After 33 years, Zeann's NeedleArts in West Valley City is closing its doors. Only . . . not entirely.

Zeann Aguilar, owner of Zeann's at 4344 W. 3500 South, said she is closing up shop at the end of business Saturday, citing market conditions and a customer base that is increasingly focused on other crafts. Zeann's specializes in Brazilian embroidery threads, cross stitch supplies and fabrics.

"Business has just slowed down so much that it's time to do something else," Aguilar said. "There's not enough people doing this very specialized thing anymore. I'm hearing from my customers that they're old enough so that they can't see well enough to do the tiny stitches, so they're doing quilting or knitting. The younger ones are doing scrapbooking.

"We're seeing it clear across the country; it's not just here. Two major distributors I work with went out of business just this last year. One, this last week, I've worked with four generations of that company. Life changes."

Aguilar moved the store to its current location in 1981, after her business — which included books, seminars and products — outgrew her home and then a little shop across the street. She moved in with two bolts of fabric and one wall display of thread. Today, Zeann's inventory tops 27,000 items.

Unlike many businesses that close, Aguilar said that Zeann's remained profitable until the end. Prudent management during the booming early years allowed her to buy the building and remain debt-free.

"I'm not in trouble," she said.

"And I don't want to stay until I'm in trouble. I hear people who are just struggling and struggling, and I think, 'You know what? I can do a lot of things.' I'll miss my customers the most, but I'll see them, and I think it's time to do something else."

At 62, an age at which many workers jump at early retirement opportunities, Aguilar said she has no intention of slowing down. Once the remaining inventory at Zeann's is sold or moved, Aguilar said she likely will become a landlord, leasing the space to another business. All this in addition to her "day job," an accounting position she's lined up.

"I'm going to go to work," she said with a laugh. "You learn so much (owning a business). I don't want to go out now and fry my brain. I'm excited to learn new things, to keep learning, and keep going."

And Zeann's won't be completely gone. Though the brick-and-mortar side will go dark on Saturday, its Web site (www.zeanns.com) will remain active.

"I'm not ready to jump out entirely and crash it," Aguilar said. "I have to do it a piece at a time and see what's best. I'll probably end up cleaning up the inventory to where I can manage it at my house."

But it won't be the same.

"The hard part about closing isn't the business, or even as much about the craft," she said. "I have customers, these wonderful people. . . . One day, I had a customer come in, and I asked if I could help, and she said no, that it was just a sad day, that she'd had a miscarriage. She said she just wanted a place to go, where she could be alone, go through the (pattern and design) books, and think. Sometimes, that's what people need, and that has made me stay here a couple of years longer. When I thought about leaving. I'd think, 'What will all my people do? Where will they go?' "

So, with mixed feelings, Aguilar squares her shoulders and faces forward.

"I'm sad, but excited," she said. "I've enjoyed the business end of it a lot. I've always been intrigued by the business field, and I'm excited to get more into that end. The whole world is about to change for me."


E-mail: jnii@desnews.com