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MEMPHIS CROSSROADS: Sissy's Now Shines Bright in Memphis

The following is an article from the 2014-2015 Winter Issue of Memphis Crossroads Magazine. Click here to read the full magazine.

When Arkansas-based fine-jewelry retailer Sissy’s Log Cabin made the trip across the bridge to open a store in Memphis last October, the company arrived with a rich family history, award-winning jewelry designs and an unshakable commitment to providing top-notch customer service to its Mid-South clients. 

It also arrived with a compelling story to tell, including its journey from humble, diamond-in-the-rough beginnings to eventually becoming Arkansas’ largest independently owned jewelry store to this latest chapter as a bright addition to the Memphis business community — a community that President Bill Jones says he’s enjoyed getting to know as one of the newest members of the Greater Memphis Chamber.

“We joined the Chamber because it’s a great group of Memphis business associates who share a common goal – to network and come together as a business community to serve the people of Memphis,” Jones said. “We’ve made so many wonderful connections through our involvement with the Chamber so far. It would have taken years to make those acquaintances otherwise.”

The fact that his family’s company, once housed in a small Arkansas log cabin, now has a presence in Memphis is a significant milestone, Jones said.

In 1970, Jones’ mother, Sissy Jones, now CEO of the company, had a home that was overflowing with antiques and a husband who wanted them out of there. She spotted a solution to that situation during an afternoon drive down U.S. Highway 79 in Pine Bluff, where she found a dilapidated, 900-square-foot log cabin and rented it for $50 a month. 

“She rented that log cabin and actually started out selling Victorian furniture,” Jones said. “With the Victorian furniture, she started handling estates and with the estates, sometimes there were little pieces of jewelry. That’s how she got into the jewelry aspect of it.”

Once Sissy discovered her passion for finding and selling exquisite jewelry pieces, she embraced the industry with the determination to learn everything about it. She furthered her gemology education at the Gemological Institute of America at Santa Monica, Calif. (now located in Carlsbad, Calif.); University of Arkansas at Monticello; Trenton Jewelry School in Millington; and McCarthy Jewelry Design courses in Mena, Ark. She also is a licensed appraiser of antique jewelry.

After attending the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville and Little Rock, along with the Gemology Institute of America at Santa Monica, Bill Jones joined the business with his mother in 1984. It was still small but starting to grow.

“Back then we were still selling antiques and jewelry and we didn’t even have a safe. We just took the jewelry home at night and kept it under our bed,” he said. 

In 1991, the family built a new 6,000-square-foot log cabin next to the original one and began to focus solely on jewelry sales. About five years later, they expanded that new cabin to 12,000 square feet. 

As the business grew, so did the number of family members involved.

“The reason we ultimately had such an explosive growth is because we ended up having four family members come into the business. Sissy and I were both sales people, and then my sister, Ginger, who was a registered nurse, joined us in 1987. She really delved into a lot of the advertising,” Jones said.

His father Murphy Jones, a former electrical engineer, came onboard in 1988 as secretary/treasurer of the company, specializing in future forecasting and company growth. 

“It was like putting four pieces of a puzzle back together,” Jones said. “We each got to focus on our individual strengths.”

The Rolex brand played another strong role in the company’s expansion. The Pine Bluff store – the largest independently owned jewelry store in the state – was an authorized Rolex dealer. When that opportunity also opened up in Little Rock, the Jones family jumped on it and opened a new Sissy’s Log Cabin store there in 2010. Two years later, they opened an additional store, also an authorized Rolex dealer, in Jonesboro. They had their eyes on Memphis at the time, but they weren’t quite ready to make the leap.

“When we opened Jonesboro, we were looking at Memphis very hard, but we wanted to stay within our geographic radius of advertising,” Jones said. “We decided to start by advertising in Memphis to get our name out there before we extended the store there.”

Once the Memphis-area advertising started rolling, another Rolex dealership opportunity became the deciding factor in crossing the bridge.

“That was probably the greatest gift ever – to have the Rolex business in a large metropolitan area,” Jones said. “We’re the only Rolex dealer in Memphis.”

At that time, Sissy’s Log Cabin already had some Memphis clients who were more than willing to make the trip to Arkansas just to shop there, so Jones believes the store’s easily accessible Laurelwood Shopping Center location will prove to be convenient for customers all over the Mid-South.

“The key thing we bring to Memphis more than anything else is our philosophy. We did business for four years in Pine Bluff, Ark., which is in one of the state’s poorest counties, so we really had to have extremely good customer service and beautiful merchandise at great prices,” he said. “Less than 20 percent of our business was from Pine Bluff. The other 80 percent was from all over the state and Memphis. So if you’re going to drive one to three hours, you’re going to have to get something extraordinary. You’re not going to drive that distance to get the same kind of service and selection that you’d get down the street. And I think that’s what we can really bring to Memphis.”

The company’s jewelry designers have won state, national and international industry awards for their designs. Additionally, along with boasting a wide selection of loose diamonds and one-of-a-kind pieces, Sissy’s Log Cabin is a full-service jeweler that also specializes in repairs, even if the pieces are delicate, antiques or from other stores. And as with its other locations, Jones says community involvement is key, and the company plans to actively support a range of Memphis charities, with several auctions and sponsorships already scheduled.

So far the store has been warmly received in Memphis, said Jones, who divides his free time between Little Rock and a condo here in Harbor Town.

“I’ve had more people thank us for coming, and I just cannot believe how gracious and nice everybody is,” he said. “No matter what type of problem you have, we’re going to figure out a solution one way or another. We do everything we can to please our customers, whether they spend $10 with us or half a million dollars with us.”

As for Sissy, she shares all those values, but her basic business philosophy is simpler and applies to every aspect of her life.

“The fear of tomorrow and the regrets of yesterday are the twin thieves that rob us of our happiness,” she said.

Story by: Erinn Figg
Photo by: Troy Glasgow
Posted: 5/20/2015 9:25:23 AM | with 0 comments
Filed under: Cabin, Crossroads, Jewelry, Log, Memphis, Sissy's

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