Throughout his 74 years, Gilroyan David Peoples, owner of Garlic City Mercantile, has given back to the community in countless ways, so much so he was voted Man of the Year by the Chamber of Commerce in 1993.
Peoples’ participation in the Garlic Festival, Gilroy Sister Association, the Portuguese Hall, St. Mary’s and the Gilroy Downtown Association are just a few examples of his tireless commitment to a community he loves.
The community reciprocates his love. Three local business women personally experienced the benefit of Peoples’ pay-it-forward philosophy. Due to his guidance, the women struck out on their own individual entrepreneurial ventures.
On April Fool’s Day 1977, Peoples and his wife Marianne opened their, “first foray into retail,” the Nimble Thimble, on the corner of Martin and Monterey, where Amaretto Boutique is today.
“When we opened we were strictly a sewing store, we were a resource for the tailor and the knitter and the crocheter,” Peoples said.
Throughout the years Peoples has relocated his shop three times and with each move he’s recreated the store. By his second move what had started out as a sewing store, became an alterations, quilting, embroidery and garlicky gadgets store.
In 1992 one of the ladies on his staff, Fidelina Leos, decided she wanted her own alterations shop but she had no idea how or where to start.
Peoples offered to rent the backspace of his store allowing Leos to immediately jump into her own business venture. The next four years Leos garnered experience and mentorship working closely with Peoples and by 1996, she was ready to move out on her own.
That move was the start of Fidelina’s, located at 92 Fifth St, where she’s continued to thrive for more than 20 years.
“He’s such a wonderful man,” Leos said. “It would have been harder for me without his help. I will always appreciate all he did for me, and he is in my heart, he and his wife, they are people I love.”
“He is the angel that God put in my path. Mr. Peoples is one of the kindest and nicest persons that God put in my path. He always had a smile. I consider Dave and Marianne like family, and they are always there when I need them.”
In 2000 Peoples moved once again, to the current location, 7550 Monterey Road, next door to Gilroy Bowl.
“I bring with me the quilt shop, the garlic, and the embroidery, and I’m doing all three of those things at that time,” Peoples said.
Linda Williams, an avid quilter and regular customer of the Nimble Thimble had worked in biotech for years and by 2002 she was ready to immerse herself in the world of entrepreneurship.
There was just one problem.
“So I knew how to do everything for someone else but the business end of it was somehow out of scope for me,” Williams said. “More and more I talked about wanting to have a shop and Dave talked about not wanting to have a shop.”
The timing was perfect for them both.
“So we had this arrangement that she would run it, (the Nimble Thimble). She’d not been in retail before and she wanted to get some experience,” Peoples said.
Williams took the reins of the Nimble Thimble in March 2013, and for the next two years operated the store while Peoples continued his embroidery business in the back of the shop.
In March 2015, Williams moved the Nimble Thimble to 7455 Monterey Road, next door to Garlic City Café.
“I don’t think the shop would be here today if it hadn’t been for Dave and the time and effort he put in. We’re still very close and he’s very, very supportive of not just me, but everybody in town. He’s a great guy. Gilroy is his life,” Williams said.
Williams has followed in Peoples’ footsteps when it comes to paying it forward.
After Shelly Rue moved to Gilroy in 2015 she secured employment at Williams’ store. At her boss’ suggestion Rue began taking quilting lessons and soon discovered she had a real talent for it. So much so she decided to open her own in-home store called, Quilters Union.
“I can’t wait until I can pay it forward to someone else,” Rue said.
The same year that Williams moved out of Garlic City Mercantile, newly retired locals, Carol and Al Gutierrez, considered taking on an entrepreneurial venture, but they had no idea how to begin such a bold move.
Once again, Peoples stepped in and offered the back of his store, now vacant, for the Gutierrez’s to try out the embroidery business, a perfect fit for Carol who loved embroidery so much she’d purchase her own home embroidery machine years before.
“He has all this practical experience that he’s willing to share.” Carol said. “He’s a gift, he really is, he’s a gift to help give me this, and he’s so patient.”
On July 1, 2015, the Gutierrez’s purchased the embroidery business from Peoples.
“It’s been a nice evolution, getting to know him and I feel like I can reach out to him for help,” Al said. “I hope we can do that for other people.”
Peoples is reluctant to credit himself for all he’s contributed to the community because as he sees it, he’s just doing what he loves to do.
“Every day I have that kind of fulfillment that I was able to help this person with that, makes me feel good,” Peoples said with an ear-to-ear grin. “All of these things I enjoy. I enjoy the retail part. I enjoy the interacting with people. I enjoy being involved with all the groups that I’m involved with, otherwise I wouldn’t be doing it. It’s my community, I was born here, I’m going to be here, I’m going to be buried here.”