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Colorful memories tell the story of New York Diamonds owner Patty Reece

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Colorful memories tell the story of New York Diamonds owner Patty Reece

New York Diamonds owner Patty Reece tends some 900 orchid plants twice a day in her off hours from her jewelry store.

GLENN KAHL/The Bulletin

POSTED September 20, 2009 2:45 a.m.
Manteca jeweler Patty Reece remembers her maternal grandmother well growing up in Oklahoma as an only child.  It was her grandmother “Ninnie” who had much to do with forming her character as her parents worked in the shipyards after moving to the Central Valley.

Reece remembers being told many “grandma stories” – the same stories over and over again.  She learned to darn socks and iron clothes along with a long list of “women’s work” in the home.  Her grandmother would take her to church three times a week – twice on Sunday and also on Wednesday nights.

She recalls a sad memory of her grandfather on their Oklahoma farm who suffered a fatal heart attack working out in the fields.  His team of horses brought his lifeless body back into the barn behind the house.  It is one of those indelible memories from her early childhood – when she was about five or six years old.

The community-supportive Manteca business woman displays a scar on the back of her right hand that she got from jumping off of a porch.  She said she threw a fit because she didn’t want to go to church on a Wednesday night.  Reece said she learned to come when her grandmother called her because she knew she would go after a switch if she didn’t respond.

She wasn’t allowed to start school in the first grade until she was seven years old, she recalled.  At six she was so tiny her feet wouldn’t reach the floor of those old fashioned school desks.  After the family moved to Stockton she attended Elmwood Elementary School, Stockton High School, Stockton College and Humphrey’s College.

During high school she worked at Thrifty Drug Store at Weber and American streets – her junior and senior years.  She played softball during her high school years, but she had to play with the Edison High team, because Stockton High didn’t offer girls’ softball, she said.  All a student had for entertainment back then was sports, she added.

The high school kids would hang out at her house because they liked her mom’s Southern Cooking – especially her beans and corn bread.  Her dad was quite a fisherman and would take Patty along to the Delta with him where they would drop their bobbers in the water and usually come home with a catfish dinner.

“My husband and I loved to fish – loved to fish and relax,” she said.  “That was when the Delta was clear, nice and safe – didn’t have to worry about anything.”  They would go out in their 26-foot inboard boat – a size they could bring home rather than leaving it in a slip.  To this day they still spend time together fishing for catfish.

The couple has been long-time diners at the Catfish Café in Salida that continues to be open only on the weekends.  She said the restaurant has the best hush puppies.  They would always go there with a group of 15 to 20 friends and make a party of it.    

It was in 1982 that she entered the jewelry business while she and her husband had purchased Emil’s Mini-Mart and Liquor in Escalon.  It had been previously owned by Emil Cabral – brother to the late Tony Cabral of Sadie’s Beauty Salon.

In 1983 she went into a three-way partnership in a jewelry store in Sacramento that lasted only two years – while still in the liquor store, mini-mart business in Escalon.  It was in 1989 that Reece would open a Modesto jewelry store at Standiford and McHenry avenues.  She closed that in 2001 saying two jewelry stores at the same time make for too much of a headache.

The Manteca New York Diamonds location near the Manteca Wal Mart on South Main Street opened in 1993 where she says she really enjoys the people who patronize her store.

Relieving the stress of a busy jewelry store that has been robbed several times, she spends her off time hours raising orchids.  Reece tends to those 900 orchid plants twice a day – in the morning before work and in the evening.  She savors the peace and solitude of spending time with her flowering plants.

She has Cataleya orchids all numbered and computerized in a show of complete organization in her two greenhouses.  Reece is the current president of the San Joaquin Orchid Society.
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