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Local mother/daughter entrepreneurs


By Monroe Roark
Times Correspondent 

  When Joan Wheat opened Secret Garden on the Square in McDonough more than a decade ago, she had no idea how much her venture would impact the community.

Business owners Joan Wheat and daughter Shelley DeLisle are neighbors on the McDonough Square.         Photo by Nick Vassy

  Now, amid the daily traffic of customers going in and out of the various shops that surround hers, she can step outside and look across the street at a very special neighbor – her daughter, Shelley DeLisle, who owns and operates Bliss, another successful tenant on the Square.

  “I wouldn’t have been brave enough to do it if she hadn’t done it first,” said DeLisle, who opened her business in early 2010.

  Wheat is in her 14th year on the Square and has lived in the area for 25 years. She had been doing craft shows for a while and had a shop in Warm Springs before making the move to McDonough, where her business has expanded beyond crafts.

  “Some of our best-selling items are Vera Bradley,” she said. “We carry jewelry, home décor, and right now our magic elves are big because they start arriving in homes very soon.”

  Wheat is well aware of the fact that many businesses have come and gone on the Square during her tenure, and she works constantly to remain a desired destination for local shoppers.

  “I feel very fortunate for the support I have received from the community,” she said. “We keep changing our merchandise to accommodate our customers and what they are interested in. I believe that because I love what I’m doing, I hope it comes through to the customers – that I am here to help them and will bend over backward for them. I just thoroughly enjoy what I am doing, being with the people, and I just try to serve them the best way I possibly can.”

  She also acknowledged the support of McDonough’s Main Street program and the merchants’ association, which have helped bring more visitors to the Square through a variety of events throughout the year. The holiday season is the busiest time, which is good news for business owners. “It means the people are aware of McDon-ough,” she said.

  DeLisle was in the corporate world for 15 years before deciding to stay home when her own daughter was small. She lived in a variety of places as a military wife, which is also the environment in which she grew up and watched her mother’s skills flourish.

  “My mother is really and truly an entrepreneur. She has no idea how much of one she is,” said DeLisle. “My whole life, she always operated small businesses from the house everywhere we lived. So I kind of grew up in that entrepreneurial environment. She just had a creative bent to her.”

  She helped her mother behind the scenes with marketing for several years until her daughter became a teenager and “pushed me out of the nest, and I started thinking that maybe I should open a shop of my own.”

  DeLisle had fallen in love with cake decorating and discovered she had a talent for it. She realized that she had developed the same kind of passion for it that she had seen in her mother’s operation of Secret Garden over the years.

  “She really was my biggest cheerleader, I think because she understands what it is like to have a passion for something. Having an outlet for it has brought her a lot of joy,” she said.

  “I love the charm of the McDonough Square. I love having her right around the corner, because she is a great sounding board for me. When you are running a business it is hard to find time for family, but having her right there has been very helpful for me. She is really good at looking at what I am doing, giving me guidance and letting me know when I am going in the wrong direction.”

  Not surprisingly, Wheat feels the same way about their close proximity.

  “It’s nice having my daughter right across the street. We can work hand-in-hand a little bit,” she said. “We send people to each other. I just think the whole Square, the community feeling, is important and that is what we are trying to promote.”

  DeLisle’s daughter was very helpful in the early going at Bliss and thought it was “cool” that Mom had a shop on the Square. “It has been a good example for her that you have to work hard to reach your goals in life,” said DeLisle.

  At every opportunity, however, she directs the conversation back to her mother and how she inspired her to take such a big step.

  “Whenever I wondered why in the world I was doing this, my mom was there to tell me to just step back, take a deep breath and rethink things,” she said.

  “She has really been a great inspiration to me. I think the Square is a perfect place for her and for me.”



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