By Dennis Seid
TUPELO – What started as a short-term opportunity to earn a little bit of money has, after 15 years, become a full-time labor of love for Melissa Kelly.
The self-described “bubbly” Kelly is the Tupelo Furniture Market’s events coordinator.
For the biannual market, she oversees the Furniture & Home Accessories Show that’s open to the public. But she’s also on-call along with the rest of the market staff for the furniture industry trade show that’s going on at the same time.
“We all pitch in,” she said. “It’s a family out here and we all work together.”
For the furniture market, that means taking early-morning – and even late-night – calls, texts and emails from exhibitors or buyers.
A door might not be open. Lights or an Internet connection isn’t working. A sign or banner isn’t hung up. Somebody’s not sure where to go.
There are no set hours during the furniture market.
“It can be stressful at times, but for the most part it’s enjoyable,” Kelly said. “The best part is meeting all the people and getting to know them.”
Tupelo Furniture Market owner, Chairman and CEO V.M. Cleveland said Kelly is perfectly suited for her position.
“An event business is a very time-consuming business with a lot of people wanting your attention all the time,” he said. “They all want to see one particular person, the person in charge. Melissa takes care of the exhibitors and also does a great job of helping make the buyers happy.
“She’s a people person and does her job very well.”
Fifteen years ago, working at the furniture market was the farthest thing from Kelly’s mind.
She was the secretary at Lawhon Elementary School.
A friend asked if she wanted to help out during one of the monthly Tupelo Flea Markets – which also are held at the furniture market complex.
“Then the next time I got talked into working at the furniture market,” Kelly recalled.
After a few years of working during the markets, Cleveland asked if she would be interested in coming on board full time at the market.
“And now, it’s my life,” she said with a smile. “And I have to say I have a wonderful, understanding husband and two kids who have been so supportive.”
Kelly also gets some support at work with Megan Moore at her side.
Moore was hired about 18 months ago and is Kelly’s right arm. Sometimes the left, too.
“It’s always something new going on,” Moore said. “There’s never a dull moment.”
Said Kelly, “Between the two of us, we’re quite the crew.”