It's not the path any of them initially envisioned, but three women -- two sisters and one of their daughters -- have moved into a fourth decade of successfully operating small retail stores in Fort Worth.
Alyce Jones started Adair Optical 31 years ago in Fort Worth after first pursuing a graduate degree in criminology. Her sister, dentist Marie Holliday, started the Marie Antoinette Parfumerie 20 years ago in downtown Fort Worth and subsequently launched a flower shop nearby.
Jones' daughter, Melanie, returned to Fort Worth in 2007 from New York to temporarily help in the eyewear store and ended up opening a boutique, Prim & Proper Gifts, on Camp Bowie Boulevard, 11/2 years ago.
"I never thought I would be back here. Ever," said Melanie Jones, 28, who went from Trinity Valley School to the University of Southern California and the Parsons design school in New York before returning to Cowtown. "I wanted to live abroad."
The sisters and a third sibling, a sister who owns a Carrollton firm that sells sales leads to call centers, grew up on the near southeast side and graduated from O.D. Wyatt High School.
Their mother was a counselor in the Fort Worth schools. Their father, C.A. Holliday, was a pastor at the Greater St. James Baptist Church who also served on the Texas Board of Corrections.
The women say their stores embody their own tastes and those of women they grew up with. Alyce Jones says her mother wore fragrances and lavished the family home with flowers.
When she was little, Melanie Jones remembers her mother putting her and her brother in front of a mirror and saying, "You can do whatever you want to do. You can be whatever you want to be."
Their entrepreneurial pursuits each took root in different ways.
Marie Holliday, 59, who graduated from the Tufts University dental school in Boston in 1977, launched her own practice in the early 1980s at Berry Street and Interstate 35W. She later moved to Sundance Square, one floor above the perfume shop she opened in 1991. Seven years ago, she opened the small Flowers To Go shop.
Alyce Jones, 58, was working for Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis and pursuing a graduate degree at Boston University when her brother-in-law introduced her to an ophthalmologist. After a stint working for him on Saturdays, she decided to pursue a career as an optician, selling "really cool" eyeglass frames but not doing eye exams or writing prescriptions.
Her first store was in a shopping center at West Seventh Street and University Drive in Fort Worth.
Several primary locations later, Jones is now rebuilding her business. She lost her lease in August at Fort Worth's Chapel Hill Shopping Center at Hulen Street and Interstate 30, and a week a half ago moved into new leased quarters at 3550 W. Seventh St., in the city's affluent Monticello neighborhood.
With her mother's financial backing, Melanie Jones opened her store in July 2010 at 4823 Camp Bowie Blvd., in Arlington Heights.
To her original product lines -- cooking, home and hostess, pets, jewelry, paper, candles, soaps and tabletop accessories -- Jones gradually added frames, rugs, beauty products such as nail polish, gift wrap, men's gifts and baby products.
At the eyewear store, Alyce Jones sells high-end frames for as much as $3,000 and speaks of her customers as fashion-conscious, busy women. "I think my customer is a lot like me," she said.
Melanie Jones speaks of Prim & Proper in much the same terms.
Her customer, she said, "goes skiing in the winter, and she cooks, and she has friends over. I see this woman in people I grew up with."
The business cycles for Holliday's businesses have been overlaid with the growth of downtown's convention business.
At the perfume and flower shops, sales are up 10 percent over last year and 15 percent over 2009, Holliday said. Demand for spa services at the perfume shop has doubled in the last two years.
She attributes this year's sales growth to more downtown visitors, which she says account for 40 percent of sales at the Parfumerie, up from 25 percent a few years ago. The holidays account for only about 10 percent of sales.
She says she stayed the course this year, doing little differently other than throwing a private party for 75 guests two weeks ago to celebrate the Parfumerie's 20th birthday. Ron Washington, the Texas Rangers manager, attended. And she is still a full-time dentist.
At the eyewear store, Alyce Jones says she was paying down her final debt when she lost her lease. "That was my recession," she said.
Her first store 31 years ago cost $10,000 to finish out. The new one: $300,000, which she financed.
Jones estimates that she lost at least $200,000 in sales from the forced move. Her new location, unlike the highly trafficked Chapel Hill, is tucked into the near West Side neighborhoods.
"It's going to take a different marketing structure to get people to know where I am," she said.
Melanie Jones starts each day at the eyewear store. She's the marketing and advertising specialist there, fine-tuning its website and offering ideas on what consumers her age want.
Building Prim & Proper has been an exercise in getting to know local tastes, Melanie Jones says. She has affiliated herself with local charities, doing canned food drives, for example, for the food bank and an animal shelter and donating to a major Fort Worth Zoo fundraiser. "I feel everybody wins," she said.
The store hasn't yet turned a profit. "We're still recouping from all the money we put into it," she said. "But we could turn a profit based on this month."
Her mother thinks she won't stop at the one store.
"I think she will replicate her store," Alyce Jones said.
Scott Nishimura, 817-390-7808