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After Hours: Jeanne Maron—Turning her passion into a business

After owning and operating Maron’s Furniture for 23 years, Jeanne Maron decided to close its doors and go back to public relations. She was working for JEA when she and 400 other people were laid off in October 2008.

Since she and her husband had already planned a vacation, they decided to go and enjoy themselves. She expected to have a good time, but she didn’t expect to come home with a new business idea.

“We went on our vacation to Sedona, Arizona, and visited some wineries because that’s always been our hobby,” says Maron. “I went into a gift shop that looked kind of interesting, but found their displays were just lousy.” She began telling her husband how she thought they could do a better job with their displays by placing wine bottles in the wine holders and doing things a little differently.

“My husband was laughing at me and said, ‘Why don’t you open a wine shop?’”

Put into action

All throughout the vacation, she pondered the idea of a wine shop. By the time they returned, she decided that she did want to open a wine shop—and The Gifted Cork (www.TheGiftedCork.com) was “born.”

After talking to retailers in St. Augustine, she discovered that even though business was down people were still buying and she felt that would be a good place to open her store—if she could find a good location.

“I walked around St. Augustine with some friends and checked out all the locations I thought would be good, but I really didn’t find anything,” says Maron. “So I called Len Weeks and asked if they had anything coming available.

“It just so happened that the art gallery, which is right next door to their office, was about to come available in one week and they hadn’t even advertised it yet! The square footage and price was basically perfect so I said, ‘Don’t advertise it; I will be there tomorrow!’”

She visited the very next day and loved the space. She then brought her husband a day later and after telling him her vision for the store, they decided to go for it. “When things just fall into place, you go for it,” says Maron.

Bringing it to fruition

She began buying things for the store at the end of January with the plan of opening March 1, 2009, but after discovering that Bike Week started one week earlier, she had to work extra hard and stay until midnight almost every night getting things tagged and out so she could be open for it. But it has paid off.

“I just finished my second year and already made a profit. I am on my way to success, and my long-term goal is to eventually franchise the store,” says Maron. “I keep saying baby steps—that’s kind of my mantra. I do everything, and try to do it right, in baby steps until I can see it grow at a nice, comfortable pace and see that it’ll keep going. I think if you try to do a lot too soon that it can fall back and hit you in the face.”

Passion and love

“I’ve always had an appreciation for wine and visit wineries while on vacation, so it’s just been a passion and a love,” says Maron. “I finally get to do something that I really love. I like the furniture business, but I don’t miss it. Wine is just much more fun and it makes people happy.”

The Gifted Cork not only sells wine, it also sells gifts, wine baskets, and holds special events for people as well as for the store. The store hosts two evening events a month in addition to its daily wine tasting in the store.

Always learning

“I learn something every single day, and that is what is fun about this industry,” says Maron. “You can never really know it all and wines are always changing. Even if you’ve had that wine before, when you get a new vintage it’s going to taste different.”

She says one of the best things about her wine shop is how her customers can teach her and how she can teach them. “We all basically have a good time, and I have built many friendships out of my customers because of it,” says Maron. “Not too many people can really do what they love as a hobby for their job.”

Extended role

While Jeanne Maron may work seven days a week at the shop, she dedicates some of her off time to the Children’s Home Society of Florida (CHS). Maron, who was actually adopted through CHS, has been on the board for more than eight years and the chairman of the board for the past two years.

“I got started with CHS because I just thought it would be interesting and fun to be on the board and give money for where my passion lies,” says Maron.

About the agency

Chartered in Jacksonville in 1902, Children’s Home Society of Florida (CHS) is dedicated to embracing children and inspiring lives. Every day, CHS works to restore and strengthen families through its various programs and services such as adoption, foster care, and child abuse prevention programs.

CHS (Buckner Division) is based in Jacksonville and provides direct services and activities for 2,500 children and families every day to help them cope with the challenges related to the foster care system. It offers prevention services to help families avoid the system and intervention services such as counseling and therapy to stabilize lives so today’s children can be more successful in school and in life after foster care.

Jeanne Maron, owner of The Gifted Cork, can be reached at 904-810-1083, info@thegiftedcork.com, or through www.thegiftedcork.com.


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