SALT LAKE CITY — Years ago, Eleanor Ramirez worked as a biology professor in the Philippines.
“I taught at Cagayan State University in Tuguegarao for 17 years,” she said.
These days, she has a new “classroom:” Incredible Dwellings, a floral and home decor store in Salt Lake City that Ramirez established in 2015.
“We do interior design. We do home interior redesign, too. We do home staging. We do weddings,” Ramirez said.
Getting to this point wasn’t easy.
When Ramirez immigrated to the United States, she had to make sacrifices, including leaving her children in the Philippines and working as a housekeeper until a green card arrived.
“It was very, very difficult,” she said. “There was no Facebook. There was no Messenger. There was no other things that you can convey to your family for free.”
During that time, however, she gradually developed a flair for interior design. And thanks to her Cagayan Valley roots, Ramirez learned how to transform homes on a tight budget, a hallmark of her work.
“I’m Ilocano. I’m from Region II. So I’m very, very frugal,” Ramirez said. “I don’t want to spend money on things that I don’t think is really important.”
After spending time staging houses for real estate agents, Ramirez looked into opening her own business.
“It was intimidating to open a physical shop in America,” she said. “I went to the department of commerce. I went to the IRS. I went to the city hall. And I asked them what is it that I need to learn.”
From there, she created Incredible Dwellings.
“I don’t know anything about business,” Ramirez said. “I don’t know anything about retail. But I know it in my heart that I can do this well.”
It’s an immigrant story that parallels many of Ramirez’s designs — inspired by the Philippines, crafted in America.