Meet someone who has truly achieved and lived the American Dream.
Linda Berry owns a high-end retail store that has not only survived the COVID but is thriving. A Taekwondo black belter, she attended the University of Tennessee, became a Montessori teacher, and went on to experience and enjoy the golden age of retail. Having achieved the “American Dream” she has survived the recession, 2 wars, and even the pandemic. Though having accomplished success, few knew that at home she held dear to her heart her only daughter who had been born deaf.
What to expect for this episode
In this episode, Host Stephanie Huffman invites Linda Berry, a successful retail businesswoman, to share her rags to riches story. She'll recount life as a struggling single mom with a deaf child who became someone who to others was known as "living the dream."
Linda tells the story of retail during its magical glory [03:07]
Linda on how she started [05:38]
How 9-11 hit Linda’s business [07:32]
Linda shares her dream house [11:20]
Linda looking back at how she started [13:48]
Linda as a Mother [16:06]
Linda’s Better Blend Tip [19:38]
If ever there’s a time to have flowers on the table, a good meal cooking in a crockpot or in an oven, eating on real China – this is it! -Linda Berry
Those past experiences are still impacting my decisions. –Linda Berry
None of us get to escape lives without losses and problems and issues. –Linda Berry
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The better brew podcast, calling all business owners, busy bees and wannabees. If you are here, you are in the right place. I'm Stephanie Huffman, owner of Bosco Bailey a business and a Bura each week. I'll take you behind the barista bar and share with you the recipes for juggling the lattes of life while looking for that perfect blend. Welcome to the best 20 minutes of your week. Now let's get down to business. The better group podcast was started for people like you and me. We're trying to run a business home
And a life
Contrary to what some people might think it's not easy. And sometimes we're just faking it. As we're trying to juggle all of those plates
This month, our theme has been unexpected transitions. We've been talking about the here, there and everywhere of running a business, a home and a life in today's episode, we're going to meet and learn from a person who truly understands what it is to run a business, a home and life, and what it's been like in the here and now during the great pandemic. So here we go. She's been active all of her life in her younger days, she was a swimmer lifeguard and a cheerleader. She is a TaeKwonDo black belt coming in at five feet, three inches. She attended the university of Tennessee at Knoxville and Palm beach university. She was a Montessori teacher and the chapter services coordinator and chapter consultants manager for a national nonprofit. And then in 19 87, 2 days after the stock market crash, she opened the doors to her high-end retail store while owning her own business. She's survived. Two wars, three recessions, nine 11, the 2008 real estate impact on retail. And now the coronavirus today, she's the proud mom of her Summa, KU lad Galle graduate. She became a grandmother on Easter Sunday, 2020. However, the most important thing she is owned by her cat. Sophie, may I present to you? Linda Barry. Hi Linda.
That's pretty impressive.
Just, it made me tired listening to it.
<laugh> uh, you've accomplished quite a lot in your what 21 years is that right?
Yes. You know, I love to say with you, if anyone, uh, has been there done that, got the Louis Vuitton. As I like to tease, it's been, you you've been there. You've been there and it, interestingly, a lot of people wanna go there, but you were there when retail was magical. Um, can you tell me a little bit about that?
It was magical, Stephanie. It, it was, um, people were, people felt very safe and secure and they, they were making money and their industries and not having a problem whatsoever spending it once you gain loyalty, it was just never ending. Wonderful.
You also made a point once when we were talking, which we do just about every day, uh, you said it doesn't matter how much you buy or how much you bought back then it didn't matter because it would sell.
It always would even, even when it would come in the door and I would look at it and go, oh, my word was I on drugs or something when I <laugh>, when I chose that. But you know, that was, uh, it was often items of, of, uh, truly stepping out one of a kind, no one had ever seen anything like it before. And I always gravitated to those type of items because, you know, eventually they would sell, but, but, you know, they were just kind of a lost leader of bringing people in the door to, to, to look at it and say, God Lee, what in the world is that? I guess one of the reasons why we had a store cat too,
You had a store cat <laugh>
We did. We had a store cat. We also, at one time had, um, an aquarium filled with furniture and, uh, fish. And we had it on the floor and saw the little kids would come and gather around the aquarium and watch all the fish. It was just hilarious. It was just more of an entertainment, uh, back then. And people love to be, uh, entertained just like today, interestingly enough. So whenever we, uh, wanted to get action going, it just never failed that if we changed a bed, uh, it would bring in 20 people. It was amazing how that worked. And I remember one time I sprained my ankle and I really could not walk. So I just planted myself in, in one of the beds and it was a show stopper. <laugh> I just called unintended consequences. <laugh> oh my gosh. That is so funny. Oh, mean people sticking their head and going. Is that really a live person in that bed? What, what, what happened? <laugh>
Linda, that's hilarious. Um, you actually had the pleasure of, of attaining the American dream through your business, and you literally had the opportunity to live the high life. What did, what did that look like?
Um, what did that look like? That that was, for me, it was building a dream house and, oh my gosh, fabulous trips and seeing parts of the world that I could have never afforded otherwise. Um, it, it was living in just incredible beauty, surrounded by beauty and comfort and all those things that, uh, has taught me a lifelong lesson on how important it is to make sure that our environment reflects hope and optimism and, um, and, and beauty it's important.
Well, it's interesting because it didn't start out that way for you. You, I remember you telling me about, you had to leverage a car in order to make payroll.
Oh my goodness. Yes. Well, you know, starting a business two days after <laugh> the stock market crash <laugh>, you know, thank goodness. I was just, again, just dumb. I had no idea what that meant, but it was, it was really ti it. Yeah. Yeah. I had to, yeah. I had to borrow against a five year old car that, that, uh, but, but I think that that's probably true of many business owners. I don't think that's so unusual.
It's such a great story also. Uh, I loved how you, you know, you didn't start off at the top, you worked your way to the top and you worked like a dog. You, uh, I know that many times I've heard you say back then you neglected holidays and you probably didn't have much of a life, which we're gonna talk about in a little bit, but, um, you pretty much for your business. I think you told me, you kind of had smooth sailing. Uh, you opened in 87, 2 days after the crash, uh, and you went through everything that we talked about, but you kind of had smooth sailing and then nine 11 hit, and you said the world just changed
And nine 11 that's exactly right. That was the, that was the worst of the worst. And it was a slow, it was a slow impact. It didn't, it didn't hit all at once.
Huh? I, I remember growing up that and I know you'll agree with this, but I'll be interested to hear your take on it. When, when someone went into business, they stayed in business until they either sold or retired or just decided they didn't wanna have their shingle out anymore. And all of a sudden after nine 11 stores were closing, strip malls were closing. I had never seen anything like that in my
Right. And, uh, and then of course, when 2008 came along, uh, that was another, that was, <laugh> another chopped down of, of, of great businesses and not, not just retail, but, but other industries too, that just could not weather the storm.
And you now, you know, you've been in business, what, 33 years you've survived, um, with all those things. And now you get hit with the coronavirus. Take me back to when that hit, how did you pivot? What has it been like for you? Because even before the Corona, you were dealing with the Amazon effect and then the Corona hits, it's like a double whammy. Take me back to that.
It, it really was. Um, and you know that the Amazon, I, I call it the <laugh>, the Amazon effect, you know, happened really started for us. About four years ago, you talk about discouraging and, uh, enough to make, to make me wanna close the door altogether is, uh, seeing the, the, the things that people would do so that they could get the best deal. But fortunately, we have so many more wonderful clients who would never do that to us. But anyway, we started noticing that sales, of course, um, dropped, uh, the, to make matters worse. There was a, a period where Amazon, because they came to Tennessee, uh, didn't have to charge Tennessee sales tax. So then you had that on top of, of, uh, being able to, to go on the internet, to try to find some store somewhere that happened to be having a sale or closing their doors that would be giving the same item away, literally giving it away and customers, uh, not supporting, uh, local retail to, uh, to get something cheaper. Anyway, it was just heartbreaking to see that, but we knew we had to pivot.
And you did pivot, not only did you pivot, you started to make that pivot. And as soon as you started to kind of, uh, handle and navigate those waters, boom, the coronavirus hit you.
Fortunately, what people may not know is that you have a clientele that is pretty successful. Many of them are very well known. You don't necessarily talk about it, but your pivot included going into the homes even more so than you did before and doing those custom designs on behalf of your clients. And what I've learned from you was it was you building your own home that set you up for that type of credibility and success.
So not only have you been able to be in and help design other people's dream homes, you had your own dream home. You know, you're not only running a business, you helped with the architecture, the design, and then you got to design your own home and you had things at the time back then that normal people just didn't have in their home. Tell, tell me a little bit about that.
My, my goal was to make it beautiful, comfortable, uh, warm, inviting that that had to be true of every room of my house. So I had so much fun and what a great education and discovering what that really meant and what elements that had to include for every room. And wow, for an example, I had, uh, one of the first infinity pools and, and waterfalls and, and, uh, uh, stone jacuzzi, uh, uh, it was, it was just, it was magnificent, um, gas fireplace, places that would open up into two rooms, uh, just, just details like that. And it just satisfied a, a, a creative, a creative itch for me. And I especially appreciate that experience now, looking back, because it helped me understand our clientele even more,
Because not only are you on one side of the table trying to sell something in, you've been there, you understand what it's like to be there in their shoes when they are trying to design, trying to make decisions. And heaven's only, we all know it is decision after decision after decision. And if you know that formula for design, like you do, it just must have been such a dream come true for you to put all of your talent, but then again, it makes you a better store owner.
Well, and it, and it did it, I, it, it, it really, um, educated me on, on the existing trends at the moment and having to, and that meant not just in linens or fabrics, but also appliances and, and you know, other other aspects of the home could still impact our business. And especially for us branching out, which we've now done. Um, tho those past experiences still to this day are impacting, um, my buying decisions
Decisions. Wow. You know, in, in the olden days, as we used to say, uh, the grand homes would take the grand tour to Europe to fill the homes with the glory of European design and artifacts. You actually got to do that.
I did it, it was. So I can't tell you how much fun and, and how rewarding it was to go to Paris. And by 20 beds, antique beds, just a, it was, it was just a blast. I mean, it, it, that's what I loved about the time back then is that there were no, uh, that, you know, the sky was, the sky was the limit. You weren't afraid to try something because whatever it is you did was it, it would not kill you. It might test you a really good lesson, but it was not going to, um, harm you.
I think it's interesting that you were able to juggle, not only that, uh, designing a home while you're running a business, but in the meantime, while you're designing a home, you're not living in that home. You're living in another home. So you're really kind of running two homes and a business. Plus you had a life, which we're gonna talk about in a minute as you were working those long hour days. And, and I, for you, I would imagine you were open six days a week. I mean, how did you eat? How did you clean your house? How did you survive that crazy when it it's so much on your plate?
It was really difficult. I mean, Sunday, I hate to admit this, but it's true. Sundays became the only day and we're talking the early years now, but it was the absolute, only day that I could get anything done in the house that, that meant laundry and, uh, grocery shopping and all that. And hopefully be able to rest a little bit in the afternoon. It was my only day, my only day,
The one day you have off you're working,
<laugh>, um, I'm working, but in another capacity and then trying to be a mother too, during a lot of that time. And it was <laugh>,
We're gonna talk about that. So, yeah.
Yeah, yeah. So it was
What people don't know is not only were you running a business, a home and your own life, uh, you had a child who was born deaf.
Yes. Oh my gosh. She was earliest baby to be ever be identified as to be in deaf in the state of Tennessee. But anyway, she was, um, found to have a hearing loss at age six weeks. And so that meant putting, hearing aids on her right away. And she had, um, she's actually an anomaly. They call her an anomaly because she has a, she has a hearing loss that's not supposed to exist, but that's another story for another time
You opened your business while you had a handicapped child and a home to run and a business to start, that must have been insane.
Well, yes. You know, I bit off more than I, I <laugh> could chew, but, but, you know, we managed, we did. And it, um, it, it, it's all ended up just great for her. Thank goodness. And I have, uh, uh, I feel so fortunate and blessed to have her in my life. I mean, she, she taught me a lot.
Well, we're gonna have you back and we're gonna talk about what it's like to, uh, raise a handicap child in the future and be a business owner. But one of the things that must have been difficult for you is while you were living this American dream and while you're out there. And I know you've told me that you've had catamaran cruises for two, with where you have your own private captain in a French chef, people would never have known watching you live the American dream that you had something in your heart that was very deep. And that was your deaf child back at home.
Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. Absolutely. But you know what, Stephanie, I think, think that's true of so many people, you know, we all carry hurts and we, none of us get to escape life without losses and, and problems and, and issues. And I see that so clearly now that's exactly right. Had somebody the other day say to me, you know, why is it when one problem gets solved? Another one begins <laugh> it was a client. And I said, well, that's just life.
Yeah, it is. And I, people that are living their ultimate potential and have accomplished their dreams and goals, and you look at them and you think, oh, they've got it made. They don't have any problems in the world. And that was not the case.
Oh my gosh. And, and, and the problems, I mean, I think every business owner would agree. The problems can just jump around and to where there's, there's a, a season that you don't have enough employees. There's a season where you have employees that, that, that are, um, that may not be really a fit with the business. So you've got those little internal problems going on, OG, you know, we've clearly need a new software, uh, point of sale system. And it just goes on and on and on, but that's just, you know, that's part of being a business owner,
Words of wisdom, my friend, words of wisdom, and speaking of wisdom, I would love for you to share with our listeners, uh, your better blend, tip something that could make their home, their, uh, business, their life, their business, their home, their life, better, something that can make them better or help them feel better or help them do better. What would that be?
It would be the lesson that I relearned, uh, through this virus situation, if ever there is a time to have flowers on the table, a good meal cooking in, in a crock pot or in the oven, uh, eating on real China and using real silver. This is it. Wow. This is it. That, that I have used my, I gave away all of my everyday China, and I only use my real China and my silver to this day. And fabulous crystal, you will never see me drinking out of a paper cup. <laugh> that's awesome.
I just wanna say, thank you so much, so much for being willing to come on the show and to share your wisdom and your experiences. I'm so proud to call you friend and, um, you'll come back, right?
Of course. Thank you so much for, uh, for caring.
Aw, thank you, Linda. You're the best. You're the best. Thanks, Stephanie. And that my friends is what's been brewing in my brain this week. Can't wait to hear. What's been brewing in yours. See you next week on the better brew podcast. I'm Stephanie Huffman wishing you not only a fantastic week, but that you'll find a better blend.
Be glad a will be Joyce.