Store’s customer service rewarded with enduring loyalty

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Print this page by Tim Thornton
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Sheila Copenhaver (left); her daughter, Victoria Tripp;
and her mother, Jewell Hunt. Photo by Don Petersen

When Sheila Copenhaver was 13, she got off a bus at the end of every school day to work at her mother’s store in Rocky Mount, J&J Fashions.

“My first job was to fold jeans,” she says. “I would fold Wrangler $3.99 jeans. Then I got promoted to making bows. I just remember, as a 13-year-old, that all I wanted to do was be in a women’s clothing store.”

That ambition has worked out well. J&J Fashions today is three times the size it was when Copenhaver’s mother, Jewell Hunt, started the business with her sister, Juanita, in February 1968.

Copenhaver took over the business from her mother a few years ago. Hunt’s sister had developed health problems and left six months after the store opened.

Three years ago, Copenhaver opened a J&J Fashions store in Roanoke. It doubled its floor space in October. Copenhaver’s daughter, Victoria Tripp, now is a manager in the Roanoke store.

J&J recently held a celebration at the Rocky Mount store as it began its 50th year of business. In October, the store was nominated for the Roanoke Regional Chamber’s legacy award, an honor reserved for businesses that have survived for at least a half-century. (The winner was Wood’s Service Center.)

The store has changed over the years, but it has kept its focus on customers’ needs. At first, J&J carried “a little bit of everything,” Copenhaver says, but customers led the store to stock more upscale clothing and accessories. More of the store’s customers work outside the home now, so J&J hosts invitation-only events after 5 p.m.

“What has kept us in business is our personal service and carrying quality merchandise and caring about the customer,” Copenhaver says. “We have ladies who will call and say, ‘I want so-and-so employee. Could they help me at two o’clock on Saturday? I need an outfit for a cruise.’ And we have it picked out and ready for them.”

That type of service has built customer loyalty. “We have been very blessed to have a customer base that has followed us from day one,” Copenhaver says. “They have followed us, and their children have followed us, and it is just something to see how we have been blessed in our field.”

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