By Starrla Cray
DELANO, MN “I can’t imagine doing anything else,” Sabrina Stevens commented recently, speaking of her family’s embroidery business, Bagy Jo. “I love being part of the community and getting to know families in the area.”
Dedication to the Delano community is one reason Bagy Jo was selected as the Delano Area Chamber of Commerce 2012 Business of the Year recently.
“I don’t know who nominated me,” Sabrina said. “It was a very pleasant surprise.”
From providing spirit wear for Delano schools to offering intern programs to area youth, Bagy Jo’s local contribution is evident.
Sabrina is also involved in a morning business networking group, Partners in Education (PIE), the Delano Area Chamber of Commerce, and has played major roles in business expos, flood relief benefits, and the Taste of Delano.
Bagy Jo’s Delano retail location (1350 Babcock Blvd. E.) opened in 2005, but the company has been around for decades.
It began with Sabrina’s mother, Jo, who enjoyed creating backpacks and handbags for friends and family.
About 35 years ago, people started calling Jo “Bagy Jo,” because of her craft.
“When she got personalized license plates, there was only room for one ‘g,’” Sabrina said, explaining the unique “Bagy Jo” spelling.
Jo worked out of her basement until 1984, when they rented their first small shop.
Two years later, Jo got into embroidery, and ended up liking it so much that she stopped making bags altogether in the early 1990s.
“She just had so much fun with it,” Sabrina said. “It was a hobby that just got out of control.”
In the spring of 1993, Bagy Jo began selling embroidered items in a kiosk at Ridgedale Mall.
“I was still in college,” Sabrina said, adding that although she helped with sales part-time, she didn’t plan to make it into a career.
Pretty soon, however, Mall of America also offered them a kiosk, and the business took off.
“I ended up going full time and not finishing college,” Sabrina said.
At that time, Bagy Jo’s main source of income came from sweatshirts embroidered with grandchildren’s names.
Now, the focus has become school spirit wear.
A book with more than 20,000 embroidery designs is also available, making it easy for Bagy Jo to fulfill practically any customer request.
The business has continued to grow and adapt over the years, and its warehouse, which was located in Deephaven for 20 years, moved to Maple Plain in May 2011.
This change allows Sabrina to assist in the warehouse operation, as well as the retail store in Delano. Between the two stores, Bagy Jo employs as many as 20 people.
Sabrina’s husband, Bill, is integral to the business, managing the warehouse and taking care of sales.
Their children, Robert “Robbie,” 16; Veronica “Roni,” 14; and Danielle “Dani,” 13, also help when they can, and have done everything from modeling to cleaning.
The children have also been taught how to operate the embroidery machines.
According to Sabrina, the computerized machines have 15 needles per head, and can create 1,000 stitches per minute.
A typical sweatshirt embroidered with a Delano Tigers design might have 30,000 stitches in it, she added.
Sabrina describes owning a small business as “challenging,” but “rewarding.”
“I don’t know if people realize how many hours you work, but there are perks to having your own business,” she said. “It’s fun to look back and see everybody’s accomplishments.”
Bagy Jo in Delano is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon. The store can be reached at (763) 972-9711.