home about us advertise with us subscribe to Jonesboro Occasions submit an event contact download the 2008 datebook
give a gift subscription

Pillows for Paws
Story and photos by Audrey Poff

When a manufacturing company that stored home décor items at a local warehouse abandoned inventory during the COVID-19 pandemic, it resulted in a unique business opportunity for three Jonesboro women and additional funding for one of their favorite nonprofit organizations.

Tina Hunt Coots, whose family owns the Jimco Lamp Company building in Bono, was uncertain about what she should do with the abandoned inventory after the company that had been leasing the 80,000-square-foot space in the building left.

“They had vacated the building and had sold and disposed of most of the inventory except for these boxes,” said Coots. “Actually, they had to stop disposing of items at one point during the pandemic because some of the drivers who were disposing of inventory got COVID-19.”

Coots’ father, the late Jimmy Doyle Hunt, started Jimco Lamp Company in the 1960s and built the manufacturing and warehouse facility along U.S. Highway 63 in Bono. The family sold the business in 2005, she said, but retained the building and had served as landlord to Jimco through January 2021.

Most of the boxes contain dozens of decorative pillow shells and other home décor items. Before disposing of it, Coots decided to ask her friend, Pat Farmer, if she was interested in the remaining inventory.

That’s where the Pillows for Paws venture began.

“After Tina asked me if I wanted the inventory, I wanted to compensate her generosity in some way,” said Farmer. “The Northeast Arkansas Humane Society was the obvious and only thing that came to mind as it means a lot to Tina and me. Pillows for Paws was a name that just popped up in my mind. I thought it was something that would get folks’ attention, and it had a cute ring to it.”

After deciding to pursue the opportunity, Farmer knew she would need help considering the volume of pillow shells that were at the warehouse.

“Our approximate guess as to how many there are is around 300,000,” said Farmer. “Every box would need to be opened and organized, and I knew it would take a lot of work. I saw the potential for the business, so I thought about who would be good partners.”

That’s when Farmer reached out to Amanda McDaniel and Kara Fowler.

“They were on board from day one,” said Farmer. “They are both animal lovers and have rescue dogs. I knew they would be hard workers and bring creative ideas with marketing and social media. Working with my friends and strong women is so fun and inspiring.”

Although this project originated with her, Farmer said the trio has truly been a three-woman team when it comes to getting the work done.
“We all do a lot of sweat labor ... unpacking and organizing the pillow shells, but my main role is handling the financial side,” said McDaniel. “I’m the number cruncher.”

“We all work so well together and wear many hats,” added Fowler. “I’m basically in charge of the Facebook page and managing our (vendor) booth at Mountain Home since I’m at the lake most weekends.”

To date, Fowler said two of the biggest challenges in launching the business has been sorting the inventory and attempting to get people to come shop at the warehouse in Bono. Although small pop-up sales in Jonesboro have been successful, there is too much inventory to move.

“There’s no way we can bring all of this to one central location,” she said. “We need people to come see us in Bono.”
When describing the inventory, Farmer said every box has had something different – from holiday decor to nautical themes and every color and fabric imaginable.

“Imagine a whole store of Home Goods just filled with pillows,” said Farmer. “That’s what we have. We have dog bed covers, table runners, throw blankets, tote bags, placemats and beautiful beaded pillows of every kind. We are selling each shell for $3 no matter what shape or size. You have to provide the pillow form or stuffing. These are great quality, most with hidden zippers.”

The women say it is difficult for people to envision the volume and variety of pillow shells inside the building.

“You can’t believe it until you see it. It’s so hard to describe the sheer amount and diverse inventory we have,” said McDaniel. “Literally, thousands of pillow shells in every size, shape, color, style and texture imaginable, as well as table runners, placemats, dog bed covers. When people walk into a sale, they are amazed.”

“It’s overwhelming,” said Fowler. “We have so much ... but at the same time, we literally have something for everyone—every size, color, theme. If you can’t find something, let us help you.”

Farmer said she recently began making additional items from the decorative pillow coverings.

“As a seamstress, I have been making purses out of the pillow shells,” she said. “They are beautiful fabrics. The beaded shells are making the cutest clutches. If you are a crafter or quilter, you definitely need to come shop for fabrics. The possibilities are endless.”

“The quality material of these shells is perfect for covering seat cushions ... think dining room chair seats,” said McDaniel. “Some people are using them to create custom coverlets, purses or quilts.”

A portion of the proceeds from the sale of pillow shells benefits the humane society.

“NEAHS is so important to Tina and to all of us, so we want to make sure that we are all rewarded for our hard work by raising money for us and for the animals at the shelter,” said Farmer. “We have spent dozens of hours at the Jimco Lamp Company building warehouse unpacking boxes and organizing each pillow shell by color and style. It’s been so fun to open each box and always find something different and beautiful. It’s hard to even describe how many we have until you come see it for yourself. If you can’t make it to one of our sales, please message us through Facebook and we can be your personal pillow shoppers or set up a private showing.”

In addition to the pop-up sales that have been held at the Jimco building, Pillows for Paws also has booths at The Fancy Attic in Jonesboro and at This Old Attic in Mountain Home. The next pop-up sale at the Jimco building is scheduled for May 21 from 4-8 p.m. and May 22 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

For information on upcoming events, follow Pillows for Paws on Facebook or find the business on Instagram @pillowsforpaws2021.