Barbara Renfrow inspecting one of the chandeliers she's giving a new chance to shine.
By Jane Schneider
Step into Barbara Renfrow’s booth at the end of Aisle B at Sheffield Antiques Mall in Collierville. Look past the handsome dressers and antique buffets and you’ll be amazed by the many crystal chandeliers that sparkle from above.
Chandeliers are hot items these days, adorning unconventional places like bathrooms and closets — but you can’t order these from Amazon. Renfrow’s chandeliers are truly one of a kind, each one salvaged and revisioned by her to create a new work of art. “Chandeliers are classic,” she says. “They never go out of style.”
Renfrow’s passion for beautiful things goes back to childhood when quiet afternoons were spent attending tea parties at her grandmother’s house in Covington, Tennessee. Afterwards, an 8-year-old girl could wander through the attic and explore old steamer trunks filled with treasure. “I’d go through the trunks and pull out old hats and mink tips and books,” she says. “It was heavenly.”
For years, Renfrow worked as an executive secretary, but always kept a hand in the antiques world, renting space at Palladio’s on Central Avenue and briefly running her own shop, Auntie Em’s, where she sold jewelry and antique furniture.
She eventually left the corporate world to return to college, earning a masters degree with an emphasis on historical preservation and cultural resource management. After graduating from the University of Memphis in 2006, Renfrow worked for Shelby County’s first historian, Ellen Davies Rodgers and began writing nonfiction.
But her true passion is in building and restoring chandeliers. She was at an estate sale years ago when she spied her first fixture. “It was bare bones and I wanted to make more of it,” she says. “I knew I could add a little more oomph.” She brought the piece home and cleaned it up in her garage before taking it inside and working her magic. She was proud of the results and that chandelier still adorns her den.
Over time the garage became her workshop, a place where dingy brass chandeliers get scrubbed back to life. It takes time to develop an eye for this work, Renfrow says, to appreciate balance and symmetry, to recognize those fixtures worthy of the sweat equity required. “They don’t just pop up. They’re hard to find,” she says. “It requires patience and passion.”
After cleaning, the fixture is carted into the den with the help of her husband, Billy, who rigged his truck so the chandeliers can be carefully transported. “He’s the muscle behind me and a good cheering squad,” Renfrow says.
Inside, she’ll assess the light’s shape and dimensions before the task of dismantling begins. The column is the main frame of a chandelier. From this hang the arms and faceted crystals, often attached to the candleholder. She determines whether to lengthen the frame by adding a glass globe or another piece of brass or perhaps ropes of faceted beads that will drape from the top of the piece to each candlestick. After all, extra bling is never a bad thing.
Renfrow frequently buys chandeliers to cannibalize for parts. The trimmings, which include old crystal pendants, teardrop prisms, faceted cut balls, and crystal ropes, are the glass that gives a chandelier its sparkle and can be hard to come by. So she keeps a roller cabinet full of metal and glass parts she can pull from when looking for just the right element.
All told, a chandelier can take several weeks or even months from start to finish. But each is unique. And it’s not until a piece is just right that she’ll bring it into Sheffield and light it up for all the world to see.
Barbara Renfrow’s reinvigorated chandeliers can be found at Sheffield Antiques Mall, Dealer 336, Aisle B, 684 West Poplar, Collierville. Info: sheffield-antiques.com.
It's not that hard: Do it. Do it right. Do it right now.
by Jon W. Sparks
I recently was flying into the Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport from Tokyo, a numbing 12-hour experience on All Nippon Airways that was made tolerable by being able to score some extra wasabi sauce.
As we taxied to the gate, a flight attendant uttered my name over the intercom and said that I should check in with ground personnel on arrival.
Having your name announced over a PA is unsettling. I checked texts, but all seemed quiet at home. The Boeing 777 slowly, slowly extruded its passengers as I nurtured my anxiety, thinking that I had to navigate customs and go to another concourse in short order.
When I finally stepped out of the door, a young man with ANA was there holding a card with my name on it. Ashish Adhikari greeted me and briskly explained that because of the hurdles to be jumped in a relatively short turnaround time, that he would help me get through it.
Every year, Inside Memphis Business magazine honors four CEOs who have proven to be exemplary in their fields, leading their companies with success on local, regional, national, and international stages.
Nominations for the 2018 CEO of the Year awards are open. Memphis is graced with tremendously talented, inspiring executives leading our companies and organizations and we want to hear from you about the best in the business.
Email your nomination to firstname.lastname@example.org and include the CEO’s resume and a description of why he or she should get the award: vision, achievements, business philosophy, employee relations, management style, special qualities.
We give out four awards in categories according to the number of employees in the companies: 1-50, 50-200, 200-1,000, and 1,000 and up, so include that information as well.
The deadline for CEO of the Year is November 15, 2017. When the nominations are in, an impartial panel will consider the nominees and pick one for each category. Each will be notified and interviewed for the February/March issue of IMB - and each will appear on the cover of the magazine. A breakfast in late January will honor the four CEOs.
The winners of this year’s Inside Memphis Business Innovation Awards were honored at a breakfast and awards ceremony Wednesday, Sept. 20 at the University of Memphis Holiday Inn on Central Avenue.
With all the brilliance around town, it was a gratifying job for the judges who found the level of innovation by the winners to be particularly high. The finalists have made material contributions to our quality of life and even to saving lives.
IMB honored (clockwise from top left) Julie Romine and the staff of Habitat for Humanity for its Aging in Place program, Dr. Brian Sorrentino of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital for work done on the “Bubble Boy” disease, Charlie McVean (at right) and Charlie Newman for the Big River Crossing, and Dr. Giancarlo Mari of the University of Tennessee Health Science Center for the OB F.A.S.T. program.
Crucial to putting on the event were our sponsors, The Fogelman College of Business and Economics at the University of Memphis, Orion Federal Credit Union, and Travelennium.
Look for the stories on these innovators in IMB’s October/November issue coming soon.
Some of the folks who attended the 2017 Innovation Awards ceremony. Photos by Don Perry.
Reflections on Rhodes College and higher academics with Dr. William E. Troutt
by Samuel X. Cicci
Some people never want to leave college, but Dr. William “Bill” E. Troutt was lucky enough to stay at the helm of Rhodes College for almost two decades. At the age of 68, he retires as the longest-serving college president in the country, with a 17-year position at Nashville’s Belmont College preceding his time in Memphis. Thirty-five years is a long time, and the education landscape has changed drastically during his tenure. However, he doesn’t regret a second of it. Marks of his leadership remain on campus, including the $35 million gift for the Paul Barret Jr. Library, opened in 2005, as well as more internal changes, such as restructured trustee governance. The college’s continued growth in the community, as well as the success of its students, may well be Troutt’s greatest legacy, but the bow-tied Tennessee native has many fond memories of his time at Rhodes.
IMB: You were at Rhodes for 18 years?
Dr. William Troutt: I came here on July 1 of 1999, and tomorrow, I finish 18 years of service here and 35 years as a college president. I was at Belmont at Nashville for 17 years before that, so it’s been a wonderful journey.
When I was a college senior, I was trying to decide what I wanted to do with my life. I had started college thinking I’d be a minister. Then you go to liberal arts college and things are clarified, so I decided I wanted to be a college president. To my surprise and delight, that’s been my occupation for most of life, really. You’re my last interview of my professional career! July 1, 1999, has passed quickly.
Our winners have been announced for this year’s Inside Memphis Business Innovation Awards!
This year we are thrilled to announce that we will be honoring Charlie McVean and Charlie Newman for the Big River Crossing; Dr. Giancarlo Mari of UTHSC for the OB F.A.S.T program; Dr. Brian Sorrentino of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital for work done on the “Bubble Boy” disease; and Julie Romine and the staff of Habitat for Humanity for its Aging in Place program.
Inside Memphis Business magazine will honor the very best in local business innovation with an awards breakfast and a launch event for our October/November 2017 issue that highlights this year's award winners.
Our Innovation Awards breakfast will be hosted Wednesday, September 20th, at the University of Memphis Holiday Inn on Central Avenue in Memphis.
Tickets are $20 each, and include breakfast and coffee. Doors open at 7:30am with breakfast and networking, and the program begins at 8:15am.
Please use the discount code TABLE to get 20 percent off of your total ticket purchase when purchasing a table for ten persons.
The 2017 Innovation Awards are co-hosted by The University of Memphis Fogelman College of Business & Economics. It’s sponsored by Orion and Travelennium.
Click here to purchase tickets
For more info about the IMB Innovations Breakfast, please contact Molly Willmott at 901.832.2085 or
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