Joanna Tinker fearlessly jumps in with both feet.

Since arriving in Blount County, the manager of Village Tinker in downtown Maryville has plunged headlong into her life and business on West Broadway, sometimes against the odds.

The Tinker family transformed a former tattoo parlor…taking it down to the studs and rebuilding it into an elegant gift shop…before opening their doors for business on March 17, 2009.  In the beginning, the now-genteel-looking business probably surprised former patrons who wandered in, looking to be “colorfully inked.”

Joanna gave birth to her son that same December… working pregnant nearly the first full year of the shop’s existence… then delighting her customers by bringing her baby with her to work.

Right away, Joanna experimented with some on-trend marketing moves, like initiating quick-response cash mobs for the gift shop during a time that limited numbers of people even knew what “cash mob” meant.

“I value the marketing, social digital and email classes provided by the Blount Chamber, because new ideas inspire me to put a different spin to good use for this business,” Joanna said. She partnered with the Chamber to spearhead downtown Maryville’s “Small Business Saturday” efforts, while spreading the word about various homegrown artists who display creations in her shop.

“I try to think of new ways to get customers to come in the front door. These days you can’t just depend on location and word of mouth. Once they get inside, it’s a happy place. It’s not too “high dollar”…we have a range of gifts for all budgets…and they can feel comfortable here.”

“I want them to feel like they’ve found a friend with an ear for listening…one who can guide them in buying the perfect gift for that special person or occasion. It’s all about the relationships,” she said.

Currently, some of her best-selling items poke gentle humor at the town’s name and how it’s pronounced…t-shirts printed with “Mur-vul” are hits with both young and old. And that’s part of what appeals to Joanna when she comes to work each morning.

“I never know who I’m going to help, but I know how to steer them to gifts that make them smile. It’s my happy place, too,” she said.