By Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Janice Coleman collects frogs.
Not live ones, but collectibles for her office.
It’s appropriate, since Coleman is busy hopping from one project to another.
Coleman officially heads public relations and marketing at the Tupelo Furniture Market, but she also was the longtime director of sales.
“I do PR and marketing, along with sales,” she said. “We’re not big on titles over here anyway, never have. But what we do is something that goes on all year long, not just for the two furniture markets.”
The Tupelo Furniture Market celebrates its 25th anniversary, and this week’s fall market is its 50th show.
And it’s Coleman’s 48th.
“I started working at the market, but not for the market, 241/2 years ago,” she said. “I started doing it for fun. I was driving a van for PeopLoungers. … that was my introduction to the market.”
It was a part-time job for Coleman, whose four kids were grown. She wanted a little fun money, and driving for a few days during the markets was ideal.
“I wasn’t thinking of ‘work’ work,” she said with a laugh.
Then TFM owner and Chairman V.M. Cleveland asked Coleman if she’d like to work for the market on a permanent basis.
“Everywhere she went, she had a great smile and personality, along with a great work ethic,” Cleveland said. “I knew we had to have her here, and she’s been great to us, great to the market, no doubt.”
Her first job at the market was a big task. Along with the Community Development Foundation, she helped build the Hostess Home housing program, which matches homeowners in the area to market attendees who could rent a home instead of a hotel room. In the early days of the market, there weren’t enough hotel and motel rooms to accommodate everyone anyway, so the program grew quickly.
“I did that for a few years, then started in sales with the vendors and exhibitors and I’ve been doing that ever since,” she said.
Ron Munoz of the Artists Guild of America, has been attending the Tupelo Furniture Market for 10 years. He said Coleman stands out among the market people he knows across the country.
“I show in High Point, Vegas, Dallas, Atlanta. … it’s always a pleasure to come to Tupelo because of the people and because of Janice,” he said. “It’s the Southern hospitality. I really appreciate it as a Southern Californian. Janice is genuine.”
Another longtime market attendee, Tony Rihner of Hillsdale Furniture, has known Coleman for 20 years.
“I’ve been in the furniture industry for 45 years, and I’ve always worked with the Tupelo Furniture Market,” he said. “Janice really works hard to make it work. The shows take so long to put together, but you can count on Janice. I once said she was the backbone of the market, but she’s more like the heartbeat of the market.”
Coleman downplays the accolades. It’s her job, after all, to connect exhibitors, vendors, retailers and buyers.
“Working with all the people through the years has been the greatest part of my job,” she said. “I just like meeting everyone. Now it’s not always easy, but sometimes you just smile and move on. At the end of the day, it’s a good feeling to know you’ve been able to help somebody.”
Her phone is always ringing off the hook, and she’s the go-to person for many. There’s no job too big or too small.
“I’ve moved pipe, drapes, tables, signs, driven a forklift – you do what you have to do,” she said. “No matter how much you plan and organize, there’s always something left to do.”
As her cellphone rang while she was talking to one exhibitor, another exhibitor begged for attention. “See?” she said. “But it’ll all work out.”