When Dennis and Charlene Billow relocated their Carson City embroidery business one year ago, they said the new neighbors had a few questions, namely what was up with all the law enforcement stopping by the store.
Turns out they are longtime customers of Billow's Custom Embroidery, a business that specializes in creating and stitching the garment designs for organizations such as the Carson City Sheriff's Office - the golden "Sheriff" on the back of jackets is their handiwork - and local businesses such as the polo shirts for Heidi's Family Restaurant.
The Billows moved to Carson City seven years ago from Fullerton, Calif., and opened their business after Dennis Billow, 42, spent 27 years in the screen printing business.
When the family started in the embroidery business 12 years ago, they invested in a $50,000 embroidery machine that looks like a cross between an industrial sewing machine and a computer printer. It's a skill the Billows said has taken years to develop.
"It's like painting, you can't paint a Picasso the first time out," said Charlene Billow, 38.
They create embroidery designs by scanning an image into a computer, which feeds the information to the embroidery machine, which can work on six garments at once. Charlene said she's even scanned a man's tattoo, which he wanted embroidered on a jacket.
"As long as I can hoop it, I can embroider it," Dennis Billow said, referring to the metal vice that holds a garment in place as the design is stitched into it by the machine.
Dennis said he can take orders of up to 5,000 garments to single orders such as horse blankets to Snuggies, the blankets with sleeves that have been popularized on TV infomercials.
"Those new Snuggies, I've had a run on those," Dennis Billow said. "People have been bringing their Snuggies in and having their names put on them."
As the family was moving to Carson City, Charlene Billow said they had a close call with the embroidery machine.
"When we moved up here ... we had this machine in the back of a covered car trailer," she said. "The person that put it on the truck used the wrong sized hitch and we lost the trailer off the back of the truck."
Charlene Billow said the family thought they had lost their business, but the machine was unscathed.
"It all turned out beautiful," she said.