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Meet Cardie Molina of Oilcloth International in Highland Park

Today we’d like to introduce you to Cardie Molina.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I started my business in 1995. There was a window open when Mexican oilcloth was not available on a commercial level in the USA. I was the first to import as a distributor and it was super popular from the beginning. Before then when I or my girlfriends would go to Mexico we would always say “bring back a piece of oilcloth for me”….it just was nowhere to be found. This was pre-internet you know. I had come out of the museum business (I worked for MOCA in Development from 80-86) When my kids were all in school I wanted to go back to work and found the non-profit sector was not going to make me any real money. I had motivation! I took a course offered by the now gone American Women’s Economic Development Corp. AWED. They offered a 10-week course based on the Harvard Business School where we went A to Z and had to write a business plan at the end. The oilcloth proved to be my best idea and I went from there. This required a sourcing trip and I started off importing one pallet load of oilcloth, now we get 16 wheelers of oilcloth. The fabric business has been a lot of fun and in the past I did many tradeshows and traveled but those days are all gone now. We rely on our loyal customer base, our reputation for great service and the internet for sales. I still have a couple of reps that have been with me a long time too, but no showroom per se. I have three full time employees who have been with me over 15 years. They are happy. We are wholesale distributors for oilcloth and sell to a broad market including fabric stores, hardware stores, schools, restaurants and hospitality plus small boutiques and kitchen/gourmet stores. In addition to piece goods we have a line of tablecloths, placemats, aprons and tote bags. We also sell to other small manufacturers that make small accessories. I bought my domains Oilcloth and Chalkcloth in 1995.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
The hardest thing, in the beginning, was the transportation of oilcloth from Mexico to the USA. This was just about the time NAFTA began and the trucking industry was just getting organized to bring goods to the USA.

Also, I was originally downtown but my lease there was going to end. I drove home to Eagle Rock where I live and crisscrossed neighborhoods. I found my warehouse in 1999 and have been here in Highland Park ever since. There is nothing else like it in the area so I really lucked out and we are very happy here. It is so close to my home I could ride a bike to work if it was safer on the road.

Another challenge was finding a contractor to sew our product line. I have been with my contractor in Vernon for almost 20 years so that is another great relationship. Many people have helped and encouraged me along the way and no one really thought my business would grow as it did! I am grateful.

Please tell us about Oilcloth International, Inc.
I have covered some of this but we are a small incorporated business here in NELA providing some great jobs and a nice income for me and my family. I have been fortunate to pick some great partners from my suppliers and service vendors, CPA, once a month bookkeeper, financial planners – we have a Defined Benefit Plan Pension – and most of all my great employees. I chose to remain on the small side of things and recognize where my product belongs, its limitations and it has thrived in the type of place I wish to sell to. We have never wanted to sell to big box stores and I prefer to know my buyers personally. I have turned down PO’s from larger companies that I did not like doing business with although we have sold some to several national chains I prefer family owned businesses. We have always sold strictly wholesale – B2B- and our retail accounts can be relieved they do not have compete. It is not all about the money! We have wholesale minimums but always accommodate our friends in the film and commercial industry and non-profits. It is fun to see the product in the media – it is so photogenic!

We do offer a community sale 2x’s a year for the day and sell samples, discontinued or seconds. The Saturday before Thanksgiving and coming up the Saturday before 4th of July weekend.

If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
Not much! Maybe I wish I had bought a building back in the 90’s.

Contact Info:

  • Address: 134 N. Avenue 61, Unit 101
    Los Angeles, CA 90042
  • Website: www.oilcloth.com
  • Phone: 323-344-3967
  • Email: contact@oilcloth.com or retail@oilcloth.com for a referral
  • Instagram: oilcloth international
  • Facebook: facebook/oilcloth
  • Twitter: Oilcloth International

Getting in touch: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

5 Comments

  1. Terri K

    May 30, 2017 at 15:57

    Interesting article about a great product. Cardie, I admire your philosophy of selling to family owned businesses. Learned a little more about you.

  2. Carolyn Molina

    May 31, 2017 at 04:35

    Inspiring story! Even I didn’t know some of these things about how you started the business.

  3. Roxy

    May 31, 2017 at 20:57

    Would love to attend your July sale….address of sale place please….😍

  4. Ellen Wadsworth

    June 1, 2017 at 19:54

    I love my bags made from oilcloth! They are perfect for grocery shopping and can hold so much weight, I never worry about the straps breaking…because they haven’t in the 10 years I’ve had these bags. Just love them!

  5. Natalia

    June 4, 2017 at 21:04

    I love how you started a business based on your vision and what was good for you professionally and personally. Move over, Sheryl Sandberg! Cardie Molina invented leaning in!

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