Right in Her Comfort Zone
Amy Graham overcomes life-changing moments to share her cozy passion
“I think I have the only shop that offers family pajamas,” Graham says of her Clearwater-area boutique called Amy’s PJs.
All of her life, whether it was at home as a teen growing up in Frankfort or in her dorm room as a student studying marketing at Ball State University, Graham has had a knack for making life noticeably cozy. Friends always comment about her bed, for example, complete with the fluffiest pillows and the softest blankets.
While pregnant in 2003 with her daughter Payton, Graham noticed a mole on her stomach. As the pregnancy progressed, the itchy area got more irritating. So Graham scheduled a dermatology appointment to have the mole removed.
“Ten days later, my phone was ringing off the hook,” she recalls. “It was melanoma.”
A year later, Graham assumed she had sprained a back muscle after bending to pick up her daughter.
“But it was melanoma again,” she says. “It had spread to my spine and then to my lungs. They gave me six months to live.”
Gravely ill, Graham spent two years in a wheelchair while undergoing intense treatment.
“Thank the Lord, it worked on me,” she says. “That medicine only worked on 6 to 9 percent of the patients.”
Once the treatment was declared a success, Graham, her husband Rodney, their daughter and Rodney’s sons, Walter, Holden and Simon, happily picked up where they left off, living life in Carmel as a busy family with a crazy schedule.
Putting her passion to work
Graham returned to work as a marketing director for a group of plastic surgeons. Slowly she began to feel more sure of herself. She stopped worrying so much about the cancer. It was gone. She could look forward to a long future.
Last December, her world was again turned upside down when her father was killed in a head-on collision.
“After I buried my dad and mourned him heavily, I started to really think about everything,” she explains.
Though she had a successful career in sales and marketing, Graham could no longer ignore the fact that she “just didn’t feel fulfilled.”
“I wasn’t as happy as I had promised myself I would be if I survived my battle with cancer,” she says. “I had spoken to my husband about my frustrations more times than I could count, but it wasn’t until I lost my father that, being reminded how short life is, I really decided to make a move.”
One evening, her husband asked her to identify her passion. And Graham answered rather smugly, “You know what my passion is: pajamas and sheets.”
Much to her surprise, Rodney’s reaction to his loungewear-loving wife was a request that she get busy writing a business plan so she could realize her passion –– a boutique filled with all the beautiful items that make people want to snuggle up for a nap.
“I’ve always known there were all kinds of pajamas out there,” Graham says of her goal to make the dreamiest of pajamas easily accessible. “But I could never find any at the stores in this area.”
Since opening the business Oct. 1, Graham has been pleasantly surprised by the steady flow of customers. Shoppers discover hard-to-find bed jackets, complete with delicate little pockets for tissues. They find sleep masks and shower caps, overnight bags, men’s boxers, linens, scented pillow liners and candles.
With great seriousness, Graham states that she understands the sadness and stress attached to the moment when a person realizes he or she absolutely must retire and replace that 10-year-old, 100-percent cotton nightgown. Even though the gown shreds more every time it’s laundered, it’s difficult to give it up. So she’s proud to offer many perfect replacements.
“I’ve been a pajama person my whole life,” Graham says with a laugh. “I just love being comfy and relaxing.”
Amy Graham shares four pieces of advice for aspiring business owners
> Don’t spend a lot of time and money on things that won’t produce profits, i.e., fixtures, lighting, tissue paper, bags, etc.
> Communicate regularly with your customers about their wants and needs. Purchase accordingly.
> Take time when choosing a point-of-sale system. This will save many future headaches.
> Seek the advice of other business owners as often as possible.