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Blissett’s owner in Medina honored for lifetime achievement by Chamber

Photos by Ginny Kropf: Blissett’s has expanded under the ownership of Jaye Sullivan, who will be honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award Thursday by the Orleans County Chamber of Commerce.

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 15 October 2018 at 9:08 am

‘That’s how a small business survives – by adapting to changing times. The biggest challenge has been competing with the big box stores.’ – Jaye Sullivan

MEDINA – Jaye Sullivan can’t remember in her lifetime when there was ever nothing to do.

Sullivan is the third generation of her family to own Blissett’s Specialty Shop in Medina.

On Thursday night, Sullivan will be honored by the Orleans County Chamber of Commerce as recipient of their Lifetime Achievement Award.

Blissett’s was started in 1941 by Sullivan’s grandparents, Chester and Beatrice Blissett, who opened their first store in Albion.

Around 1950, they opened a second store in Medina, Blissett’s Children’s Shop, in space they rented in the S.A. Cook Building.

After experiencing a serious accident, the Blissetts closed the Albion store.

Their daughter Glenyce Stilwell bought the business in the 1970s, and the family all worked there, Sullivan said.

“From the time we were little – even as young as 3, we were in the store,” Sullivan said. “We also had a working farm. There was never not anything to do.”

Bridal wear for the entire party can be found at Blissett’s in Medina, in addition to First Communion dresses. Owner Jaye Sullivan, shown here with a selection of children’s gowns, will receive a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Orleans County Chamber of Commerce at its awards dinner Thursday night. The store was started by her grandparents 77 years ago.

She grew up in a three-generation house, where she helped hoe acres and acres of cabbage and helped to tend 200 pigs.

“We would come to the store every day after school,” Sullivan said. “I count myself lucky being able to work and play with my family.”

“When a grandmother comes in to buy a gift for her grandchild in California, I realize how lucky I was to grow up with my grandparents,” she said.

Sullivan’s sisters, Jackie and Jan, worked in the store while growing up, but chose other careers.

Jan was involved in the store until their mother purchased the building at the corner of Main and East Center Street in 1996 and moved Blissett’s there.

After Sullivan graduated from high school in 1971, she moved to California, then returned to Rochester to work at Sibley’s for a year and a half. In 1983, she married Tim Sullivan, and they have a daughter Mackenzie Smith and grandson Jack, 3.

“If Jack ends up helping me here, he will be the fifth generation,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan took over the store in 2004. She said she gradually had to adapt the business from a children’s store, starting 30 years ago with a small selection of bridal wear. She began added more specialty items, such as christening and prom dresses.

“That’s how a small business survives – by adapting to changing times,” Sullivan said. “The biggest challenge has been competing with the big box stores.”

Sullivan is thrilled to be honored by the Chamber, because she said her grandparents would be so proud.

“My mother also loved this store more than life itself,” she said, a little of which may have just rubbed off on her.

Sullivan has served her community, as a member of the school board and an officer in the Medina Business Association for years and years. She is still a member of the Decorate Medina Committee.

“I’m very grateful to this community and the customers we’ve had through the years – from Buffalo, Syracuse and even Ohio,” Sullivan said. “I’m honored to be chosen for this award, and I will accept it for my grandmother and my mother.”

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