Karie Holmes, owner of “Accents” gift shop and president of The Mountain Business Association of Signal Mountain, is a driver for small business in her community.
Her parents, Bob and Nancy Travis, raised her, her two brothers and her sister in upstate New York where she was privy to the world of interior design.
In fact, it was Karie’s mother, Nancy, who was probably the most influential in her passion for interior design and encouraged her daughter in that direction.
Moving to Tennessee when she was 15, Karie later attended O’ More College of Design in Franklin and also attended a school of design in Atlanta for a few semesters.
She started a family while living in Atlanta. Her children, James and Laura Mish, then moved with her to Tennessee and daughter Laura has been working alongside her mother for years. "Some people would imagine working with your parent to be a horrific experience,” Laura says, “but I have embraced the joy of learning more than ‘typical life lessons’ from her.”
Laura is attending college and will graduate this year with a degree in communication and a minor in non-profit. “She takes care of the advertising on Facebook,” Karie says of her daughter. "It has been unbelievable; we will post a picture and then the next thing we know, we will have someone come in the store because they saw that item online.”
The mother-daughter team has been successful as they work together. “My beautiful mother has taught me everything from customer service to merchandise purchasing,” Laura says. “Our personalities complement each other brilliantly within the business - which is one reason I think that Accents is so successful.”
It is their goal to offer customers a wide selection of products for the girlie-girl in every woman young or old.
“Design is my background,” Karie notes. “I designed closets for three years and loved doing that. A space became available here in the shopping complex and I went to Atlanta to market, thought we’d try it for a year and it proved to be successful. We moved to a bigger space in the Signal Plaza Shopping Center,” she says.
“I started in 1990, aiming more with home decor items with the idea that I would go out to do interior design for people’s houses and as it slowly evolved we became more of a gift store. When we moved to this location two years ago we were accepted to carry Brighton and we have become more of a girlie, boutique-y store,” Karie maintains.
Brighton's design team travels the world seeking inspiration for their products and their exquisite ornamentation. Accents offers a wide assortment of Brighton purses, totes, sunglasses, reading glasses, wallets, jewelry and many other accessories.
Running your own business comes with its own share of difficulties that Karie has learned to deal with, “My computer crashed yesterday and I had to handwrite everything. I was working by myself and then I had to call support, working with the software company. I had to buy a new computer, but we finally got it up and going,” Karie said.
Karie served as treasurer of the Mountain Business Association for two years and was asked to be president this year. “We want to bring the businesses on Signal Mountain together; we do community-wide events, such as a Spring Expo. We host “Sunday on Signal” - an event that in the past 29 years has grown into a community celebration. Some of the activities with this tradition are a holiday open house by local businesses, community participation with entertainment and partnering with a local non-profit organization. It is a great sense of community and a good way to network,” Karie says.
“There are 10 of us on the board and we meet monthly to discuss what direction we are going. We are trying to get more people involved in various aspects of it.”
There are several restaurants and realtors involved. Most of the retailers are part of the association as well as the retirement communities.
“Signal Mountain Nursery is also part of it. We have a lot of the service industry. including Superior Heat and Air. All in all, I believe we have 53 members. The board meets monthly and then we all meet as a group once a month.”
Scheduled for the meetings is a spotlight speaker. Someone from the group will talk about their business.
“We talk about upcoming events. We are trying to shoot for an autumn harvest day and a home expo. We will plan that for September. We are also working on a postcard for teacher appreciation, which will go out to all the teachers on the Mountain’s Facebook Page,” Karie maintains.
Married to Matt Holmes, Karie says, “I am married to my best friend. If you surround yourself around positive people, your computer can crash, and it’s okay…we make it work. I have three other best girlfriends that work with me - we are great together. My husband and I enjoy boating and motorcycle riding. I work out three days a week with my best friend and a personal trainer -exercise is crucial in everyone’s life just to make them feel better,” Karie insists.
Cindy Cofer, an employee and one of the best girlfriends, says, “I’m so proud of Karie in the way she has built this business over the years. Accents has always been on Signal Mountain, but has moved twice expanding to a larger location. This is not just a hobby; it is a successful business that commands attention,” Cindy says enthusiastically.
“Karie knows what our customers want and stocks the store accordingly; we have a fun ‘girlfriend’ atmosphere and our customers are our friends. They come in for retail therapy or sometimes for other kinds of therapy!” Cindy laughs.
The girlfriends have built such a close-knit family at Accents and prove to be there through thick or thin.
Cindy vows, “I feel so fortunate to be able to work at a place where my co-workers are also my good friends. We REALLY enjoy each other’s company and care about each other. For example, when I was caring for my Dad last winter before he died, Karie said ‘Just tell us what you need us to do. Take as much time off as you need.’ They prayed for me, sent food and covered my shifts for me until I was ready to come back to work. Of course, I would do the same for any of them.”
Karie believes in people, she believes in her employees and her town - and it shows in her dedication to bring people together in a positive way.
“What means the most in working with my mother,” Laura says, “is how at the end of the day, no matter if we are bickering or laughing; we are more than a mother and daughter and we are more than co-workers …we are best friends."
Accents is at: 1238 Taft Highway, Suite 106, Signal Mountain
Phone 423 886-0062 or 240-8229
Hours of operation: M-F 10-6, Sat 10-5