Women Business Owners
Juanita Flowers, 55, bought her women’s clothing store from Alice Eva in 1995. Since that time she has been helping women, from size 6 to 46W, find the clothes they love and that suit them, sporty to dressy.
And she loves it. “I love working with the public,” says Flowers, who got her start in retail with makeup specialist Merle Norman, “and I really enjoy helping people find the right fit, style, and color.”
She also likes fashion enough that she likes shopping the clothes marts in San Francisco and Sacramento. These include the lingerie, jewelry, and scarves she carries as well.
“Anything goes in women’s fashions now,” says this fashion expert. “There’s no special color, there’s no set skirt length.”
Flowers got to know the trade by “watching, listening, and learning by mistake.” Her teachers were Jan Pugh and Alice herself, both local retailers for whom, Flowers feels, she is carrying on the torch.
For women who are considering buying a store, Flowers has sound advice.
“Do a lot of studying first, then know it’s a lifetime commitment. You put in a lot of 24-hour days in your own store.”
The most delightful part of retailing, she says, is when a customer comes in who is in a good mood. The worst is when she’s in a bad mood. “Even if that person has a chip on her shoulder you have to smile the whole time.”
Flowers’ late husband used to tell her that she had the widest shoulders of anyone he knew. From stranger to life-long friend, she gladly listens to others’ problems. But, still, her favorite thing is to find someone that perfect dress. Example in point was a woman who came into the stop terribly upset. She had, she told Flowers, been combing the region, from Sacramento to Yuba City to Auburn, looking for a formal dress for her daughter’s wedding, and had found absolutely nothing to please her. Flowers listened to the description of what the woman wanted, disappeared into the racks, and came up with a 2-piece tea length navy blue sequined dress with a jacket. “That’s it,” said the woman.
Not only that but she got it for $91 even though its suggested retail was $102. Flowers, you see, believes in pricing her stock reasonably to encourage locals to shop her store.
Yet another win-win for Alice’s Fashions.
109 Mill Street, Grass Valley
(530) 273 7578
Hours: 9:30-5:30 Monday thru Friday; 9:30 to 5 Saturday
Cowboys. Cowgirls. They all love The Tack Room in Penn Valley. So does Barbara Martinez, 53, who after working there for seven years, bought the place in 1993.
After a steep learning curve on how to run a business, Martinez says that things are great now. They are successful with 21 employees who “are more like a family than employees,” she says, and lots of happy diners and drinkers.
Built by Tex (no last name available) in 1964, the restaurant and bar has been operating continuously since then. It’s warm, friendly, casual, and family oriented.
Patrons can watch small, medium or large slabs of meat being cooking over an open pit in the dining room Specials abound like prime rib on Sunday and Tuesday nights (under $17) and rack of lamb on Wednesday (under $18). For great big eaters, a 20-ounce Porterhouse on Friday or Saturday nights will surely satisfy. Seafood and pork is also served.
Live music on the weekends (and Wednesday) is a real pleaser for the dancing crowd, says Martinez. “The motif is very country, very Western. Most of the local cowboys come here. They’re into roping, rodeos, and horses, and Pam, our cook, is on the board of the Nevada County Horsemen.”
Martinez says three things have made the Tack Room a landmark: Quality food at a fair price, good service, and a friendly atmosphere. Her advice to anyone starting such a business is: Be consistent. Keep the same quality, service, and hours or you’ll disappoint. “People like the same thing the second time they liked the first time.” And hire the best people. “I couldn’t do it without them,” she says, including her daughter, Lisa Hostetler, 30. Keeping down turnover is a road to success, she’s convinced. As Martinez puts it “The crew IS the Tack Room!”
The Tack Room
17356 Penn Valley Dr., Penn Valley
Monday, 5:30-9; Tuesday-Thursday, 11:30-2:30 then 5:30-9:00; Friday and Saturday nights open until 10 p.m. Bar hours: 7 days a week open until midnight weekdays; 2:00 am weekends
When Martha Meredith wanted to name the store she bought on Commercial Street in Nevada City, she did some historical research. About a hundred years earlier, a man named JJ Jackson had given his name to the store that sold everything from beans to soap. After getting permission from the family to resurrect the name, Meredith started where Jackson left off, selling “everything from soap to chairs,” she laughs.
Meredith, now 53, has a history of owning stores and even a restaurant. She started out in health food after college and moved on to a weaving store.
Two of her former partners in business now own their own stores (Wind Horse rugs in Grass Valley and Wild Mountain Yoga in Nevada City).
A couple of other experiences helped get her to where she is now. The first was an experience of India in her sophomore year in college. That, she says, “Opened up to me a larger world of different cultures, different views.” This love of different peoples was to become a passion for her, resulting in importing today from artists’ collectives in developing countries such as Guatemala.
The second was the ending of a marriage that caused her to seek out and find work at the Brass Shop in Nevada City. Its owner, Gordon Betts, became “a great teacher of retail to me,” she acknowledges. “He set an example of how to treat people and how to run a business. He also recognized that I loved it, so he encouraged me (and still does) in retail.”
The advantages of retailing for women, Meredith feels, are that it is creative, flexible, and people oriented. “It’s creative in the buying and displaying you do. Flexibility was important to me when I first started as a single mom and had my daughter at the store after school. And every day is new.
“The store has been a wonderful teacher, too, in working with other people. I try to inspire people who work here to find their talent, and create an atmosphere where people can be themselves and not have to put on a mask. In other words, just trying to live the Golden Rule.”
This philosophy also extends to the collectives she imports from, as that too boils down to relationships. Meredith either gets to know the artisans herself or works through an importer who knows them and makes sure the craftspeople are paid well for their art. JJ Jackson’s carries such art as table runners from Guatemala, Haitian tin drum wall decorations, and El Salvadoran comales, clay pots for cooking. The women take out small loans from an organization called Microcredit Lending to for their craft businesses – starting on a shoestring, so to speak, something Meredith relates to.
Meredith says that not only does this type of trade help the women put better food on the table and help educate their children, but it also saves forms of art from vanishing.
The store helps Nevada County too. An example of this is the sale they had recently to benefit the Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital Foundation, which provides direct services to cancer patients here.
Meredith believes in heart-to-heart connections that in turn, she says, help create a more peaceful world.
244 Commercial St., Nevada City
Hours: open seven days a week: Sunday – Thursday, 10-6 (extended until 9 pm for Christmas, starting 12/9); Friday and Saturday 10-9.
Upcoming events at JJ Jackson’s: – to accompany your Christmas shopping, Emerald Mist (violin, cello, and harp) will play Saturday afternoons in December. Santa Claus will pay the store a visit on Saturday, Dec. 7.
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