A downtown jewel

Published 10:18 am Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The list of those who have been recognized as the Franklin-Southampton Area Chamber of Commerce Business of the Year reads like a “Who’s Who” of deserving local business leaders. But perhaps none are more deserving than this year’s honoree, Smith Jewelers.

Many business owners become successful because they have developed a good business model and are willing to put in the hard work necessary to see their dreams become a reality. For some, the road to success requires much more.

The story of William J. “Billy” Smith III, the company’s president and CEO, is not just one of hard work and dedication, but a testament to overcoming obstacles and enduring personal tragedy. When Smith’s father was killed during a robbery of the family’s store in 1978, Billy Smith was just 18 years old. With the promise of help from a family friend, he went off to college, vowing to return to Franklin to run the business upon his return. Return, he did.

In 1999, when the flooding from Hurricane Floyd ravaged downtown and caused several businesses to close for good, Smith was determined to rebuild the business and stay downtown. Rebuild, he did.

In 2009, when the closure of the community’s largest employer forced many local businesses to evaluate whether they could remain open, Smith was determined to stay put and find a way to maintain and grow the family business. Through determination and hard work, succeed, he did.

It takes a smart and savvy businessperson to adapt to the changes that occur during the normal course of business, whether those challenges include an evolving marketplace or fluctuations in the economy. But it takes a unique type of individual who will gut out the types of personal and professional challenges that Billy Smith has faced over the years. His business is one of downtown Franklin’s jewels. We congratulate Billy Smith and his entire staff on being named the Business of the Year.