Everyone told Yolanda Cruz she couldn't do it.
Cruz didn't speak English, she had three children to raise, and she worked in a cannery.
Those aren't usually the attributes that someone needs to open a business, but Cruz isn't a normal businesswoman.
Cruz, the owner of Yoly's Bazaar, has worked hard since she was a little girl in Mexico City.
"I was selling men's clothes when I was 7 years old," Cruz, known to her friends as Yoly, said on a busy Valentine's Day at her business on G Street in Merced.
From the time she can remember, Cruz had wanted to own and operate her own business. Her ex-husband told her she was crazy, but Cruz knew better. She wasn't crazy, she was determined.
"The people I worked for when I was a kid told me it's better to own a business than to work for someone else," Cruz said. "That's all I ever wanted."
When she came from Mexico 22 years ago, she got a job at a local cannery. She listened to her co-workers talk about their joint pains from the repetitive work, and Cruz knew she didn't want that.
"My dream was to have a bazaar," Cruz said.
At the time, Cruz lived in a small apartment, and wanted to buy a house. She worked hard, saved her money, and bought her dream home.
"After that, my mind always said that I needed a business of my own," Cruz said.
After almost losing her home because of job losses, Cruz started selling at yard sales, and she made money at it.
So she started looking for a place to rent. She moved into a small place on G Street in 1998, calling it Yoly's Bazaar. Selling everything from flowers to old video games, the little store did well. Although opening her own business was her greatest dream, that year was also the year that almost devastated her.
Cruz's father, Antonio Cruz, was murdered on May 22 of 1998, while buying tortillas at Merced Liquor and Grocery on Main Street.
"It was a horrid situation, but I had a dream," Cruz said. "I dream my father is still with me, helping in the store. I had to keep going."
After going through the trial of her father's murderer, Cruz was ready to move to a bigger place. She had no parking at her first shop, so she moved north on G Street to her present location.
"It hasn't been easy," Cruz said. "I work hard. But it's good to have my kids with me at the end of the day. I have fears, but I keep them inside of me."
Learning English was one of the goals that Cruz made early on, learning at least one new word every day. Going through a divorce was difficult, and she said she's had a lot of pain in her life.
"But every time I feel pain, I trust in God," Cruz said. "I want every woman to know they can do it if they try."
Cruz's youngest son, Rickie Cruz, 16, was helping his mother on one of the business's busiest days of the year -- Valentine's Day. Dressed in a suit and helping anyone who needed it, Rickie Cruz put his arm around his mother and summed his mother up in four simple words.
"She's a strong woman," he said.
Reporter Carol Reiter can be reached at (209) 385-2486 or email@example.com.