‘Nothing keeps her down’

Published 8:34 am Wednesday, March 10, 2010

FRANKLIN—According to her friends and coworkers, Gerry Patnesky is the perfect woman to honor at the Franklin-Southampton Area Chamber of Commerce annual meeting, which has the theme of “We are the future” this year.

“She’s one of the people who will keep things going and keep encouraging people to go forward,” said Susan Duke, who nominated Patnesky and Alphabet Soup for 2009 Business of the Year. “She’s not a person who gives up.”

Patnesky, who will take home the top honor at the Chamber’s 56th annual meeting on Tuesday, March 23, has been in business in Franklin since 1989. She started by embroidering bags, linens and more out of her home. When business started booming, Patnesky opened a store downtown and enjoyed several years of success before the flood of 1999, when she lost all of her equipment, materials and stock.

Necessity became the mother of invention, and Patnesky decided not to replace the expensive embroidery equipment and instead start selling monogrammed sterling silver jewelry. As business grew, she added other gift lines such as Vera Bradley, Tervis Tumblers, Arthur Clark and more.

“Gerry Patnesky is a dynamo who brings energy to everyone around her,” said Teresa Beale, executive director of the Franklin-Southampton Area Chamber of Commerce. “Alphabet Soup has thrived because Gerry has been able to reinvent herself and diversify her products. Shopping at Alphabet Soup is always fun and their customer service is over the top. That is the key reason they are so successful.”

Patnesky was told of the honor at the Chamber’s last Business After Hours event.

“I can’t even tell you how excited I was,” she said Tuesday. “I sort of crumbled. I couldn’t believe it.”

Patnesky said her positive attitude comes from her main support system, her husband of 47 years, Ed Patnesky

“I have a wonderful husband who is very supportive,” she said. “He’s always upbeat, so that’s probably where that comes from.”

Patnesky said, in addition to reinventing her business to stay on top, she also makes sure her small shop on Second Avenue is visually appealing.

“All you have to do is walk in and you will see it is very unique,” she said.

“She loves people. She loves what she sells, and she sells really nice things,” said sales associate Sally Kirkland about why Patnesky deserves the Chamber honor. “She’s warm and friendly. She makes everybody feel special.”

Patnesky has reinvented her business for the digital age, too. She has a Web site — www.abcsoupva.com —and a page on Facebook, where she posts deals and contests for “fans” of the site.

“She is such a good businesswoman. Nothing keeps her down,” Beale said.