Sadie Fowler, VIP Murfreesboro, September 5, 2018
More than 45 years ago two local women put their heads together to talk business, and what unfolded has been a Murfreesboro icon ever since — it’s called The Peddler, for short.
Jane Jones and Mary Ann Richardson, both Rutherford County natives, met at a real estate dinner with their husbands in 1968 when a conversation struck up about the two ladies opening a shop together.
Both women were pregnant at the time and both were looking ahead, pondering their futures. They hit it off that first night and their partnership ensued with their focus being to open a business where they could sell traditional reproduction accessories.
“We think it’s pretty neat that two women have been in business for this long together,” said Jane. “When we first started, we needed a name to get licensed so we could go to market but we didn’t even know exactly what we’d be buying at market, so that’s why we called it The Peddler.”
It wasn’t too long after the first thought of The Peddler was expressed that they each gave birth to their only sons – within two weeks apart from each other. Their sons (Jane’s son is John Jones and Mary Ann’s son is Joey Richardson) grew up together and remain friends today.
Jane’s background included estate jewelry and Mary Ann had worked at State Farm. After having her son, Mary Ann knew she didn’t want to go back to working in the insurance business, so the idea of opening a shop that would offer a little bit of this and a little bit of that was appealing.
The Peddler originally opened its first store front location in 1972 at Jackson Heights, 2nd Stones River mall, 3rd Georgetown Sq. and its current location at W. Northfield Blvd. where it has remained for the past 30-plus years. Since the early days, they’ve established their niche in local business, offering interior design services to homeowners in Middle Tennessee, as well as everything one could need for a home, from wallpaper, drapes, mirrors, art, upholstery and more.
“We opened as a gift shop and then moved toward interior design and home furnishings,” Jane said. “As we evolved we saw the needs of our clients; we saw what they were asking for and built our store around their needs.”
Though they initially entered their business venture as partners, over the years they have become dear friends. “We balance each other out,” said Jane. “Mary
Ann handles all the accounting type things, and I am more interested in the creative aspect. We both buy at market. We go four or five times a year.” Mary Ann added, “We’ve never had any issues being friends over the years. I can’t think of any major disagreement we’ve ever had, certainly none that we’ve taken home at night … We became good friends over the years, and probably get along better than sisters.”
In fact, working together over the years, both having their sons that were the same age, allowed them to lean on each other both at work and in life. If one needed to be off, the other would have their back.
“And if our sons wanted to do something like play ball we’d just make sure they got on the same team,” laughed Jane. Over the years their families have remained close. They look forward to their annual Christmas Eve dinner each year where the families come together to catch up on the year that’s just passed.
Both Jane and Mary Ann agree that the number one challenge in business is getting started. When they first opened The Peddler, their lender projected it would take them 10 long years to make a profit.
Mary Ann added, “We’ve seen so many businesses like ours come and go over the years. So many people go into business and think they can go in quick and make a bunch of money, when in reality it doesn’t work like that, especially today … Looking back, my advice to anyone starting out would be to find something you like to do and be committed to it. Don’t get in business thinking you’ll be able to hire someone else to do the work for you.”
In addition to working hard and staying committed to their business, Jane and Mary Ann say there are two additional things that drive their focus six days a week while they’re at The Peddler — customer service and quality.
As they aim to please, they also enjoy themselves and have fun along the way. “We like what we do and it’s nice to be around beautiful merchandise,” Jane said. “Every day is different and it’s nice to have the freedom; to not be stuck in a cubical.”
Mary Ann added, “You never know what the day will bring. You may have intentions of doing one thing and at the end of the day you realize it’s turned out completely different.”
Customers have become friends; they’ve served three generations of clients over the years. Both members of Charity Circle, Jane and Mary Ann say they’ve grown, both personally and as business owners, with Murfreesboro over time. They welcome growth yet admit growth comes with the challenge of a city having to work hard to maintain its small-town charm that’s fueled by local business.
“Growth is good,” Jane said. “I think if I could pick one thing I’d like to see, and we hear this from our customers a lot as well, is more condos for people who are looking to downsize as they move toward that next phase in life.”
“We’ve tried to grow with Murfreesboro,” Jane said. “At one time we were the only gift place in town … I think there’s always the concern in the back of your mind about a city getting too big.
You go down Medical Center you wonder how all the chains can survive. It’s hard today, in the world of online shopping, for even the big box stores to survive.”
Jane and Mary Ann remain committed to their craft of helping homeowners design their perfect homes. They recommend working with a designer you can trust, and taking your time to fill your home with quality décor.
“Customer service always has been, and still is, very important to us,” Jane said. “We try to be there for our clients, whatever their needs may be.” Mary Ann added, “Whether it’s a telephone order, gift wrapping, registries, or delivering things, we are grateful our customers put their trust in us. In addition to service, our clients can always expect to find quality here.”