MOUNTAIN BROOK / BIRMINGHAM – For Katie Smith, business is “a family affair.”
Her family has been in the paper business for generations. Her great-grandfather, Hugh Buchanan, started the Alabama Paper & Metalware Co. Inc. in 1926. That business stayed in the family and employed family until it was sold in 1998.
Eighteen years ago, when Smith was getting married, her mother, Betty McKewen, realized Birmingham did not have a place with a wide selection of paper products for wedding invitations and stationery, so she decided to start a business.
“We were talking about a name, and Katie named it, “Please Reply,” McKewen said. It would be seven years before Smith came to work for her mother. Then, five years ago, Smith took over the business she had named. “She has grown the business so much,” McKewen said of her daughter. “I’m extremely proud of her.”
That growth and leadership in the community earned Smith and Please Reply LLC the title of Alabama’s 2017 Silver Retailer of the Year Award in the Annual Sales Less Than $1 Million category. The Alabama Retail Association honored Smith today at the Alabama Retail Day luncheon in Birmingham, which is held in cooperation with the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Collat School of Business.
Smith serves on the Mountain Brook Chamber of Commerce board of directors and previously served as co-vice president of retail for Crestline Village, the business area of Mountain Brook where her store in located. “Katie has been such a great asset to Crestline Village and Mountain Brook,” said Dr. Lori Smith, president of the Mountain Brook Chamber, which nominated Smith for the award. “She is a great business woman and a great team player.”
Smith is in her store five days a week working alongside and coaching her staff. “You can tell everyone just loves to work here,” said Molly Wallace, project manager for the Mountain Brook chamber and a Please Reply customer. “It is a team that makes you feel happy.”
The Retailer of the Year judges were impressed by Please Reply’s outreach to corporate clients and its association with a national event planner. “Teaming up with an event planner and targeting corporate clients, all speak to a store with a bright future,” a judge said.
For Smith, success comes back to family. “When we are busy, often at graduation time or Christmas time,” she said, “my family is the first to show up to help unload boxes or restock displays.”
Please Reply, an Alabama Retail Association member since 2013, was one of 14 retail businesses honored today as Retailers of the Year. This year’s winners came from a pool of more than 90 nominees. The Alabama Retailer of the Year awards, started in 1999, honor retailers who have demonstrated growth, innovation and a commitment to their respective communities.
ARA President Rick Brown said, “Katie Smith is a retailer of the year EVERY year to the customers of Please Reply, its 13 employees and the Mountain Brook community.”
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.