Moda Mix – especially in today’s sweltering heat – is a boutique straight out of Mexico.
Dulce Maria Ventura keeps a few fans pointed on herself as she sweats behind the counter of her clothing shop in Eastwood Shopping Center.
With made in Mexico merchandise, bare-bones décor, homemade signs and bright orange price stickers, its every detail is reminiscent of shops in Ventura’s native city, Veracruz, Mexico.
Moda Mix is a dream come true for the 61-year-old grandmother who once cleaned Frankfort homes to make ends meet.
Ventura specializes in dresses and clothing for special occasions like weddings, prom, baptisms and quinceañeras. She’s unique because she alters purchases from her store for free and can custom make anything customers can imagine.
Telvi Rodriguez, who helped her mother open the store this year and supports it financially, describes Ventura as a natural talent.
“She has beautiful ideas,” Rodriguez says. “You can tell her the kind of dress you have in your mind, she can sketch it out, a designer dress, she can sketch it out, and then sew it. She is just amazing.”
Though Ventura sells all types of clothing, shoes and accessories, she admits that dresses are her favorite and that’s what she’s sells most.
“Oh the dresses, I like the dresses,” Ventura says in Spanish – the language she still speaks.
She sits at her sewing machine or stitches by hand behind the counter as customers browse her selection of cowboy boots (yes, including those with super-pointy tips), hats and belts, as well as jeans and other clothing popular in Mexico.
The lion’s share of store space is devoted to dresses: wedding dresses, party dresses and several white dresses for communion and baptisms, along with boys tuxedos, some made small enough for infants.
Most Mexicans are Catholic, Ventura says, so having a shop that sells traditional clothing for their events is important to their community, though Frankfort’s is small.
“People come in here and say, ‘I can’t find this anywhere else,’” Ventura says of the merchandise she orders from Mexican companies including Variedad Hispana.
Women also come in, she says, and say they don’t want to show up at a party in the same dress as one of their friends.
“All the Mexicans here know each other,” Ventura says. “They run in the same circles, go to the same parties, so I only sell four of each style of dress.”
She says women ask, “Who else bought this dress? I don’t want to show up in the same dress as someone else.”
And Ventura tells them, “I can’t order people around, but I can sell only four of each dress.”
For Mexican parties, she also rents the big colorful skirts, suits and sombreros typical to specific Mexican regions.
“People want this stuff, but they don’t want to by it,” she explains.
On all merchandise, she keeps a small amount in stock, and has several Mexican clothing magazines from which she custom orders.
“I’m not good at picking out what people will want,” she says. “I will buy a dress I think is pretty, display it in the window, and it will sit there for months.”
Ventura first moved to the U.S. around 12 years ago.
“I came because the economic situation there is terrible,” she said of Veracruz. “I wanted a future for my children, for my grandchildren.”
She came to the U.S. without her husband and two children and arrived in Shelbyville, where she found work caring for three children.
From there, she started cleaning houses and moved to Frankfort. People started recommending her to their friends, and she was able to make a living.
Her husband, Rafael Rodriguez, and their children, Telvi and Rafael, joined her in the U.S. and found work as well.
In the beginning, things were hard. Ventura would earn about $50 to clean a large home, but she never complained.
“People didn’t pay me much,” she says. “But they would help me in other ways, by giving me clothes and other things I needed. They were very good to me. I love Frankfort; the people here are so good, so good.”
Don’t feel sorry for me, she says.
“I make more in one day here than I could in a month in Mexico.”
As she cleaned houses and dreamed of opening a dress shop, her husband, who also helps in the store, would always encourage her, “One day, one day.”
Nothing makes Ventura happier than a day behind her sewing machine working on long, full princess dresses.
Ventura taught herself to sew when she was 13. She was the oldest of 11 children in a poor family, and her mother ran out of time and money to buy new clothes. When Ventura looked down one day and noticed her shirt wasn’t covering her stomach, she decided to start sewing out of necessity.
She found she loved it; sewing for her brothers and sisters wasn’t a chore but a talent she would never set down. As an adult, she took six months of sewing classes in Veracruz, but “after six months, there was nothing else to teach me.”
Her daughter, Telvi, who now lives in Alabama, says with Moda Mix, her mother has reached the height of happiness.
“She can let her imagination go wild over there,” Telvi said. “She was always dreaming about having a business, and now she has.”
Location: 501 Eastwood Shopping Center
Hours: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Thursday and Sunday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturday, closed