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Houston County Courier - Local News

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Bella Named Small Business of Year


By Alton Porter News Reporter reporter@hccourier.com Jeanette Masters and her husband Richard "Ricardo" Masters no doubt have experienced many exciting fetes in her business—Bella, Gifts From the Heart, LLC—since they and her good friend Karen Shartle opened it in 2003. But recently being named State of Texas Small Business of the Year of Houston County by Texas Forest Country Partnership is one they're having a hard time believing. "You know, this is a mystery to me," Mrs. Masters said about being selected for the honor. "I'm just blown away by it. I was astounded. I still think they're going to call us and say, 'We made a mistake. I'm sorry.' We were just amazed and very humbled by the whole thing. I'm still just pinching ourselves." They will travel to Lufkin for her to be presented a framed certificate, signed by Gov. Greg Abbott, recognizing her for the accomplishment at the two-day Texas Forest Country Partnership 2017 Economic Development Summit Tuesday and Wednesday, Nov. 7-8, on the day Abbott will be keynote speaker. Texas Forest Country Partnership is a regional economic development organization committed to coordinating economic development-related activities in East Texas and further enhancing the appeal of the 12-county area it serves. Kelby Koehler, who holds the Houston County seat on the partnership's board and is senior billing analyst and communications representative for Houston County Electric Cooperative, Inc., (HCEC) nominated Bella, Gift's From the Heart, LLC, for the award. Koehler said each county representative on the partnership's board is asked each year to submit the name of the small business "they think should receive the award, and I thought long and hard about who exemplifies the characteristics they (the board) listed— who gives back to the community— and Bella just stuck out to me. She (Mrs. Masters) just stuck out in my mind for all the things that she does. "I'm excited for Bella. They've done a lot of great things over the years—donated many things to many different organizations. And I think she (Mrs. Masters) and Richard deserve this for all the hard work they've put into Houston County." When Koehler told Mrs. Masters her business had won, Mrs. Masters said she responded "in disbelief." "I kept questioning Kelby to make sure," she said. "My favorite thing is not to have attention. We're used to being the worker bees, not the other bees." Mr. and Mrs. Masters and Shartle, along with Houston County Judge Jim Lovell will be guests at a table sponsored by HCEC at the economic summit. Koehler said her employer, HCEC, based in Crockett, was presented the award last year and ElastoTech Southwest, Inc., also located in Crockett, received it in 2015. Bella, Gifts From the Heart, LLC, is a gift, novelty and souvenir shop located at 406 E. Houston Ave., on the north side of the downtown square in Crockett. "When we originally opened in 2003, it was simply Bella," Mrs. Masters explained. "We renamed the busi- Bella Named Small Business of Year ness Bella, Gifts From the Heart, LLC, (in 2011)." Describing the kind of store Bella, Gifts From the Heart, is, Mrs. Masters said, "It is everything fun. We do everything from baby registry and wedding registry and all the fun gifts women have to have." "We have ladies' apparel. We have accessories and general gifts. Everything you really don't need in life but you want," she said with a laugh. Mrs. Masters said she and her husband were first schooled on the gift, novelty and souvenir shop business back in the 80s from the late Doris and Gene Morris who owned the former Sweet Annie's shop which had a large inventory of antiques and was located on the corner of Houston Avenue and Fourth Street off the downtown Crockett square. "Then, I worked in Lufkin for years at an antiques shop, and later for Jan and Tommy Hall, the people who bought, gutted and redid this building— which housed the former Perry Brothers store—about 18 years ago," Mrs. Masters said. Before moving into the current building, the original Bella store was housed in a narrow storefront that Mr. Masters says measured nine-feet-wide and 65-feet-long and is located on the east side of the downtown square. "Actually, we started with books," Mrs. Masters said. "We love books. We started there, and we just kind of outgrew that space because, as you know, there are certain things like the baby and wedding registries that people have to have." Asked what she wants the community to know about her business, Mrs. Masters thought for a moment and said, "One thing I think is interesting is we are a feel good business. We have one lady in particular—a teacher—who will come in some days at the end of her long day and say she just needs some therapy. We smell good. We have nice music playing. It's a place just to enjoy and relax and unwind. It's fun and relaxing and easy." In addition, Mrs. Masters said, "We try and do what we can in the way of helping any organizations that ask for donations. Kalin's Center is near and dear to our hearts, has been for years. We're very supportive of them. "Whatever your business is, you want to excel at it and for it to be the very best. And you want to always keep in mind and do for other entities in the community that need the support. So, I think that's what we try to do. This has just blown us away that we would be recognized in some way for that. "I'm kind of embarrassed by the whole thing. We're just used to doing what we do to the best of our abilities. The fact that somebody would recognize us for that is just amazing to me." Mr. Masters' former forester job with a timber company brought the couple to this area in 1981, and he now owns his own business, Masters Timber, LLC. When he's not busy with his business, I make him work up here (at Bella)," Mrs. Masters said. As for the City of Crockett, Mrs. Masters said, "I do hope that we'll be able to see some economic turn around. I guess the hospital board has decided on a potential partner to team with to reopen the hospital. We just need that so desperately. "At this point, nobody is going to look to come here without medical facilities. That's too important in your life, no matter whether you've got young children or if you're like our ages. I can't drive out of town for every little thing (for medical care). We have to keep our fingers crossed and continue to send up prayers. "Crockett, for us, has been a wonderful place."


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