Welcome to another installment of Tour Collierville’s 2 Minute Tuesday! This week, Anna Bell sits down with Watty Brooks, the owner of Brooks Collection in Collierville, TN to talk about pottery, the holidays, and the Square.
Watch the video here, or read the transcript below.
Watty Brooks Interview Transcript
Anna: Hello, and welcome to another 2-Minute Tuesday with Tour Collierville. I’m Anna Bell, and today we have Ms. Watty Brooks Hall of the Brooks Collection on the Square. Ms. Watty, thank you for joining us.
Watty: Thank you, Anna, for having me.
A: I’d like to start out by saying the Brooks family has a relationship with the Square for a long time now, and I think this might be a good way to kick things off. Can you tell us a little bit about your relationship with the square?
W: Sure. We—my family has been on the square for quite some time. Going back a little bit, my shop, the Brooks Collection, has been on the Square for 19 years. Prior to that, my father had his first drug store on the Square where Raven and Lily Restaurant is now. Prior to that, my uncle, James Watson Kelsey, for which I was named—actually, my great uncle—had a dry goods business on the Square. So we go back pretty far. Pretty far. We’ve seen a lot of things, a lot of changes on the square.
A: Your father owned the pharmacy!
W: He did, he did. He did own the pharmacy, yes. He was there for a couple of years before I was born in the late 1950’s, was there for several years, and then moved out on Poplar for a little bit better exposure.
A: I had the pleasure of writing an article on Ms. Watty and the Brooks Pharmacy, and you can find that on TourCollierville.com.
W: It was a wonderful article. You did a good job.
A: Thank you very much. To kind of continue off of that, you’ve seen a lot of changes on the Square, and you’ve seen a lot of changes from then until now. Kind of tell us what it’s like to be a business owner on the Square in 2018.
W: It’s incredible now. It really, really is. The buildings are taking on like a new face lift. They have been for the last few years—coming into a new age, but still keeping that old town charm, which I love and which most people love. You hear so many times, particularly when people come to the square, “It’s just like Mayberry.” And it really is. It really is. There’re renovations going on now that are really going to be beautiful. It went from literally a horse-and-buggy square where people would bring their cotton in with mules, to what you see now: a thriving retail and business establishment area.
A: Change can be exciting. It can also be daunting. Hindsight is 20/20. If you had a crystal ball that could see into the future, what do you see for the Square here in the next 10 to 20 years?
W: I see only things going up. The activity that’s getting ready to start on Center Street is just going to be the kickoff for everything that’s going to happen. I think we’ll see some growth going down Center Street. Everything that’s happening on Washington Street is just amazing, with buildings being renovated, with new restaurants coming, the houses… I mean, they’ve almost filled every lot. And having grown up here, it’s such a change, because that area was always woods, and now it’s houses that are absolutely beautiful. They’ve done a great job with that. I think we’re getting the right exposure on the Square for the different kinds of businesses and offices. Some new restaurants have come on in the last few years. It clearly is a destination.
A: The future’s bright, then.
W: Absolutely. Absolutely. It is. It is.
A: So, let’s kind of talk a bit more about the Brooks Collection specifically. Tell me, when did you open your doors, and what was that like?
W: July of 1999. I had worked for a pharmaceutical company for 19 years, and just really decided that I had had enough of corporate America and wanted to do something that I thought was fun. I always loved home interiors and working on my house and things like that. And so the building where my shop is became available—it was rented. I remember my dad calling me while I was in my office, and his direct quote was, “Are you ready to put your money where your mouth is?”
I was like, well what do you mean by that? He said, “Well, the building is becoming available. The people who are there now are buying down the street.” And it actually was Patricia’s. Patricia was in that building, and so they bought where they are now.
And I said, “Absolutely.” So, I fled my corporate world and opened this, and I have not looked back. I would not go back to that for anything. It’s just that I am so happy where I am now. It’s been a great something, and we’ve been there for 19 years. So, 19 years corporate, now 19 years now retail.
A: So neat. That’s kind of… That’s a really special story. I mean, you’re following kind of in your father’s footsteps and owning your own space.
W: It’s really funny. I’ve laughed several times, because having grown up in retail, in the drug store, I’ve said many times—it’s that word you should not use: “Never”—but I said I will never be in retail. And after 19 years in corporate, it was like, I’ll embrace retail. It was a natural progression for me because Daddy taught me so much growing up in the drugstore. So, it was just a natural something, and I felt very at home. I enjoy it.
A: What were you trying to fulfill as a retail store on the Square? Is there something you’re really trying to…?
W: …trying to do something a little different: home interiors, gifts, things of that sort. You start off, and you’re apprehensive. Did I buy the right thing? Because I like it, does that mean my customers are going to like it? We listened to our customers a lot. I look back on some of the pictures when I first opened, and it was like, that shop was just so empty. Because I was scared. I was scared.
W: And the more customers would say, “Oh, I wish you had this pottery line,” or, “I wish you would bring in this candle line,” and I was like, you know what? We’re going to try this out. So, we’ve grown, and I think the best learning thing for me was listening to our customers.
A: It’s a really important thing to do. Tell me, if I was a brand-new customer, someone who had never been in, give us kind of a walkthrough of what the store is like.
W: I’d start off with my favorite, which is Peter’s Pottery.
A: Oh yes. Near and dear to my heart.
W: It’s the most amazing line. It is, by far, our number one line in the shop. It is made in the Delta in Mound Bayou, Mississippi. It is one family, the Woods family, that makes all of this. I cannot tell you how much of that we sell. We have brides registered for it. We have a man who came in yesterday who was buying something for his wife for her birthday; they had just learned about Peter’s Pottery and were wanting to add to it.
A: Oh goodness. Better want to check his wallet then, right?
W: Yes, yes. He might. (laughs) I think we have an addict on our hands. I think she really, really likes it. That’s my favorite line. We have Vietri, which is an Italian pottery, which is a beautiful, beautiful line. Candles, beautiful sweaters by Barefoot Dreams… It’s really kind of, I always say, it’s like a hodge-podge. But you can come in there and find lamps to decorate your home, you can find tables, you can find tabletop to decorate your home…
A: I know, personally, I have been able to find many different gifts to give to others and myself.
W: You have, Anna, and I appreciate that. It is just, again, we listen to our customers to try and figure out what we want to put in there.
A: And the holiday season is fast approaching, and so, kind of tell us something that we might see in the holidays versus year-round.
W: It’s really exciting. Having come back from market… When you’re at market, you can tell what the coming trend colors are, and we are finally going back to what I call the traditional Christmas colors: the beautiful reds, the beautiful greens, not so much what we’ve seen for the last few years, which I finally came to like. But it’s very Dr. Seuss green, the very bright green, which is whimsical, going back towards the traditional now. Candy canes. It’s going to be a very traditional-type Christmas. We’re going to start putting our Christmas trees up; we’ll be full-blown Christmas by Halloween.
A: Oh, my goodness.
W: I know, I know.
A: It comes fast.
W: But you have to. You have to get it out early.
A: That’s right. Kind of tell us what sets you guys apart as far as the Brooks Collection, on the Square? What do you do for your customers?
W: Well, we try to have totally different-type products in the shop. We have one line that is exclusively Collierville. We did all the artwork for it. It’s plates, cups, things like that, and we are the only place that you can get that, which is, I think, very fun. We do our signature gift-wrapping, which is… It just tickles me when people say, “Oh, I recognize that giftwrap, it’s coming from the Brooks Collection, I am so excited.”
And, of course, it’s like my child. I get excited about that. One thing that is critical to me is customer service, and I really try to make sure that everybody in that shop provides good customer service. It’s just important, and I think my shop ladies do an excellent job.
A: And they do, yes. And you touched on brides earlier. Do you offer…?
W: We do. We have a small bridal registry. It’s mostly—it’s reall y very funny—it’s mostly Peter’s Pottery. And you know, there will be a few things like a salad bowl, or maybe they’ll find a lamp or something like that, but it’s mostly Peter’s Pottery. We love to do that. It’s typically our Collierville brides, who are familiar with the shop.
A: Let’s end this on a sweet note: People can shop anywhere, but it’s really important that people come and visit the Square—and more importantly, shop the Square. In your opinion, can you kind of tell us why it’s so important that they come and shop the Square?
W: I think that if you shop at the Square, you get a totally different shopping experience. It’s different from big-box stores. It’s different from strip malls. You get a unique experience. Typically, it’s individual shop owners, individual shop owners. No chains. And I think that experience in itself gives the customer, the visitor to the Square, just something special. I know every time… As many times as I have driven onto the Square, I just get this special feeling every time.
A: It’s like kind of coming home.
W: It’s exactly like coming home. It really, really is. And so many people who are not familiar with the Square, and they’ve been there for the first time, it’s like, “This is the most unique place. We cannot wait to come back.”
A: Absolutely. I couldn’t have said it better myself.
W: Well thank you.
A: Thank you, Ms. Watty, for joining us. We really appreciate you.
W: Well thank you. I’ve really enjoyed visiting with you.
A: Good. And thank you for joining us. That’s all the time we have for 2-Minute Tuesday with Tour Collierville. I’m Anna Bell, and have a nice day.