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Deitra Kenoly: A Light Brightly Shining

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Retirement is hardly dim for Deitra Kenoly. A businesswoman, wife, grandmother, great-grandmother and lifelong Stockton influencer, Deitra is lighting up the Central Valley with Inside Out Lighting & Décor, an interior lighting and home decor store in the heart of Stockton, California.  

A past president of the Greater Stockton Chamber of Commerce, she retired in 2020 from The Record as president and publisher, a career spanning over 39 years, but Deitra has no plans of slowing down. “I have more life behind me than ahead of me, so I’m going to do what I want to do,” she said as she looked around her 1,250-square-foot showroom affectionately, admiring the picture of her late grandmother, Essie Wyatt Hearns, who serves as her maven of inspiration. With the opening of Inside Out on February, 24, 2021, intentionally on the birthday of her grandmother, she has used her past business experience as well as family support to give back to the same community. “I wanted to be of service to people in a different way,” she explained. 

Her decision to open a home lighting store also stemmed from the desire to encourage citizens to shop local. “Stockton is too large a city to not have a specialty lighting store,” Deitra asserted. Recognizing that small businesses were on the decline and fueled by the closing of other lighting stores such as The Light House and Classic Lighting, she noticed many in her community often leave town to shop elsewhere. As a lifelong Stocktonian, she wants to see her hometown thrive and celebrate its fullness. “I love this city; I think it’s rich in so many ways.”

Family, Blessings and Service
Part of her love of Stockton and the Central Valley goes back to her family’s history. Deitra’s grandparents moved to Stockton from Dallas, Texas, in the 1940s to provide a better life for their family. Having a strong foundation in the Pentecostal faith, her mother, Mary Jean Kennard, who raised her and her siblings as a single parent, encouraged her children to be the best they could be in every aspect of their lives, especially in service to others. It was common for Deitra and her family to volunteer, feed the homeless, minister at prisons, prepare food baskets for families in need, even have a family member play Secret Santa to children who were without during Christmas. She learned at an early age that family and community were pivotal aspects of her life, so much that the expression “we were blessed to be a blessing” is a significant phrase for her; it means that money and material goods are not the blessing but rather the family unit. In fact, Deitra admits she didn’t have a lot of those material goods, but that didn’t deter her happiness. “We didn’t have a lot but we had each other, and that is far greater than anything material.” 

And her blessings have been generous. Deitra’s family continues to grow. “I am the eldest of six children, as well as the eldest of more than 100 grand-, great-grand and great-great grandchildren,” she says proudly. Holding true to the idea that family is a blessing, she and her family create opportunities to serve as well as celebrate in order to come together. One tradition that her grandmother, Essie, established was gathering on Memorial Day to visit the graves of their loved ones, followed with a barbeque and celebration. This coincidentally was more significant than she realized when her grandmother passed away on May, 28, 2007, on Memorial Day. “Her influence reminded us that this is what we were supposed to be doing as a family,” Deitra said about her grandmother. 

Her family recently celebrated the 80th birthday of her mother, with more than 100 relatives and friends in attendance. While the size of her family is grand, it’s the service and integrity that many of her relatives share. She proudly recognizes many of her relatives chose careers in the service fields, such as healthcare, education, professional athletes, public safety/corrections, coaching, technology and pastoring, to name a few. These professions are all ways of giving back to their community. 

So, when it came to her own service and the opening of Inside Out, family continued to give of themselves. Deitra’s husband, Quincy, a former electrician, has been her biggest support, serving as the installer, hanging fixtures and designing the ceiling layout in her showroom. Her daughter, Krishan, comes in to help in the store from time to time, while her son, Quincy, and extended family were paramount in organizing space during her opening. 

Lighting Her Passion of Design
While family has certainly shared a key role in service, Deitra’s grandmother was the one who played the most pivotal role. Her grandmother’s example helped foster her own passion to pursue design, and like her family’s various ways of giving back, she wanted to use her abilities to help others. The opening of Inside Out was no dim idea but a concept in the works for over 20 years. “I’ve always been complimented on my dress and home, so it made sense to share that love of design by opening up the store during retirement, where I could put my talents to use,” she smiled.

Deitra prides herself on giving her customers the very best service. From flush mount to hanging fixtures, she’s helped customers select unique and conversational pieces. But her store is not limited to lighting; you can find anything from wall art to indoor and outdoor furniture. Her showroom floor provides an array of reimagined pieces to help accentuate any style of home. Even though she favors a contemporary design, her bravura is to assist customers find the right fit for their own style. “I want my customers to look back a few months and say I made the right decision,” she said with confidence. And while she admits she has no formal training in design, perception is what matters most. “I don’t claim to have experience. You just have to have a good business sense, great sense of style and you have to have a great eye, something my grandmother taught me.”

Light in Darkness
Opening Inside Out Lighting & Décor in the peak of the pandemic came with some risk. While many small businesses found they could not maintain their livelihood, Deitra felt it was the perfect time to open even if the decision was unpopular. “People thought I was crazy because I opened during the pandemic, but I took a chance,” she smiled. It was a chance that paid off. Unlike other small businesses, the home furnishing industry saw sales increase. She paid attention to the fact that people were confined to their homes and that’s when they started doing self-improvement projects. “Home businesses didn’t suffer at all, because people remodeled, and redecorated and did different things, and it shows because people responded.”

As she continues to bring a shining aesthetic to the Stockton community, she attributes part of her purpose to faith in God and her family. Her grandmother’s influence also encouraged that family should always stick together, and that same idea should carry over to community. As she looks to the future, she encourages others to follow their dreams and create more for their community, especially when it comes to shopping local. “Do your research, find a void and fill it.”

Visit Inside Out Lighting & Decor 6231 Pacific Ave. #4, Stockton, California, or visit