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Growing jewelry manufacturer opens in Bandera

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Posted: Wednesday, July 11, 2018 4:23 pm

A jewelry and leather goods manufacturer that needed space to grow has found what it was looking for in the 400 block of Main Street in Bandera, a stretch of downtown that has been upgraded thanks in part to financial assistance from the Bandera Economic Development Corp.

J. Forks Designs, the jewelry, leather goods and clothing manufacturer, has moved into a 3,800-square foot headquarters and showroom at 414 Main St. that once was occupied by CarQuest Auto Parts until it relocated a few months ago to 808 Main St.

Jenny Forks, a silversmith who started the design company, said she feels blessed to have found a location with the additional space she needed in the middle of a town that has welcomed her company with open arms.

“People are awesome and so friendly,” she said in an interview last week.

The move to Bandera after three years and two locations in Pipe Creek and nearly 16 years working under a different name in Boerne and San Antonio has been the greatest experience of her career, Forks said.

“I love what I do.  I don’t consider it work,” the designer said. “This is what I was meant to do.”

J. Forks manufactures bracelets, rings, chokers – “anything you can imagine in jewelry,” Forks said, and the same goes for leather goods that her husband, Cody Ackel, a leathersmith, designs for the firm.

Its clothing line features headwear, sweatshirts and T-shirts adorned with different designs, denim jackets with tooled leather accents and buttons and stickers displaying several designs and slogans.

Its products are available online and in more than 300 outlets across the United States and in Brazil, Australia, the Netherlands, Spain and Canada.

Forks said she always is looking for ways to innovate, which has helped her firm grow.

Those innovations have taken J. Forks into new lines of marketing and communication, including a blog that discusses fashion and the “J. Forks lifestyle” and a video podcast called “Dare to be Bold” that examines people and organizations dedicated to pursuing their own dreams.

The first organization that was discussed on the podcast was the Bandera-based treatment center for military personnel, veterans and first responders, Warriors Heart.

“It’s something I’m very proud of and stand behind,” said Forks about her growing business that employs 10 people.

Her new store gives her almost three times the space she had in Pipe Creek, which Forks said will allow her to bring in bigger and better equipment and more employees so more can be done in less time.

Two-to-three more people could be added just for the T-shirt production she wants to reach, and four more employees could be hired beyond those three in the upcoming year, Forks said.

Forks and her husband repainted and did some interior renovations to the store they are leasing from the owner, Charlie Fellows, who also owns the building next to J. Forks that is occupied by Bandera Signs.

J. Forks has occupied its building since late last month.  It is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays.  Forks said she will show her inventory on Sundays by appointment.

Fellows renovated the exterior of the buildings after CarQuest relocated, replacing the metal façade with a mix of Hardie Board and stone materials to give the structures a feel that is more suited to Bandera.

He received assistance from the economic development corporation in the form of two, infrastructure grants for up to $10,000 apiece that will help him to replace the air-conditioning systems in both buildings.

Fellows said he was happy to receive the assistance, which will make the buildings look more unique and improve their operations.

The EDC has allocated several grants and other forms of assistance to businesses who are building or upgrading their properties, largely along Main Street.  It’s valuable assistance that will help make Bandera “look a lot better,” Fellows said.

“It’s good for the town,” he said.

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