Women in full charge of businesses in Exeter

Wednesday, July 9, 2014
Susan Fields and Jenny Thomas, owners of the J & S Floral Bakery and Gifts Shop in Exeter, decorate cookies to donate to an upcoming tournament for the summer baseball program. Caitlin McKenzie cmckenzie@cassville-democrat.com

All businesses downtown are owned by women

Businesses at the intersection of Commercial Street and Front Street in the city of Exeter have a characteristic not shared by many similar corners, as all the businesses are owned by women.

Though some of the stores in the past were owned by men or married couples, they have been owned by women for the past decade.

C & C Country Store was opened by Cheryl Lee and Calla Bacon nine years ago after the store had been closed for years, leaving the community without a grocery store.

Alma Robbins sorts through antique tableware at the A&W Flea Market in Exeter. Robbins has owned the store for the past 40 years. Caitlin McKenzie cmckenzie@cassville-democrat.com

"We bought the store because Exeter needed a grocery store to open back up," Bacon said. "We spent about a year remodeling it before we reopened it."

Bacon says they decided to purchase the building after she and Lee grew tired of their jobs and wanted a change after 30 years.

"People in the community needed a grocery store and Cheryl and I needed a change so it worked out well," she said.

Other businesses, like J & S Floral Bakery and Gifts, have been opened and owned by women for over a decade. Jenny Thomas was running the store out of her house until Susan Fields suggested they open up a store in town.

"Susan and I met when our daughters were playing softball together," Thomas said. "It was her idea to open up the store to help expand my business outside of my house."

The two sell fresh flower arrangements, baked goods and assorted gifts. Fields says they get a lot of tourist traffic through the store during the summer months. While the majority of their customers live in Exeter, Fields says they have plenty of Cassville residents who come out to shop in the store, opened in 2000.

Some of the female business-owners have been there for decades, and they don't plan on leaving any time soon.

Alma Robbins has owned A&W Flea Market for over 40 years. She said store started out as a Levi Jeans shop.

"I sold Levi Jeans for 27 and a half years, and I was good at it," Robbins said. "But I've always had a house full of antiques and I knew one day I wanted to start selling them."

The Classy Review Consignment Shop was opened by Wilda Lee 19 years ago.

"I had always wanted to own a shop like this," Lee said. "I have always wanted to make high-end, name-brand clothing affordable for the community."

Bacon said even other businesses nearby have been following the woman-lead trend.

"It's amazing how this happened," Bacon said. "Even the businesses like the post office and the bank are ran by women. The post office has a female post carrier and the bank next door is ran by two women.

"The businesses on this street haven't always been owned by women, but I think we're all planning on sticking around for quite some time."

As for the future of the businesses at the intersection of Commercial Street and Front Street, Fields says she doubts that ownership of any of the businesses in that area will change anytime soon.

"I think we're all here to stay for the long haul," she said.

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