Joint venture a gift of friendship for partners

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 13, 2001

Joy Cooper and Janet Fielder are more than business partners, they’re best friends. And friends do everything together, down to choosing the name of their new interiors and gift shop in downtown Natchez. &uot;I came up with cobblestone, and she came up with alley,&uot; Fielder said laughing.

Actually, coming up with a name for their small business – the first venture for both women – proved to be the most difficult hurdle in a process that only began a few month ago.

Both registered nurses, Cooper and Fielder have long been complimented for their taste and talent in interior decorating, especially for their ablility to take old items and pair them with something new for an ecletic, yet tasteful look.

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&uot;We decided we would use our talents to help somebody else do it,&uot; Cooper said.

And after a combined 40 years in nursing, the two decided they would begin moving their careers toward something less emotionally and physically draining. &uot;And we just love to shop,&uot; Cooper said.

But the two were intent on standing out in the collection of shops specializing in gifts and interior decor that populate the downtown area.

&uot;We tried very hard when we were selecting the merchandise for the shop not to repeat what we’ve seen in other shops,&uot; Fielder said.

Neither Cooper nor Fielder had experience in retail business, but within a span of three months they had developed a business plan, gone to market and secured a building.

&uot;We didn’t know what we were doing; we just jumped right in,&uot; Fielder said.

Finding a location proved to be difficult enough also, Cooper said. Many of the buildings they looked at turned out to be unavailable or unsuitable. Then they heard about the spot on Franklin Street. A former bank turned tobacco shop, the women said they fell in love with the building at first sight. They thought its history and recent renovation epitomized their name, Cobblestone Alley.

Also, Cooper actually worked in the building as a bookkeeper and secretary before going to nursing school almost 20 years ago.

&uot;This building really appealed to us,&uot; Fielder said. &uot;It combines old and new and showed that it can be done tastefully.&uot;

Since opening in November, the women, who have also kept their full-time nursing jobs, have worked around the continued construction.

Once renovation is completed, they plan to hold craft classes with instruction on everything from calligraphy to floral arrangement.