Leta's Specialty Shop started out small; has grown to include interior decorating

By Rozella Hardin

   Leta Hale began her own business and became her own boss 15 years ago on April Fool's Day. However, she had been working on Elk Avenue since a teen-ager in high school. "I grew up on Elk Avenue and have grown old on Elk Avenue," she said with laughter.
   "I went to work at the age of 13 at Davis-Mottern Jewelers. It was located where the Doe River Telephone Refurbishing is now," she said. "I worked after school and on Saturdays."
   Leta said she worked there for four or five years, and then went off to college in Cookeville. After college, she worked at Burgie Drug Store for nine years and before opening her own business, worked at Lingerfelt Pharmacy for 23 years.
   "When I graduated from college, the ideal choices for women were to be a schoolteacher, a secretary, or a nurse. These are all good professions, but it wasn't what I wanted to do," Leta said.
   She later attended the Chicago School of Interior Design, and little by little things began to lead toward her own business. "At Lingerfelt's we carried cosmetics and decorative accessories. That was the part of the business I liked. Our first store was the little store next door to Lingerfelt's. We started out selling Merle Norman Cosmetics and as a gift shop. We grew into interior decorating and we moved to our present location to have more room," Leta explained.
   She also now has the building next door to Leta's Specialty Shop. "The front end of that building is the Second Hand Rose Room, which includes second-hand furniture and decorative accessories. The back part of the building is used to store furniture for jobs we are doing," she said.
   "We are a specialty shop and an interior decorating shop. We sell furniture and window and bed treatment. We also do custom silk flower designs," Leta said.
   The cosmetics part of the business includes jewelry, fragrances, Merrill Norman cosmetics, sweaters, etc.
   "We have been in our present location nine years. We started out little, but we have grown tremendously. We do both residential and commercial decorating," she said.
   "I did everything I could to stay on Elk Avenue. I'd rather be here than anywhere. I love the people in Elizabethton, and my family is here," she explained.
   Leta's Specialty Shop employs six persons. "Diane Webb Barfield specializes in custom silk flower designs," Leta said.
   Michelle Taylor, who heads the cosmetics side of the business, has been with Leta's since she opened her doors. "In fact, she met her husband at the business. He delivered a package to the store, and she signed for it and fell in love with him," Leta shared. She and the UPS man are now married and have two children.
   Also, Leta noted that Diane Barfield met her husband through the business. "We were doing an interior decorating job for him, and her work resulted in a relationship that led to marriage," she said.
   Other employees of the business include Geri Richard, Rebecca Lewis, Keith Edwards, Leta's husband, Sonny Hale, and her sister, Joyce Birchfield.
   "I can't believe how we've grown. Our cosmetics sell regardless of how bad the economy is. It's interesting, since September 11 -- the day of the terrorist attack on New York, lipstick sales have soared," Leta said.
   She attributes the success of her business to her mother, Georgia Pope's, prayers. "My mother has prayed consistently for this business. She's a real prayer warrior. We would not have made it without her prayers," Leta declared.