BIRMINGHAM – The Alabama Retail Association, in cooperation with the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Collat School of Business, today recognized outstanding Alabama retailers representing 13 retail businesses with operations in 51 Alabama cities and 30 other states as Retailers of the Year. This year’s winners came from a pool of almost 70 nominees. The presentations were made during the 2015 Alabama Retail Day Luncheon in Birmingham. Stu Crum, president of Bridgestone Retail Operations, made the keynote address. This marked the 16th presentation of the Retailer of the Year Awards since 1999.
Anna Marie Heard, owner of Jireh’s Boutique and Gifts, a women’s apparel and accessory shop in downtown Gadsden, earned the Gold Alabama Retailer of the Year Award in the Annual Sales Less Than $1 Million category. Jireh’s Boutique and Gifts also won the Alabama Retailer of the Year Customers’ Choice Award, attracting 492 of 1,470 votes cast in a July 13-20 Facebook poll. Heard gives God the glory for the store’s success. Her store name comes from Jehovah Jireh, which means “God the Provider.”
Heard “has worked diligently to bridge racial divides in shopping trends and styles. Her charisma and love for her customers … breed an environment of inclusiveness and diversity,” said Heather Brothers New, president of The Chamber, Gadsden/Etowah County, who nominated Heard for the award. “I decided 20 years ago when I first opened my doors I would be a boutique for everyone, and that my fashion would be as diverse as my love for my community,” said Heard. The chamber recognized the 20-year-old business as the Small Business of the Year for Women/Minority-Owned Businesses in 2013. Jireh’s is also part of the Gadsden Main Street Program and a member Downtown Gadsden Inc.
In her entry, Heard said it is her mission to “daily take the opportunity to make someone feel special and beautiful.” The Retailer of the Year judges lauded Heard for that mission, the personal service her store provides and for throwing “her heart into her entry.” They also were impressed that Heard, and her husband, Earl, travel the country looking for exclusive items for the store rather than take vacations. Heard said, “I love showcasing women and … helping to bring out the beauty in so many people.” For Heard, it is all about finding something unique that fits her customers’ needs and personalities. “I don’t want to offer the same styles that can be found in department stores or malls,” she said. “I want something that will flatter my customers and make their friends ask, ‘Where did you get that?’ ”
Besides the chamber’s nomination, Heard’s Retailer of the Year entry was accompanied by glowing letters of recommendation from the mayor, the director of the downtown business association and several customers effusive about the clothes, customer service and community involvement of the owner and the four other employees of Jireh’s Boutique.
“In one of my most recent shopping experiences, I had to purchase an outfit to attend one of the most difficult events of my life – my mother’s funeral. While shopping, Anna took time with me to ask what was happening in my life, and when I told her that my mother had passed away, she sat with me and hugged me for several minutes before getting up and picking out several outfits that would be appropriate for my style and the event I was facing. I didn’t care what I looked like at the upcoming funeral. … I was merely going through the motions. Anna made sure that I had an outfit that would make me look “together,” even if I wasn’t,” wrote customer Leslie Harp of the Gadsden Regional Medical Center, who also has worked with Heard for nearly 10 years on the “Go Red for Women” event in which 500 area women get together to raise money to benefit the American Heart Association.
Alabama Retail Association President Rick Brown said, “Anna Marie Heard is a retailer of the year EVERY year to Jireh’s Boutique and Gifts customers, employees and the city of Gadsden.”
Media Contact: Anna Marie Heard, Jireh’s Boutique and Gifts | 205.909.1323
Media Contact: Nancy King Dennis | 334.551.0643 (d) | 800.239.5423