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Eileen McClelland

Joan Little Gave Her Customers What They Wanted

She knew “beyond a shadow of a doubt” they wanted a jewelry store.

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Joan Little Gave Her Customers What They Wanted
Joan Charlene Little
Genesis Jewelry, Muscle Shoals, AL

WHEN “BLUE LAWS” blocking alcohol sales were lifted in Colbert County, AL, Joan Charlene Little, now 84, knew that as a devout Christian she didn’t intend to sell alcohol in the grocery store she owned. But she knew if she didn’t, competitors would soon put her out of business. Still, she trusted God would find a new direction for her entrepreneurial energy.

Initially, she tried to open a gift shop. But from Day 1, she says, “people who came in wanted jewelry repair, watch batteries, wedding bands, engagement rings, everything that I didn’t have. At the end of that first day, I said, ‘Lord I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you have given me a jewelry store and not a gift shop.’”

Sensing an opportunity, she quickly got up to speed, both on education and merchandising. Her daughter, Jan Carlon, worked in fashion jewelry at a showroom in the Atlanta Apparel Mart. Jan had purchased a gold herringbone chain there for herself, and soon everyone in Muscle Shoals wanted one, too.

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The chains became Little’s first fast seller. “I could buy gold every week and usually sell it by the end of the weekend,” Carlon says.

“She learned everything the hard way,” Carlon says of her mom, “by trial and error, and by attending seminars, and taking classes and joining the Independent Jewelers Organization.” Prayer was an integral part of it, too. “She prayed over watch batteries, about how to take links out of watches; she’d say ‘God, tell me how to do this!’”

The mother-daughter team has worked together for decades now, first in a mall, then in a strip center, and most recently in a 3,000 square-foot freestanding building they purchased.

Little attempted to retire for six months when she was 79, but that didn’t stick; it seemed to make her sick. “I thought, ‘This sickness is for the birds,’” she says. “And I haven’t been sick a day since I came back to work. God has richly blessed me, and he didn’t expect me to quit and stay home.”

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