Entrepreneurship runs in Melanie Jones’ blood. Her mother founded Adair Eyewear, the upscale Fort Worth stockist of prescription and fashion eyewear, in 1980, and Jones followed in her footsteps, opening Prim & Proper in Fort Worth in 2010.
The 34-year-old single mom always aspired to work in retail in one capacity or another. She spent time on both coasts after high school, studying international relations with an emphasis in marketing at the University of Southern California and womenswear at Parsons School of Design in New York. After returning to her hometown, she scratched the entrepreneurial itch.
The Prim & Proper boutique has evolved in the years since, shifting focus from specialty gifts to specialty gift-wrapping. The same could be said for Jones, who went through a metamorphosis of her own when her son, Halston, 3, was born.
Running a business as a single mom isn’t without its challenges, which Jones is the first to admit.
“You never really have time off,” she says. “It’s like having a 24-hour job from the minute you wake up until the minute you go to sleep. It’s either about work or about your kid. You don’t want either to suffer as a result of the other, but there are days when I’m exhausted.”
With a support system of family and friends, the Lena Pope Early Learning Center (where Halston attends preschool), and the flexibility to bring Halston to the store with her when all else fails, she’s making it work.
You’re busy. Are you able to take time for yourself?
There are a few things that are important for me personally. I like to zone out. I love going to Indigo Yoga [in Fort Worth]. I like to travel. I like the outdoors.
Do you have a favorite vacation destination?
Anywhere the weather is wonderful. I like going to the Pacific Northwest during the summer. Anywhere there’s a beach.
Do you get many girls night outs?
Not as many as I’d like, but I think that’s because the dynamics are changing because my friends’ lives are changing and my life has changed. The nights end earlier than they used to. Girls night is completely different from what it used to be. It might just be sitting at home with a movie in the background and talking over dinner. I think that’s perfectly fine.
Are you dating?
I’m open to it. It’s just not a priority. Trying to date takes away from the other things that are big in my life. I think once my son is a little bit older it will be easier.
Are there other boutiques you frequent around Fort Worth?
I like [the women’s clothing boutique] Esther Penn a lot. It’s hard to make it to other stores and go shopping because I’m always at work during their hours. I don’t spend as much time as I used to shopping, but I do spend a lot of time eating and cooking.
I like Righteous Foods for breakfast and a morning cup of coffee. I love Fireside Pies and Cane Rosso [on Magnolia Avenue]. Pizza is one of my favorite things to eat. I don’t think you can go wrong with melted cheese. I also love Cannon Chinese Kitchen. I think it’s a Fort Worth gem.
Do you have a signature dish you cook?
I’m a moody eater. Right now I’m cooking a lot of Asian dishes, using kimchi, short-grain rice and noodles. I tend to like foods that are really spicy.
Finish the sentence: My idea of the perfect day is …
Seventy-eight-degree sunshine with the beach in the background
Three things that are in your purse at any given time:
I don’t carry a purse. I just carry credit cards and a wallet keychain.
What made you decide to open Prim & Proper?
At Parsons, I realized that the fashion industry wasn’t something I wanted to go into. But I definitely wanted to go into a creative field because there are no limits on how far you can push yourself. You’re constantly becoming better. That’s why I decided to start the store. It’s constantly changing and becoming better, as I become more mature and experienced. I think the place I’m in now is exactly where I’m supposed to be. And that’s really how I live my life — not focusing on the past or thinking too much about the future, which you can’t control. It’s a journey.
What was your vision for the store?
I wanted to have a very simple, local gift boutique with a feel of those you see on the corner in New York City or Brooklyn. Now, I’m in the process of shifting to gift-wrap as the main focus. We’ll even have self-wrap stations.
What’s your go-to gift for a girlfriend’s birthday?
I believe gifts should be about the thought put into them. Whether it's earrings, a key chain or a cookbook, a gift should feel personal.
What was the last gift you gave yourself?
A ski trip with friends. It was the first time I went out of town without Halston in tow. Being a single mom means I’m the only one to manage what Halston needs, but I have to remind myself that it’s OK to be selfish at times. It doesn't benefit anyone for me to completely lose myself in the responsibilities of single parenting.
What’s been the most challenging aspect of owning your own business?
I would like to say that it’s running the business itself, but for me one of the hardest things is balancing parenthood with owning a business as a single mom. That’s the hardest part: the constant juggle. There are days when it’s not so easy.
Is Halston’s father in the picture at all?
No, it’s just me.
What’s most difficult about being a single mom?
Not having someone in it with you. I don’t think people really understand what that’s like. I’ve heard friends say, “I was a single parent for the weekend.” That doesn’t convey what being a single parent is like. You only have one form of income. You have to play all of these different roles. You can’t second-guess yourself. Sometimes you nail it and sometimes you don’t. There are stereotypes of what being a single parent looks like. They get applied to me more often than not because I’m a single, black woman. It’s easy to put me in a category of “the normal, single black mom,” but my situation isn’t normal. I went to Trinity Valley School; my mom has a successful business. I have my own business and an amazing support system. To be a good single parent is a choice that I make every day, and I wouldn’t change anything.
What’s the No. 1 piece of advice you would give other single moms?
Create a solid support system. If you can't find it in your family, look to friends. You will need help at some point and it’s OK to ask.
Best advice another mom has given you?
The days are long, but the years are short. Be grateful for these moments.
Who do you admire most as a mom?
Obviously, I admire my mom for the woman she is and all she's done to contribute to who I am today. But I have to also acknowledge my grandmother. She had kids during a time when black women couldn't even give birth in regular hospitals. She kept six kids’ bellies full with food she grew in the garden. And in rural South Carolina, she wasn't supposed to be able to read or write, but all of her children served our country or became educated professionals. She was the strongest, most amazing woman I have ever known.
What’s your favorite thing about motherhood?
Watching him evolve into who he’s meant to be. Motherhood is nothing short of miraculous.