We are so excited for this season’s retailer spotlight. Maybe because of all the amazing (seriously, AHHHmazing) collections in the store. But most definitely because of the warm & genuine welcome you receive when walking through the doors of Parsons Gifts in Cumming, GA.
Parsons has been a huge supporter of Mud Pie for many many years, and since we share the same state, we had the honor of thanking them in person. And what an honor it was! Not just to meet Cris Willis, but while walking through their unique space in the Lakeland Plaza Shopping Center off GA 400, it became increasingly harder to hold on to our checkbooks.
Cris and her husband, Gary, are the fourth generation of brains behind the wonderland of a gift store. Let us just give a quick glimpse into the people they are: enthusiastic, devoted, passionate and highly motivated. They REALLY LOVE what they do, and it is inspiring to chat with them, if even for a second. We could get into all of the marketing terms, but Cris will be the first to say, that their goal is not what the market is doing, but what their consumers are doing. They pay attention to the wants of their fans and boy does it pay off!
Now sit back and take a journey through their success.
Where is Parsons located? In Cumming, Ga off of GA 400 – Exit 14 West on Hwy 20. We are in Lakeland Plaza Shopping center next to Belk and Sprouts.
Who are the store oweners? Gary and Cris Willis. They are the fourth generation behind Gary’s mom, Kathryn, and his grandparents, Kate & Calvin Parsons, and great grandparents, the Alfords.
When did your store open? Parsons has been a family owned and operated store in North Ga for 140 years. It opened in 1876 as a general store with groceries, hardware, farming supplies, dry goods and more! This year Parsons is Celebrating 70 years in Cumming, GA. Click HERE for more information about their Anniversary Event Weekend, October 21-22. (It involves the below Mud Pie gift for FREE!)
Were you always interested in retail? My husband, Gary, grew up working in the store. I grew up knowing that I wanted to own my own business. In college, I studied Marketing with an emphasis in Personal Selling. It couldn’t be more of a match!
What inspired you to open a store? My husband and I came into the family business in 1993 to help computerize the business. Parsons was a department store at the time carrying clothing with a small gift department. Once we computerized the store, we realized that the gift department was bringing in all the money. With that, we made the decision to totally remodel the store. We went out of clothing and became a 10,000 sq ft Gift & Collectible store back in 1995.
How have you grown over the years? Parsons in Cumming expanded the Thomas Kinkade Gallery into a 3,000 sq. ft. space next door back in 2000. A couple years later, Parsons opened a Seasonal Christmas Shoppe in the 5000 sq foot space on the other side. We opened a 2nd location in Alpharetta, GA back in 2000 and then closed it in 2015.
How would you describe your store’s atmosphere? At Parsons our Mission is to create a wonderful shopping experience for each customer by focusing on:
Unique & Quality Merchandise
Creative & Fun Environment
Friendly Customer Service
We create beautiful displays with all of our merchandise from all the 600 vendors we carry. Everyday there is fun music playing and something to snack on while you shop (like the most tasteful mini chocolate chip cookies!). People LOVE to shop at Parsons because there is so much to see, from our large ladies accessories area full of great clothing, handbags & jewelry from Pandora, Brighton, Inspired Designs to the awesome gourmet goods with homemade fudge and Sweet Shop Truffles, to the home décor department full of wonderful art, lamps, floral arrangements, occasional furniture pieces, kitchen decor and so much more to a BIG Selection of Great Gift Items including LOTS of Mud Pie!
Are you involved in the community? Parsons on Mission is our monthly program where we work with our community. Each month Parsons spotlights at least 1 charity/ministry that we raise money for and bring awareness to. We promote them through emails, signage in the store, Facebook and Instagram. We usually have the charity attend an event that we are having at the store so they can meet with customers and let them know what they do. We have been doing this for years. God has blessed us with a platform to reach thousands of people, and we want to use that for the good. We try to work with local organizations that may not get much recognition. We are always excited to be able to help the public find out about a charity or ministry that they would like to volunteer with or may need help from. We love to bring our community together!
Favorite Mud Pie Item? I love all of the spoons with great sayings and the Circa bowls, like Holy Guacamole Set. They make me laugh, and I love sharing them with customers. It is easy to sell and it is a great gift item for just about anyone!
Do you have any events or promotions coming up in the month of October? We are Celebrating our 140th year as a family owned and operated business and our 70th year of being in Cumming with an Anniversary Event Fri, Oct 21st and Sat, Oct 22nd.
What ignites your passion for retail? I love People and I love to Talk & I love Fun!!! I also love the game of buying items then seeing how many we can sell…it is fun!
What is your escape when you want to create new visions for your store? My husband and I run the store together and when we vacation we always spend some time making decisions for the store. It is always a nice time to be away and not in the hectic day to day grind to really put your thinking cap on. However, some of our best planning is at buying shows working with other buyers and managers coming up with new visions.
What is your go to item in your own closet? Any little light weight dress that I can wear with sandals
Best style tip you have? Be yourself!
What is your dream vacation? Anywhere overseas that I get to fly first class!!!!!
What was your dream job growing up? I wanted to be a buyer and here I am!
If you’re ever in Georgia, be sure to give Cris and Gary a hello!