Reeves Linens and Gifts in downtown Bainbridge has come a long way from its humble beginnings as “The Penny Pincher” to its current status as one of Bainbridge’s most recognizable businesses.
Tom Reeves and his wife, the former Gloria Hendley, were high-school sweethearts who got married at 18. During a time many young men were being drafted to serve in the Vietnam War, Mr. Reeves joined the Air Force, where he spent four years working as a radio operator.
The couple lived in Biloxi, Miss., and then Panama City, Fla., before returning to Bainbridge. Mr. Reeves’ mother, Frances owned a successful downtown clothing business called Reeves on the Square, located in the bottom floor of the Bon-Air building, where Polka Dots is now. Tom’s father, Walter, was a pilot and photographer who had an office behind his wife’s store.
The young couple, Tom and Gloria, decided to open their own linens shop on Water Street, where Isabee’s Children’s Clothing and Gifts is located now.
“We sold seconds and irregulars—you know, it might have a string loose somewhere but otherwise was fine,” Mrs. Reeves said. “We called it ‘The Penny-Pincher,’ because you were pinching pennies [to shop there.] Pinching pennies also applied to us—we didn’t have much money and we were very young.”
After selling sheets, towels and table cloths, Gloria happened upon some brass pieces at market and began selling them.
People began asking for more, and in 1980, the Reeves’ moved to a space in what is now the vacant part of The Sharon House antique shop at 113 E. Water St., on the same block as Frances Reeves’ store. Aiming to draw customers based on the popularity of Frances’ store, Tom and Gloria renamed their business to Reeves Linens and Gifts.
“We’d always wanted to own a building downtown, but never thought we’d be able to,” Mrs. Reeves said. “Downtown Bainbridge was really thriving and there were no vacant buildings.”
The couple jumped on the chance to acquire the brick building, which was built in the late 1800s, but it needed lots of work and the couple spent six months devoting time to fixing it up before moving in. For many years, the building was home to a barber shop (on the Broad Street side) and Walker’s Drug Company, which also had a soda shop.
Gloria focused on raising her daughter, Amy and taught kindergarten for several years, but in 1987, both her daughter and the business has grown enough that she began working there full time. With the couple working hard six days a week, Reeves Linens and Gifts grew in popularity and in 1998, it moved to its current location at 124 E. Broughton Street.
Today, Reeves Linens and Gifts still sells linens but focuses more on gifts. The shop is a popular place for bridal registries, graduate gifts and Christmas gifts. Handbags and totes, home fragrances, special gifts for the home and jewelry are among the products on offer. From 1989 to this past year, the store carried a line of luggage in various colors.
The Reeves’ building is across the street from City Hall and its attractive storefront is one of the first places people see when they visit the Willis Park square in downtown Bainbridge.
The high-quality selection of the monogrammed towels and bed sheets, as well as the high demand for brass and pewter table fixtures, led many brides-to-be to set up gift registries at Reeves Linens and Gifts. Some of those same brides end up setting up baby gift registries at the store in following years.
“People are going to buy what they want to anyway, but it makes the person giving the gift much happier you’re receiving something that you picked out, something that you want and can use,” Mrs. Reeves said of the popularity of the gift registries.
Registering at the store has also become something of a rite of passage for local high school graduates, both girls and boys. In recent years, Gloria began a springtime tradition of inviting graduates to come write their name on Reeves’ glass storefront in colorful paint. As it gets closer to graduation, the large window panes become a multi-colored display of names, with girls adorning their names with flowers and other designs, and boys aiming to sign their names in spots where passersby will notice it.
“We love watching the graduates come in to pick up their gifts,” Mrs. Reeves said. “They try to play it calm and cool when they’re inside the store, but it’s fun to see them get in their car with their gifts and start tearing into the wrapping paper, so excited to see what they’ve received!”
This past Christmas, Reeves began a new tradition of inviting young school children to paint their names on the storefront at Christmas-time. The new tradition took place as part of a Christmas shopping and entertainment event sponsored by the Downtown Development Association, and underscores what the Reeves believe is their role in the shared health of the downtown economy.
“Whenever there’s been a downtown event or a time when another store is holding a special sale, we’ve always tried to be open during those times too, even if it means opening early or staying late,” Mrs. Reeves said. “The way we look at it, we’re all in this together. If your store brings in customers, hopefully, they’re going to stick around and look inside all the other businesses that are open. You don’t want it to be where one or two businesses are open but the others aren’t.”
What have been the keys to Reeves’ success over 42 years of business?
“The main way we like to think we’ve grown our business is by taking care of our customers and remembering what they like,” Mrs. Reeves said. “But it’s also about the employees we’ve had over the years. We’re a team—both Tom and I and the girls that have worked for us over the years. We’ve had employees that have took ownership of their job and making sure things are running smoothly.”
In a sense, things have come full circle for Tom and Gloria Reeves. It was Frances Reeves who began the legacy by helping her son and daughter-in-law get started in business, passing along advice and even donating children’s clothing for them to sell in the early days. Over the years, Mr. and Mrs. Reeves have mentored a number of employees who have gone on to be successful in everything from retail to medical professions.
“One of the things I always tell my new ladies when they come to work for us is, ‘If you can make it through Mother’s Day and graduation, you can make it through anything,’” Gloria said with a big smile on her face.
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