Nita Whitesel, Cheri Hennessy, Fay Hobbs-Carter
<b>Short bio: </b>
I was born in Alexandria. I grew up in West Springfield and lived in the same house until I went to college. I started working at The Christmas Attic while I was in high school and took over managing after college. I dabbled in interior design, art gallery management and food service, but ended up back in the family business. I married a very supportive husband in 1981 and we have two college-aged children. We recently moved to Del Ray and we love it. I have a degree in Ancient Civilizations, with no formal training in retail. But I believe it's in my blood. My mother and father started the business while I was in high school and its been in the family ever since.
<b>Why did you choose this particular business? </b>
Christmas is the best time of the year. It is fun, people are happy and we can be creative. My mother, Nita has a wonderful way of celebrating every occasion and especially Christmas. We grew up in a family of celebrations. On every family trip we took, we would bring back a Christmas ornament to hang on our tree. We grew up with a love for Christmas, so it was a natural to open a Christmas shop.
<b>Why did you choose to work for yourself rather than as an employee for someone else? </b>
After working in the real world for awhile, I realized that
waking up in the morning and deciding what I want to do everyday is of utmost importance for me. The freedom and flexibility that owning a retail shop affords is great. But most important is my family. I am lucky enough to work with my mother, sister and daughter.
<b>What have you learned from being in business? </b>
New, New, New. New products, new ideas, new enthusiasm. Remake yourself with each generation. Know your niche and develop it. You never know it all, learn from everyone you can. Be fair and have fun.
<b>Share an anecdote of a challenging or humorous experience or biggest surprise learned from working your business: </b>
My biggest surprise was during Hurricane Isabel. I was the first one in the family to open the front door of the shop after the hurricane. As I opened it ornaments floated past my feet into the gutter. It was shocking and yet very sobering. We lost a great deal that day, but we gained a whole lot more. Neighbors and friends came to our rescue. The entire neighborhood helped us clean up. And we were able to rebuild our shop, from the bottom up.
<b>What have been the advantages and/or disadvantages of operating a business in Alexandria? </b>
It's a beautiful place to have a business. Every morning I ride by the river and enjoy the view. We have good restaurants, cute shops and nice people. The city is a good size, not too big and not too small. I guess the downside might be the bureaucracy of the city. Sometimes it's hard to get things done in a timely manner.
<b>Key staff: </b>
We are lucky enough to have friends and family work with us. Often a co-worker will bring another family member to join our staff. We have a very dedicated group of people.
<b>Description of services and/or products: </b>
We carry anything you need for Christmas — from German nutcrackers, smokers and pyramids, to Christopher Radko ornaments, lights and nativities. But we are carrying more and more seasonal products. We carry Halloween, Thanksgiving, Valentines Day and Patriotic products along with birthday, baby and wedding gifts.
<b>Professional affiliations/associations: </b>
KSMET board, Chamber of Commerce