Gardendale News begins a new series of articles focusing on Gardendale’s small business community and the men and women who built them. If God, family and community are the heart of our city, then small businesses must be the backbone.
This series will touch on where the businesses began, their journey to get where they are today and what they see as what the future holds for Gardendale.
Our Publisher, Treye Hanner, asked prominent Gardendale business owner Jeff Dennis to help take us through the journey of his successful business and what he sees for the future.
Treye Hanner: Tell our readers about your business. How did it begin and why did you decide to get into your field?
Jeff Dennis: My family did not have the means to pay for college and my mom told me to find a way to go to college or to learn a trade. I started working for Lorch Jewelry Company in 1985 as soon as I graduated High School. I began as a bench jeweler and moved into a dual role of sales and jeweler for many years. During the mid 90’s I opened my own trade shop doing jewelry repair for 8 different jewelry stores. In 2000, I became partners in Eternity Jewelers and in 2004 I branched out on my own to open Jeff Dennis Jewelers in Gardendale.
Treye Hanner: Why did you choose Gardendale as the place for your business?
Jeff Dennis: My wife grew up in Morris and that is where her family lived. We had begun our family and we wanted our children to grow up close to their grandparents like both she and I had done. We moved here in 2002 and I commuted to our store in Pelham for 2 years, but Gardendale always drew me. Mike Holmes and I had been friends for years, and in talking with him and another friend who was involved in another big development in North Jefferson County to tell me that “every other direction from Birmingham has already grown so much but North Jefferson is about to explode”. The more time I spent in the area, the more I knew this was a great place to open my business and raise my family
Treye Hanner: What changes have you seen in Gardendale that have effected your business since it began?
Jeff Dennis: I think that each administration of leadership has built on the foundation that was put down for them but more recently, Mayor Hogeland has been such an advocate for not only Gardendale but for the North Jefferson area. He has tirelessly recruited the type of businesses, both retail and professional, that would help improve the quality of life. The city now seems to have a master plan for future development that guarantees opportunities for everyone from entertainment to parks to retail and dining.
Treye Hanner: Are there any changes you would like to see in Gardendale that would help your business grow?
Jeff Dennis: I know the layout of the business district is more complex than many towns, but I would love to see a “Main Street” program developed similar to what Cullman has developed with events such as their decorated lampposts and storefronts for Christmas, Octoberfest and other community events. I have always envisioned Christmas on FIeldstown Road with both sides of the street decorated from the interstate to 31 with Garland and Lights wrapped on the poles with the old timey large Christmas lights and décor across the width of the road.
Treye Hanner: Finally, why do you believe your business has been so successful and what would you like prospective customers to know about why they should buy from a local business like yours?
Jeff Dennis: We have only been successful because of our customers and the support they have shown us. I have an incredible staff who work really hard getting to know our customers and they do a wonderful job for me. We have always tried to be generous towards city events and schools and parks and it is only because folks have shopped local and chosen us to be their jeweler. I am a huge proponent of shopping local. Whether it be jewelry, clothes, lawn equipment or auto service, when you are supporting a local store, you are supporting the wages of your friends and neighbors who live in this community. Those same employees will spend those wages back in our local community and this is what allows businesses to buy signs and banners for High School athletics. This is where the money comes from to support the Magnolia Festival, the Chamber of Commerce, The High School Bands, Choirs and the various park ball or local travel ball teams. The service that you will get from local businesses is usually far superior to others because there is pride in the community because not only is it someone you see in their business but also around town, at school, church, or other functions.