SELMA – In 2011, Jacqueline T. Smith, owner of The Coffee Shoppe, was commuting to work in Montgomery from her home in Selma when she decided to quit her job and create a gathering place in her rural community. “My love for people and my love for this community, just gave me the drive to come home and start a small coffee shop,” Smith said. Today, Smith took home top honors in the state as the Gold Alabama Retailer of the Year in the Annual Sales Less Than $1 Million category.
Located in a former segregated diner, The Coffee Shoppe has become a popular spot for locals from all walks of life and tourists who visit Selma from throughout the world. “There were a lot of people jockeying for this space, and I feel like it was just meant for me,” Smith said. She also found a good entrepreneurial support system among local and regional officials.
Sheryl Smedley, executive director of the Selma Dallas County Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Information, nominated Smith for the award. “She’s done an excellent job as an entrepreneur in downtown Selma,” Smedley said. “For Jackie to receive this award is a major accomplishment for our entire community.”
“This award is not about me. It is about Selma,” Smith said as she accepted her award at the Alabama Retail Day awards ceremony in Birmingham. “It is about the impact, we’ve made on this community, and them giving back … them giving back by coming to buy their lattes, buy their smoothies, get their sandwiches and just come by and say, ‘Hey, y’all are doing a good job, keep it up.’’’
Smith added, “I don’t want people to think that operating this business has been some fairy tale, because it has been far from that. There have been many times that I wanted to just throw the towel in and walk away from it all.” Instead, she worked harder. In 2018, The Coffee Shoppe developed relationships with local tour companies to capitalize on Selma’s pivotal role in civil rights history. The shop experienced a 25% growth rate in the number of visitors served.
As one of the 2019 Retailer of the Year judges noted, “She is an example of doing the things you have to do to succeed even when you’re not in an affluent community.” The Coffee Shoppe was one of 14 retail businesses honored today as Retailers of the Year. The Alabama Retailer of the Year awards, started in 1999, honor retailers who have demonstrated growth, innovation and a commitment to their respective communities. This year’s winners came from a pool of more than 70 nominees.
“Jackie Smith is a retailer who stands out every day for The Coffee Shoppe customers, her four employees, the Selma community and tourists from around the world,” said Alabama Retail Association President Rick Brown.
The Alabama Retail Association represents retailers, the largest private employer in the state of Alabama, before the Alabama Legislature and the U.S. Congress. Through sales of food, clothing, furniture, medicine and more, our 4,200 independent merchant and national company members touch almost every aspect of daily living. Since 1943, we’ve worked to promote what’s best for the retail industry in Alabama. Whether voicing the retail view when public policy is made, educating members about issues that impact them, negotiating rates for benefits and services or communicating the retail story, the Alabama Retail Association and its members are better together.