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franklin county times

Bonnie Jean's gets new owner

By Staff
NEW OWNER – Brian Kelly tends to merchandise at Bonnie Jean's 4 Children, 2626-B North Hills St. Kelly, who bought the business Oct. 1, is a former children's merchandise manager for J.C. Penney. Photo by William F. West / The Meridian Star.
By William F. West / community editor
Dec. 22, 2002
Brian Kelly will no doubt remember the day when he turned the key to unlock the door of his first-ever business Bonnie Jean's 4 Children.
Bonnie Jean's is at 2626-B North Hills St. It sells clothes for children, from newborns to size 6X for girls and to 7 for boys. The store also sells birthday gift items and toys.
Kelly said most of his customers live in the northern part of the city and that he plans to cater to their needs with personalized service.
Well-established store
Kelly said the business is well-established. It was started by Jean Merritt about 40 years ago and has been located for several years in the Briarwood shopping center.
Kelly bought the shop from its more recent owner, Rhonda Rawson Woods, because he wanted a place with customers and items in stock.
He also got something else with the purchase of Bonnie Jean's Regina Hughes, the store's longtime saleswoman and buyer.
Hughes, a 12-year veteran of the store, said she enjoys working with customers.
It doesn't take long to see Hughes interact with customers as the store quickly turns into a typical Southern social scene of lively conversation and talking.
Although Campbell didn't quite find what she was looking for, she visited with Hughes before moving on.
Lengthy experience
Kelly, himself, has plenty of experience selling children's clothing, having learned the business while working for J.C. Penney in Birmingham and Meridian.
Kelly was born in Birmingham and grew up in Tampa. He returned to his native state to attend Auburn University, where he earned a degree in communications with a minor in marketing.
He joined J.C. Penney in 1988 and entered the company's management training program, working at the store in the Galleria, south of Birmingham.
The next year, he was assigned to the JCPenney store in Meridian as its children's merchandise manager.
While it may seem odd to find men selling children's clothing in the South, Kelly said there's a lot more men in the business than most people think.
Kelly also said his experience with JCPenney provided him great training. "Then they put you out in it and you have to learn," he said.
Other past ventures
Kelly worked for JCPenney until 1994, when he decided to go into the cellular telephone business by becoming a salesman.
In 1998, he joined Crest Uniforms and sold uniforms to the medical industry. After 21/2 years, he went on to manage a paging company, Quick Communications.
But Kelly grew tired of the corporate world and wanted to go into business for himself. So he surfed the Internet to see what businesses were on the block.
He also asked around, learned Bonnie Jean's was for sale and approached Woods. After starting talks with her in late July, he reached a deal by the end of September.