Some businesses, like their customers, deserve to survive
It was quite fortuitous this past month when, even as I was looking for small businesses affected by baby boomer retirements, Roberta Jaynes called me.
Would I help her tell the public that she wants to sell her business and retire, she asked me.
Gladly, I replied.
Jaynes and I go way back, at least in my memory, although perhaps not hers. I reminded her that I came into her shop many years ago, during a traumatic phase of life. My wife, Sue, was undergoing chemotherapy and was losing her hair. She needed a wig.
Jaynes’ shop, Roberta’s Lovely Ladies Boutique, has been a special place for women the last 21 years. It carries products that are exceptionally hard to find among retailers. The customers tell the story: They come from a 100-mile radius to buy her selections of wigs, hairpieces, turbans, mastectomy bras, mature bras, swimsuits, bridal undergarments and more.
It’s entrepreneurial, to be sure. Roberta’s has filled a niche, both from a physical and emotional standpoint, going a step farther than a typical merchant by offering compassion as well as products.
And now she’s looking to move on. At age 69, she needs to be home to tend to the needs of her husband, Bill, 87.
The buyer, whomever it may be, will be getting the inventory and the files, but not the building, which she has rented all these years at 603 W. Delmar Ave. in Alton. Those files symbolically tell the stories of thousands of women who have been challenged during a most critical phase of their lives.
Jaynes has been thinking about retirement a long time but kept putting off the decision. A story about her that appeared some months ago in The Telegraph newspaper in Alton prompted 17 inquiries from people seeking to buy her business. None of them seemed the perfect buyer, in part because most of them wanted to split up the business, focusing on just wigs, or just mastectomy products. Jaynes rejected them all.
Admittedly, she said, she was being selective.
“Am I a good businesswoman? Probably not. But I am fulfilling what I feel I’m supposed to be doing,” she said. Now, she’s made up her mind to retire.
She was working at a hospital many years ago when she inquired about an opening at the old Rinderers pharmacy, which offered mastectomy products. The pharmacy owner, Paul Hale, whom she later married, trained her to deal with customers. He also helped set her up in business at the current location. Sadly, he died just five years later.
Now, Jaynes is like many of her generation, wanting to step aside. Elsewhere in this issue, I’ve written about how small businesses — more than ever — are affected by owner retirements.
Roberta’s is one of those. And yet, it holds a special place in the community. Through the years she built a business on referrals from surgeons and oncologists — and women she has helped.
“I love my business and the ladies I work with. This has been a hard decision. It’s been a mission. I tend to go 150 percent for my ladies,” she said.
Many of those women, like my wife, have gone on to flourish, thanks in part to Roberta Jaynes. Hers is a business that also deserves to survive.
Anyone wanting to reach Jaynes is welcome to call her at (618) 467-0640 or (618) 467-8819.
Dennis Grubaugh is editor and partner of the Illinois Business Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (618) 977-6865.