A Columbus business owner plays a role in helping young girls and women look their best whenever a special occasion comes around.

On Saturday night, one of those events will be the Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. prom.

Jeanetta Raya, who owns Jeanetta’s Salon and Boutique at 1871 State St., has a niche for creating dresses for birthdays, First Communions, weddings and other special events, but also performs alterations on dresses when needed.

Raya does not make prom dresses, but does do alterations on them.

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That’s what brought Taylor Martinez, a junior at Columbus East High School, into Raya’s shop.

Martinez is among a number of customers who brought their prom dresses in to be altered.

Martinez, who is attending her first prom this weekend, needed Raya’s help since the student’s dress was too long in the back. She had learned about Raya’s shop through a friend who brought a dress there.

When she stepped into Raya’s business, Martinez said she was asked to try on her dress and said she felt welcome.

Move to Colu

mbusA native of Houston, Texas, Raya moved to Ligonier before relocating to Columbus in 1999 for a better job opportunity with her cousin.

Raya opened her shop in Columbus 11 years ago, but she balances that responsibility with other work commitments.

Raya starts her day working a part-time job from 4:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. and then goes to her State Street business, which is open from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Her interest in working with fabrics began at age 7 when Raya’s mother first allowed her to spend time on a sewing machine, she said. That sparked her curiosity further, saying she often enjoyed playing with different fabrics to see what she could create.

“In my dreams, I made dresses,” Raya said.

She made a top at age 11 for her sister’s birthday and eventually started making dresses for neighbors and family members, she said.

Her creative side comes alive when a customer comes in wanting a dress for a special occasion. While Raya said she prefers that people bring in a photo of how they want their dress to look, Raya said she often first draws the appearance on paper.

That allows Raya to help her develop a better understanding of what customers want, with dresses typically made in a day and a half.

“For me, it’s something I enjoy,” Raya said.

Raya has made several dresses for quinceañera, a celebration for Latina girls who are turning 15. The occasion marks the transition from a child to a young woman, Raya said.

A portion of Raya’s square footage is a hair salon, with the balance of space used to create dresses and perform alterations.

Expressing creativity

“I like to create all the time,” she said. “I express something that cannot be expressed with words.”Raya said running her own business also allows her flexibility to spend time with her 14-year-old daughter, Dharma Rivas.

Dharma also likes being artistic, although she is unsure yet whether she will follow in her mother’s footsteps.

Raya hopes to grow her business down the road, eventually moving into a larger working space.

What she enjoys most is seeing the smiles on her customers’ faces after they try on a dress she has created, Raya said.

“For me, it’s like playing with my Barbies,” Raya said. “I like to give happiness and my big payment is that.”

About the business

What: Jeanetta’s Salon and Boutique

Where: 1871 State St., Columbus

Hours: 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday

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Matt Kent is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at 812-379-5712 or mkent@therepublic.com