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Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Lewis Gifts Still Evolving

Lewis Gifts-2

Mike and Carrie Lewis with Catherine Lewis Hobbs and Mark Hobbs continue a family tradition.

Family business continues to grow

The Lewis Drugs family business is 100, Lewis Gifts is 40, and Biscotti’s is 20.

Catherine Lewis Hobbs says it all began as Tri-State Drug in 1924 in aseparate building from Willis-Knighton Health/Greenwood Road. O.W. Lewis Sr., Catherine’s great-grandfather, began the dynasty.

The business next moved near Centenary College with O.W. Lewis Jr. in charge. At one point, it had 12 locations.

Catherine’s father, Brian Lewis, ran the store when it was at Youree and Kings.

Brian’s wife, Mary Jean, left her job as a preschool teacher when her husband needed a buyer for the frontend gift shop. They went to Dallas market together, and the rest is history. “It just clicked,” she says. At market, people questioned why a pharmacy was buying gift items, so Mary Jean changed the buyer name to Lewis Gifts.

Mary Jean says the pharmacy provided the cash flow during the oil bust. “We just evolved; it was not created in a day.”

While the pharmacy was open, she opened a standalone gift shop near what was once Sue Peyton’s.

In the 1990s, Mary Jean moved the gift shop to Mall St. Vincent. Brian saw an empty spot, Mary Jane says. “He pushed me.” Plus, she says, the mall wanted a locally owned business.

In 1997, the post office on Youree Drive closed, and the family leased it. Catherine’s father retired and sold the pharmacy to Eckerd’s.

The store then moved across the street to Southfield Shopping Center on Youree Drive in 2008.

Its size grew each time, from 3,000 square feet at the mall, to 10,000 at the post office and 12,000 now. The bridal registry was added at the post office location. “It got bigger and bigger,” says Mary Jean.

Seasonal items area big part of the Lewis business, a s are jewelry, baby bedding, bath and exclusive tabletop lines.

Mary Jean Lewis found her business niche when her husband, Brian, asked her to be a buyer for the pharmacy gift shop.

“At Lewis Gifts, despite initial hesitations as an older bride, I was met with exceptional care and attention,” says customer Glynis Johnston. “The staff’s warmth and dedication made me feel truly valued throughout the entire bridal journey. Their professionalism and personalized touches transformed what could have been daunting into an enjoyable and stress-free experience. I am grateful for their wonderful service.”

Their understanding that love knows no age boundaries added an extra layer of warmth to the process, she adds.

Catherine says most employees have worked there for 20 years. “They morph into different roles and find their niche.”

She says in addition to being loyal, the staff manage themselves and offer incredible customer service. “People keep coming back.”

Three generations of Lewis family pharmacists.

Mary Jean’s sister-in-law worked in shipping and receiving early on, and her son, Mike Lewis, runs Biscotti’s.

Mary Jean wanted a reserved area like Mr. Marcus, she says, and the coffee shop began and expanded.

“I do not know how many birthdays I’ve celebrated at Biscotti’s since they’ve opened,” says regular Rozann Frey. “It is my go-to eatery!

The menu is terrific, and there is always something for everyone, no matter their taste buds.” Her favorites include the walnut and grape chicken salad and the chocolate fudge pie.

1957 Lewis Pharmacy

“I’ve brought family and friends from near and far, and everyone has left very satisfied, wishing they had Biscotti’s in their hometowns,” she said. “My husband and I only wish that they would be open for dinner.”

Catherine’s mother was the first in town to carry Crabtree and Evelyn. Niven Morgan is grateful that his luxurious personal care products have been carried at the unique retailer for over 20 years. “They are very supportive,” he says. “It is a match made in heaven.” He says their team is an extension of his. “I think, for sure, it is a good feather in my cap.”

Margaret O’Donnell says she always looked forward to the Panhellenic social at Lewis Gifts. “I would see alumnae of my own sorority and friends in other sororities,” she said. “The ticket sales went to a good cause — college scholarships for sorority women. It didn’t hurt to have a discount on shopping a month before Christmas, and the wine and goodies from Chef Mike were always delicious!” Mary Jean retired about eight years ago but still returns for the holidays and events. She says that she wanted her children to spread their wings early in the generational business.


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