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Griffey’s Professional Uniforms, Inc. was founded in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1970 by Flora Mae Griffey. She and her husband Jake were trying to think of a business to start up after he retired to help supplement income.
While getting her hair done, her hairdresser complained about having to travel to Memphis to buy beautician’s smocks, since the supplier in Little Rock was so rude and did not have a good selection. “Flora Mae, you should open a uniform store.” She researched uniforms in Arkansas for beauticians, barbers, and nurses. The market was open; there was not any competition.
So February 1, 1970, Griffey’s Uniforms was opened on West Markham, where it is today. Her husband Jake hand-lettered signs, refurbished used fixtures and racks. They were on a budget.
Business slowly picked up by word-of-mouth. One day, a uniform salesman came to call on her, he looked around the store and snidely said, “You might as well pack all this up and send back. You won’t make it.” Ms. Griffey was 40 years old, and had no experience starting a business. She was riding on faith and customer demand. She was heartbroken, but stayed the course. A couple of years later, that same salesman called on her to open an account for his line of uniforms. She declined….. She had plenty of suppliers in the uniform industry who were happy to sell to the largest uniform retailer in Arkansas.
Within the next couple of years, she opened locations in North Little Rock and Hot Springs, so business WAS doing very well. In 2002 a much needed Conway location opened.
Since 1970, Ms. Griffey focused on the now. She never concerned herself with, “I wonder what our competition is doing?” She focused on her business and she loved her employees like family.
Flora Mae Griffey was one of a few woman-owned businesses in Arkansas. Though gender was not a focus within the uniform industry, she was known and respected by the Industry leaders.
Her business was her life and she worked years into normal retirement. In 2008, she suffered a stroke that took her eyesight. Her daughter Nancy Griffey Jordan, raised in the family business, managed the day to day activities of the four stores. In June 2009, she took over the business when Ms. Griffey died.
Since 2009, three stores have moved to better and/or larger locations, and all four have been remodeled and updated to reflect the changing demographics.
Ms. Griffey’s other daughter Carla Griffey Hazlewood, has been doing all of the embroidery and logos for customers, clinics, and hospitals since 1980.
2015 proves to be the best year ever – launching the GPU web store, adding chef wear, and hitting social media hard. “We have to grow and change or get left behind. The average age of a nurse is 24.”
Griffey’s Professional Uniforms, Inc. is proud to be a family owned, local business. Nancy’s daughter Alex Jordan Miller, is third generation Griffey. She is finishing her business degree at UALR, and manages the stores. Nancy said, “Alex napped in a uniform box under our desks when she was a baby. I think she will do just fine.”