By Dennis Seid Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, Tupelo
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Lisa Hawkins didn't intend to get in the furniture business, although she already had retail experience. The nurse-turned-entrepreneur had the Velveteen Rabbit, a clothing store, for 12 years. Then, after helping with a going-out-of-business sale for what was then Hancock Furniture, she got the itch to open a furniture store.
Her deep faith and her nursing background are key reasons why Lisa Hawkins has such a big heart for others, but it also is her entrepreneurial spirit that has helped grow her business.
And in doing so, Room to Room -- which marks its 15th anniversary this year -- has become more than a furniture store.
"I never really did think about it growing like this," she said. "Really, my first thought about this was what kind of ministry can I make out of this furniture store?
"Being a nurse and being involved in people's lives is the same thing. I got my training in nursing because it's a people business. It's the same thing here -- it's a people business. People come in here with hurts and concerns, too."
Room to Room covers 100,000- square-feet with furniture for every room in a house, plus accessories, home decor and rugs.
Shoppers might be first-time homebuyers looking to fill the house of their dreams. They might be homeowners looking to renovate and replace their older furniture. Or it could be a family that lost everything in a tornado or fire.
"The tornado in 2014... we went through helping families during tough situations," Hawkins said. "We've helped families who went through a suicide. It's hurts like that that you never really think about, that a furniture store really being a ministry."
Hawkins' generosity extends beyond the store, going deep into the community. Her work with Sanctuary Hospice is unparalleled. Her volunteer efforts are immeasurable.
Room to Room has also offered opportunities to others who have become loyal employees who share Hawkins' philosophy.
"We have such a wonderful group of people here at the store," she said. "We've been able to give people opportunities in the warehouse and elsewhere to help them get back on their feet. Some have been through hard times, and it's a second chance."
NO PLACE LIKE HOME Hawkins and Room to Room have long been linked with the popular slogan, "There's no place like home," and she said there is a dual meaning to the phrase.
"I want our employees to feel like they're at home here," she said. "And when people come here, I want them to feel like (it's) a big house for them. I want it to be more of a feeling and not just a place where we're selling you furniture. I want to know what your need is and try to meet that need... our customers are like family, too."
Hawkins didn't intend to get in the furniture business, although she already had retail experience. The nurse-turned-entrepreneur had the Velveteen Rabbit, a clothing store, for 12 years. Then, after helping with a going-out-of-business sale for what was then Hancock Furniture, she got the itch to open a furniture store.
"It was an opportunity that arose at the time," she said.
Hawkins at the time was getting ready for the first fundraiser for Sanctuary Hospice, and was asked if she might help with the going-out-of-business sale for Hancock Furniture. Having done so with the Velveteen Rabbit, Hawkins took on the challenge.
"I remember looking at it long before the closing ever happened and thinking, 'that's a really big business; I can't imagine having an opportunity to have a business like that,'" she said.
That opportunity came when she successfully saw Hancock through its closing sale and decided to open Room to Room in the same spot on Cliff Gookin Boulevard.
"It's a good business for a husband-and-wife team. Jim is the real business person for Room to Room. I'm just the one flitting around. I buy it and he tries to pay for it," she said with a laugh.
Through the process of closing Hancock Furniture and deciding to open Room to Room, Hawkins said she came to the realization that it could become a great family business as well.
"There was a place for Jim, a place for me and there were good employees that were here," she said. Their son, Jay, also works at the store.
She also credits a talented, hard-working staff that helps make the operations run as smoothly as possible. From the ones at the front counter, to the workers in the back and the sales staff on the floor, "it takes everybody to make it go," Hawkins said. "All of them make it possible for me to go out and serve the community in different ways."