The following is one of a series of stories celebrating mothers who tend to a business as well as family life, appearing on Mother’s Day Celebration pages in the Press this week.
When Elwanda Jones talks about her customers at Jones Body Shop, the car repair service she’s owned with husband Donnie for almost 40 years, you can hear the “momma” in her voice. Switching from praise to concern and back to praise, the mother of three and grandmother to four is practiced at taking care of others in both words and deeds.
“She’s taught me everything I know so far,” says daughter Christie Leiva who is following in her parent’s path and with her husband Marlon and brother-in-law Brian Exum make up the “family” aspect of the family business on Hyndsver Road in Martin.
“She learned it all through the school of hard knocks,” explains Christie of her mother’s administrative role that has helped the small enterprise beat the odds for most small business. “So many don’t make it through the first year, but they’ve had a team effort for 38 years. Neither could have done it by themselves.”
The shop started in a converted old barn in 1980, only six years into the Jones’ marriage. They rented and, in 1987, bought the building where they continue to operate. Elwanda left her inspector’s job at a boot factory in 1995 to take over computer estimates, finances and, as Christie puts it, “keeping Daddy straight.”
Elwanda knew the pros and cons of being a “spouse 24/7” when she took on the role. She says she told Donnie, “We’ll either kill each other or we’ll make it work!” Since the first wasn’t really an option given the couple’s strong Christian faith, she says “prayer and the Good Lord helping us” were the main ingredients to both their business and marriage’s longevity.
“Our kind of job is not promised,” she explained of the seasonal nature of the work that sees high traffic in the shop during deer season and then has times when things are definitely slower. “The Good Lord has seen us through it all.”
Watching the trends, Elwanda has identified a few concerns for her very loyal and appreciated customer base. Cell phone usage while driving is one she warns both her family and her customer/friends to avoid. She also notes that while drivers tend to use caution when driving in icy conditions, during the rainy season “people don’t slow down, and we get a lot more business.”
Thankful for all her good customers, she wants to keep them safe … and happy. That’s one of the main messages she and Donnie are instilling in the next generation as they share the lessons they’ve learned with Christie, Marlon, and Brian.
“I hope they do good honest work for the customers,” she says of the day that the couple eventually pass along the business. “You have to make the customer happy and the work speaks for you. We may not be perfect, but we try.”
For more stories celebrating Mothers, see this week’s Weakley County Press. To subscribe call 731-587-3144. To stay up to date with breaking news follow us on Facebook and Twitter.