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Bradley Hilltopics

Fall 2009 • Volume 15, Issue 4  

Alumni Profiles

General JOHN SHALIKASHVILI ’58 HON ’94 | FRED WEINTRAUB ’82 and FRANK VANCE ’88: A 4,000-mile commute across the Atlantic | JULIE MUELLER LANCIA ’89: Customers line up (really!) on Main Street | RAY KOBALD SR. ’57: Nice Pear | STEVE FRYKHOLM ’65: White House ornament | STEVE WELLER ’77: MLB official scorer | ERIN EATON MURPHY ’00: Dancing a jig

 

Customers line up (really!) on main street
Photo by Scott Cary

By JOAN BECKER CARY ’79

Twenty years ago, JULIE MUELLER LANCIA ’89 was a senior in Dr. Fred Fry’s entrepreneurship class when it clicked. Suddenly she knew what she wanted to do, and that was to own and operate her own successful shop.

In 2002, after years of working for others, she did just that. Lancia and her mother, Barb Mueller, opened the JB Winterberry shop featuring home decor, gifts, and antiques in Wheaton. Over the past seven years, they have expanded twice, growing from a 700-square-foot storefront to more than 5,200 square feet in three rooms, increased employees from two (a friend and a cousin) to 16, and won prestigious industry awards.

“Dr. Fry’s class was the turnaround point for me,” says Lancia, who majored in business management. “It was that class that changed it for me and made me realize exactly what I wanted to do and what I had to do to make it happen.”

Lancia, who lives with her two teenagers in her hometown of Winfield, says she was always a goal setter and her Sigma Kappa sorority sisters would remember that about her. She also knew that she wanted to work her way up so that she would know every aspect of the business when she got to the top.

“It is truly a time of survival of the fittest,” she says. “Being successful is about taking time to learn, doing your research, thinking outside the box, staying on top of trends, continually upping your customer service, supporting local events and charities…”

Nothing in the JB Winterberry shop says “simple.” Every item is part of a creative display that combines new with old, trendy with traditional. Perhaps it is a throwback to Lancia’s minor in psychology; she is constantly striving to understand what the customer wants, and is always thrilled with finding new ways to present it.

Twice each year, at the start of autumn and again before Christmas, they close up shop for four days and work 9 a.m. to 2 a.m., cleaning every shelf, moving furniture, and changing every display to put out all new merchandise. Customers line up along Main Street for the reopening. At other times they offer in-store parties, backyard barbecues, and decorating seminars. It is that kind of dedication that has been noticed throughout the gift industry.

JB Winterberry was named Retailer of the Year by Country Business magazine in 2007. In 2009, the store was listed as one of 25 “Gifted Retailers” of the year by Gift and Decorative Accessories magazine, and in January 2008, they received the Chicago Merchandise Mart’s first “Retailer of the Month” award. Lancia also writes a column, “The Back Room,” for Country Business.

The thought of owning your business and actually doing it well are two different things, Lancia says, and the gift business always looks easier than it is. “But if you find out that it’s what you love, and you work to be good at it, then it’s well worth it.”