels, full draw draperies, motorized draperies, top treatments,
valances, swags, French-pleated arched treatments, or decorative
At one time the business also worked on accessories such as bed
coverings and pillows, but they were dropped to concentrate on draperies.
“It took away from the rest of the work,” Martha explains.
“We found that we would rather stick with draperies and top
treatments,” she says.
Draperies By Picazo aims at perfection. Mistakes are costly in this
business. To do that, the five women and two men in the workroom
are very detail oriented, essentially making big things out of many
little things. Several of the employees have been with the company
for 10, 15 even 20 years and are more like an extended family. Jack
keeps a close relationship with each, and they continue to feed
off his attitude.
Likewise, most of the designer clients have been working with Draperies
By Picazo since the beginning. It is an envious situation in which
the company doesn’t have to seek new clients. “We do
have new decorators, don’t get me wrong,” Martha says.
“They come to us, they’ve been referred to us, even
fabric places will refer them to us. Some we will take, others we
won’t. It just depends on our workload.”
To ensure that every step of the work runs smoothly and accurately,
the designers are welcome to come in anytime during fabrication
to see how a project is going. Before a finished treatment leaves
the building a mock installation is set up in the workroom so that
when a treatment arrives at a customer’s home, it’s
actually a second installation. When a treatment goes out, everyone
knows how it will look and that it is going to fit.
A SPECIAL TOUCH
Based in San Diego, much of the work done by Draperies By Picazo
is installed in homes in nearby La Jolla and Rancho Sante Fe—both
high-end residential areas of Southern California.
Most work, Sandra says, involves new construction, and that means
many windows at one time for a single customer. These are what would
be considered large designer houses with high-end interiors and
the accompanying large—often tall—windows. Sandra vividly
recalls climbing to measure 23-foot tall windows on one job.
“I’m in there when they’re framing the home doing
rough measures, so we can get things started,” Sandra says.
“I’ve done many full houses. It can take from three
months to six months to get it all in. You have the guest house,
the master bedroom and all these rooms—five rooms, seven rooms
and that’s the bottom floor.”
“More decorators are going back to draperies, and doing the
full-on blackout liners, sheers, overdraw panels and motorizing
them,” Sandra says. She is working on more homes that are
incorporating full-house automation systems. “Now they’re
doing these great media rooms and theater rooms and everything is
plugged into a single source including the draperies that cover
Working with designers is notoriously tricky. Their knowledge and
experience with draperies varies widely. Sometimes they need a little
help. “They tell us what they want it to look like,”
says Martha. “They’ll come with silk and say they want
it to look full. So we have to suggest that they should interline
it, and they say, ‘That’s a great idea!’”
“It requires constant communication. How do you want this
done? Do you have my stuff?” adds Sandra. “I always
have questions. I prefer them to be at the measure site when I’m
there. It’s constant keeping in touch with them, and they
call here and we’re always here for them.”
Each job is different, of course, but most involve something that
requires Draperies By Picazo’s special touch. Things like
paper-thin, gorgeous fabrics, or very thick fabrics that need to
be done by hand, or blackout lining that takes time to do.
“My dad has been known to do that, because he does take the
time and does things the right way,” Sandra says. “Basically
either the treatment or the fabric makes it difficult. It could
be a simple treatment, but the fabric makes it take a little bit
“The turnaround has always been four to six weeks after we
get all the materials, whether it be the trim, the actual fabric
or the hardware. Around here it’s a little faster paced. Everybody
wants it tomorrow.”
But just like her father, “it can’t be done” is
not part of Sandra’s vocabulary. “If they can think
it, to me, it can be done.”
TRIAL BY FIRE
The success enjoyed by Draperies By Picazo is the end result of
more than two decades of hard work. And from the very beginning,
it wasn’t easy.
Jack and Martha Picazo started the company in 1977, when they purchased
a drapery workroom Jack was working for as an installer. The owner
wanted to retire, and offered to sell the business to Jack. Martha
was working outside the business at the time, and the two had managed
to save enough money to buy some property, which they sold to buy
the company. They took a big risk.
“I told my husband that I’ll keep on working where I’m
at while he can run the business. He said, ‘No, I need you
there to help me.’ So I quit my job and that was scary. We
knew we had to make it work.”
Jack knew the installation and customer service parts of the business,
but he had to learn yardage and estimating. Martha, on the other
had, had to learn bookkeeping, payroll and running a workroom including
how to thread a sewing machine. The two worked side-by-side with
the previous owner and his wife for one month, and then they were
on their own.
“We had some rough times,” Martha recalls. It got especially
rough during the years when alternate window treatments gained popularity
and homeowners were buying verticals and mini-blinds. “The
thing that kept us going was that they were doing fancy valances
and top treatments and side panels,” Martha says.
“But we did get real low and were even close to going bankrupt.
In fact, we went to lawyer to see what we could do. He told us there
were two ways we could do it, either Chapter 7 or Chapter 11 and
he explained them to me. I looked at my husband and said, ‘What
do you think?’ He said, ‘Nope. We can figure something
The answer was to get back to work putting out the jobs they had.
“We had the work. We just had to get it out faster,”
Martha says. The company survived. In his shy, self-effacing way,
Jack takes no credit for his company’s success, “Just
luck, I guess.”
SETTING A GOOD EXAMPLE
Perhaps it was luck, or something more, that brought Jack and Martha
together in the first place. Jack was temporarily stationed in Washington
during a hitch in the U.S. Army. The two met at a dance in Yakima,
WA, where Martha grew up and they agreed to meet again the following
That second meeting led to a proposal, an engagement and finally
Martha following Jack back to San Diego to finish his military service.
That was more than 45 years ago. Their relationship has survived
raising a family and starting a business—two high-stress endeavors.
At one time or another each of Jack and Martha’s three children
has been involved in the business starting from when they were little.
Sandra recalls her mother putting her to work in the workroom doing
small things and odd jobs. As long as she was there, she might as
well make herself useful. “It was good because I did work
in every part of the workroom. Every position out there I could
do if I had to,” Sandra says. She also remembers going with
her father on installations and watching, actually learning a lot
without realizing it.
Learning by the example set by their parents also could be the way
the children learned to deal and communicate with customers. “To
this day, I don’t think they’ve every really argued
or had a disagreement that I am aware of,” says Joaquin. “They
are always talking. The bottom line is communication.”