Whether it’s contributing to the local economy, providing a service or carrying on tradition, family businesses are a vital part of the fabric of any community. In this issue, we profile 5 of Cherokee’s most dynamic family businesses.
Written by Rebecca Johnston // Photography by Erin Gray Cantrell & Kathryn Ingall
Doug Key and wife Judy are keeping the family tradition going at a jewelry store in historic downtown Canton.
Key’s Jewelry is a third generation, family-owned and operated jewelry store that has been in business since 1951.
Key’s was started by Vernie L. and Ruby Key. The jewelry store opened on the third floor of what was known as the Galt building at the corner of Marietta and East Main streets.
The business started with one showcase and Vernie Key’s workbench, where he did watch and clock repair, the store’s history reveals. He was able to move into a shop on the ground floor of the Galt building in the mid-1950s.
In 1956 a local bank building on Main Street became available and Vernie and Ruby Key bought the building and remodeled it for their jewelry store. They opened in the new location in mid-1957 and the family business has been there since that time.
Vernie Key’s grandson, and now owner, Doug Key came into the family business after high school graduation in 1974 and continues to work at the store he now owns.
In 1979 Doug’s dad Marion Key purchased the store. Marion Key had worked periodically for his father, but had never worked full time. “Overall it was a great pleasure to work with my father and my granddad. I got to know my father a lot better during that time. Both my father and granddad did everything they could to help me be successful,” Doug Key said.
Doug Key worked alongside his father until he bought the store in July 1998, at which time his wife Judy joined him in running the store.
The couple remodeled the store inside and out after purchasing it. The remodeling job reopened an upstairs balcony, which most residents of Canton today did not even know existed.
Doug Key said working alongside his wife is rewarding.
“After we got past the learning curve of being together 24/7 it has been a joy and pleasure to have her with me,” he said.
The local jewelry store carries Endless and Pandora, two very popular jewelry lines, Doug Key said.
“We always carry a good selection of crosses, chains and watches and we have two nice lines of engagement rings and wedding bands,” Doug Key said.
230 E. Main St., Canton
Powered UP: Morgan’s Hardware store a familiar sight
Morgan’s Hardware had its beginnings on Main Street in Canton in 1939 when brothers Anis and O.E. “Red” Morgan opened their store, known then as Morgan Brothers. For decades it was a fixture on Main Street.
In 1961 the brothers opened a branch store in Woodstock on the corner of Main and Church Street (now Towne Lake Parkway) that was operated by O.E. Morgan.
In 1972, his son Mike, started working in the store full time and in 1978 they purchased property across the street and built where the store is now located.
“In the early days Morgan Brothers followed the power company as they brought electricity to the rural areas of Cherokee County and installed kitchens, bathrooms, and well pumps that would bring running water and modern conveniences to the country homes,” Mike Morgan said.
They also sold top brands of radios, televisions, major appliances, housewares and other general merchandise. Their diversity of products has always made the store vital to the community.
The store has become an icon in the historic downtown Woodstock district. The Canton store later closed.
In 1984, the Morgans joined Ace and are now known as Morgan’s Ace Hardware, Mike Morgan said. Ace Hardware is a dealer owned co-op that gives them the buying power of more than 5,000 stores worldwide.
“It was great, we had a great working relationship. He gave me the latitude to try things and he was supportive,” Mike Morgan said. “One of the major changes was my decision to go with Ace. He had a lot of questions and was cautious, but he let me make the calls.”
Mike Morgan and his dad worked together for a number of years, even after the son purchased the business from his dad, who worked until 1990.
Today Morgan’s carries a complete hardware selection as well as many items residents in the area just can’t find anywhere else. Morgan’s also carries a large selection of outdoor power equipment by Stihl, Honda and Toro, along with a fully stocked parts department and a full-service repair shop that services most brands of outdoor power equipment.
Morgan’s is known in the Woodstock area as the place to buy Big Green Egg and Weber Grills, Benjamin Moore Paints, Carhartt Clothing, Rocky and Georgia Boots and Yeti Coolers.
109 E. Main St.,
Family tire store driving business
Edwards Tire Sales first opened in downtown Woodstock in 1967 in an old chicken hatchery building.
Started by Alton Edwards, who in 1969 moved the local tire business to its present location on South Main Street in Woodstock, the shop is still going strong.
As soon as he was old enough, Alton’s son, Mike Edwards, joined the family business and still operates it.
“I started working when I was around 13 or 14 in the afternoons and on Saturday,” Mike Edwards said. “It was great working with my dad for all those years. Not many have that opportunity and if so it doesn’t always work out.”
The location near the corner of Highway 92 first included a three-bay garage, but was later expanded to a 10-bay garage. Several employees have joined the original crew.
Mike Edwards says there are rewards to having a family business.
“Sometimes work and family do not mix, but we were fortunate that ours did. My father has been retired for several years now but still shows up to make sure I made it in,” Mike Edwards said laughingly.
The younger Edwards says there are plenty of challenges to a local business, but the rewards add up to far outweigh the bad.
“We have to compete with all the major chains now, which was not the case in earlier days,” Mike Edwards said. “But we have a lot of loyal customers, which is the best part of the business now, getting to keep in touch with people you have known for years.”
Edwards Tire is now considered a pillar of the community. Customers even drive from other parts of the county to get tires at the local store.
Edwards Tire offers name brand tires, wheels and auto repair and brake services for customers.
“Our goal is to focus on customer service. It is the foundation of our business,” he said.
Edwards Tire specializes in the sale and installation of passenger car, performance and light truck or SUV tires. Custom wheels are available, as well as complete under-car services, such as oil changes, brakes, shocks, struts, alignment and transmission fluid flush for both foreign and domestic vehicles.
The shop is now open Monday to Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. and closed on Saturdays and Sundays.
Edwards Tire Sales
9575 Main St., Woodstock
Chamberhouse: a legacy in Canton
Cleveland Chambers has worked at his family business since he was 12 years old. For five generations, the family’s business has been prominent in downtown Canton — first in the plumbing profession, then as owners of Western Auto.
In 1974 Bud and Sylvia Chambers, the fourth generation of Canton business owners, opened a Western Auto in the building known as the Old Ford Building. By 1983, the store had evolved into a home furnishings and gift store named Chamberhouse.
Since the early 1980s, Chamberhouse has been an icon on East Main Street in the heart of the historic district.
“Starting off so young, I didn’t know any different. I would get up on Saturday and come to work with Mama and Daddy. I started at Western Auto, then we moved to where the dance studio is, then moved where we are now,” Cleveland Chambers reminisced. “On school days I would walk to the store from Canton Elementary.”
Offering a wide selection of gifts, home décor and antiques, the family business is in a former livery stable.
With their parents retired, siblings Benson Chambers, Carla Chambers Roach and Cleveland Chambers are the owners and operators of Chamberhouse.
Most days Cleveland and Carla can be found behind the counter at the store, but during busy times and holidays it is not unusual to find other members, including Cleveland’s wife, Gwen Chambers, and children Maleah, Griff and Coran, or Carla’s husband, Jeff Roach, daughter-in-law Jessica Roach, or daughter Cecile Henley lending a hand.
“This is truly a family business in that we call on whatever family member is available,” Cleveland Chambers said.
Cleveland Chambers worked as an entertainer with The Georgia Company of Six Flags Corporation from the early 1980s to the early ’90s, as well as in television and theater productions performing across the Southeast and other parts of the U.S. and Mexico.
His claim to fame is of singing for three U.S. presidents, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford.
But he would always return home for the holidays, and cherishes all the years he has worked at his family business.
“We get along very well, it is something I have always done, the years I did shows and toured and traveled, I still came home to work at Christmas and during the winter,” Cleveland Chambers said. “A lot of people say, ‘I could never work with my brother or sister,’ but we are close in age, and when it is family it is easy to forget any upsets.”
Cleveland Chambers said the family always tries to create a warm and welcoming environment for customers.
“We are proud to be a part of the Canton community. Many of our customers remember coming to Chamberhouse when they were kids, and now they bring their own children,” he said. “And as Canton continues to grow, we love welcoming new people into our shop and into our town.”
145 W. Main St., Canton
Three Sisters adds up to success
There is no better friend than a sister — and no better business partner.
The three Haley sisters, Margaret Misseri, Carolyn Jones and Mary Wuestefeld, were all teaching school when they decided to leave the profession and open a gift shop in 2002.
The name of the shop — Three Sisters — came easily.
“Although now they don’t as much as when we first opened, people would ask if we really were sisters. The follow-up would also be ‘I love my sisters, but I could never work with them.’” Misseri said. “We have enjoyed it, though. I love working with my sisters and we get along really well.”
Three Sisters is known for its fashion and brand jewelry, gifts, home décor, baby gifts and wonderful garden area with wind chimes and such, Misseri said.
“We divide up the responsibilities. And that works really well. We do have different tastes and interests about what we would like to buy,” Misseri said. “We all have complete confidence in each other.”
Misseri said the sisters were not at retirement age, but decided it was time to try something else.
“We all three loved teaching but we were ready to do something different, so we opened a business. The first day any of us had ever worked retail was the day we opened the store,” she said. “We all left teaching while we still loved it.”
The oldest of the three, Misseri said the sisters still love working together, and the dynamics of working with family has worked well.
“We have an unwritten agreement that we don’t talk shop outside the store if others are around. But if we are alone, we do talk about it,” she said. “We really are still excited about the business, we try to have a sister here all the time.”
Working with family is a key ingredient to the shop’s success.
“I would never have gone into this by myself, but when there are three people you can divide the time, the money and the risk. It was not as scary making a complete change in careers,” she said of their decision.
The sisters also know the success of the store would not have been possible without their wonderful, loyal customers, she said.
After six years in a smaller space in the Publix Shopping Center at the corner of Highway 140 and East Cherokee Drive, Three Sisters moved into a larger spot in the same complex in 2008.
“We almost tripled our space in 2008 when we moved down the sidewalk,” she said.
6205 Hickory Flat Hwy., No. 106, Canton