Stepping out on faith at Sylva’s Sassy Frass

Originally from Jackson, Tennessee. Tammy Fuller moved to Sylva seven years ago. Four years after that she opened Sassy Frass Consignment on West Main Street, which will celebrate its third anniversary on Halloween.

But while looking back over the successful beginnings of her first business venture ever, Fuller still remembers why she gave up the security of a steady income for the crapshoot that owning a small business can often be. 

“The Lord,” she said. “Back in Jackson (Tennessee) I used to be in pharmaceutical sales. It was hard to find a job here in Sylva, and I’ve always loved interior design, and loved decorating.”

Fuller admits to being frugal with her money, so she’d go thrift shopping or consignment shopping, and quickly realized that Sylva didn’t have anything similar to offer.  

“I felt the Lord was nudging me to go out and step out on faith,” she said. 

She reluctantly accepted the nudge, but not without reservations. 

“Really to be honest with you, I didn’t want to do it, and I thought really hard on it because my husband was in his own business as well, and that’d be both of us stepping out on faith,” she said. “I was used to a paycheck, so it was totally a step of faith, but once I said yes, it was crazy.”

It was crazy, she said, in that people were already clamoring to help stock her store before she even had a store to stock. 

“Before I even had this building, Miss Judy Shuler from Kim Preston Real Estate called me and said, ‘I’ve got a whole house of furniture for you.’ I was like, ‘I don’t even have a building — I don’t have anything! What am I going to do?’ and she said, ‘I don’t know, you just need to say yes and take it.’”

Take it Fuller did, and with that opened the only furniture consignment store in the area. There’s a children’s consignment store in Franklin, Fuller said, but the next closest place to shop for similar items is in Waynesville. 

Her store is an eclectic-yet-sensible mix of mostly bedroom, living room and dining room furniture that Fuller herself curates, thus imparting a touch of her own personal style to the collection. 

“Me personally, I’m more of a French provincial, vintage type girl. But I’ve got a little bit of variety in the store here — I’ve got a few new pieces, but most of it is going to be old antiques, and that’s what I like to do,” she said. “My house is filled with different parts from the 1800s to today. I might have a new piece or two, but I like to mix all those years to bring it all together.” 

Common housewares are also well represented; china sets, lamps and all manner of artwork are displayed neatly throughout the two-floor establishment. 

Fuller used to create and construct her own pieces, but now mostly relies on her 700-plus roster of consigners to bring her old, new or interesting items. 

“We’ve got so many consigners, I have to take only so many appointments per day, and we’re booked for months,” said Fuller. 

Additionally, some furniture vendors bring her new furnishings — especially couches, about which Fuller says she is “picky” about accepting on consignment — and almost 30 different booth vendors round out the 12,000- square-foot building with funky, eccentric and traditional items of their own. 

“That’s all individual people that come in and do their own thing,” she said. “We try to get a variety of all of it.”

Word of Fuller’s business has spread beyond just Sylva, but she’s not planning on moving anywhere else, any time soon. 

“I love Sylva. I could branch out to other places, but that was my thing — I would shop in other places, but they didn’t have one here,” she said.

And why would she need to move? Much like other Sylva businesses experiencing a recent surge in visitors, Fuller doesn’t need to expand as long as customers keep coming to her. 

“We have an incredible business and that’s nothing but the hand of the Lord in it,” said Fuller. “We have people driving in from like three hours, it’s crazy. It’s crazy to hear that they literally just come to shop at Sassy Frass.”

Despite Fuller’s successes, female business owners like her are still nowhere near their male counterparts in terms of both representation, and revenues. According to the National Association of Women Business Owners, women-owned firms make up just 31 percent of all privately held businesses and account for only 12 percent of revenues.

While Fuller doesn’t think she’s had a harder time as a small part of that 31 percent, she still falls back on her faith to help her make it through the challenges any business owner faces. 

“I’ve never done this before, so I don’t know if it’s any different for a man than for a woman,” she said. “But I can tell you, it hasn’t been easy the whole entire time — it’s definitely been a journey with the Lord. It’s been valleys and it’s been mountaintops. I’ve had some really, really low times when I’ve cried out to the Lord begging for His help, and then I’ve had some mountaintop experiences where there’s nothing better.”

Her advice for like-minded women who may also be thinking about stepping out on faith is just as sage. 

“If the Lord is telling you to do it, then of course he’s going to make the way, and that’s the way I feel about this business,” said Fuller. “When I first started, I had some people saying, ‘I don’t know that you’re going to make it,’ and others saying ‘Oh, you’ll do great,’ and I’m like, ‘Which one’s it going to be?’”

“But I really feel like if the Lord directs me and He’s telling me ‘This is what you need to do,’ I feel like this is His business and this is His place. So what I do is I just say, ‘Lord, it’s yours. If you want me to continue and to prosper, that’s great. And if you want to shut the doors, it’s your place to shut it down. We have that kind of relationship, so I would tell any woman if she’s feeling that this is what she wants to do and this is in her heart and this is what she feels like the Lord’s prompting her to do, I would say ‘Go, be bold, and be brave, and take that step of faith.’”

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