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Paradise Found

Brighton Pittsford Post
Written by Arlene Hisiger
Many of us have visions of paradise.  My vision has a first name.

I first met Jennifer Paradise (yes, that’s her real name), while standing on the customer side of a TJ Maxx jewelry counter.  Her customer service skills, an amalgam of humor, persuasion and product knowledge fascinated me.  Infinitely curious to learn more about her I asked if she would consent to an interview.

 I hoped to unearth the essence of this intriguing woman, who appears to be in the upper realm of her seventh decade yet coyly refuses to reveal her exact age, --“when my son says he’s 50, I guess I’ve got to stop telling everyone I’m 49!”-- is all she’ll allow.

Ms. Paradise is not one to take names lightly.  For one thing, when her granddaughter, Jennifer, was born she took an instant liking to that name and legally changed her own name to Jennifer.  “I like to be called Jennifer,” she says, “not Jen.”  “After all,” she adds, “I paid for every last letter, so that’s what I want people to call me.”  Clearly, there’s no shrinking violet in this Paradise.  As she is fond of saying, “people like me because I’m frank.  I wasn’t born Frank (her maiden name) for nothing!”  Ah …the name thing!

Trading her hometown of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, for Rochester, New York, her parents’ hometown, Paradise moved in with her grandmother.  Her suitcase had barely touched the floor of her grandmother’s home when she “went right downtown to the National Clothing Store on Main and Stone.”  Advised by a store manager that there were no openings, Paradise, with characteristic quick wit, noticed the woman’s name tag and suggested a familial connection.  Miraculously, a position materialized; a nascent career beckoned.  

Since then, Paradise’s stellar selling techniques have been on display in a variety of well-known venues: The National, McCurdy’s, Projansky Furs, B. Forman and her very own consignment store, “Jennifer’s Place.”  Once, while working in the coat department at McCurdy’s, she cheerfully asked a customer: “What d’ya have in mind – how about a ‘car coat’ (a reference to a three-quarter length coat)?”   “Oh no,” the customer responded, “I take the bus.”  Without missing a beat, Paradise countered: “Okay, let me show you our line of bus coats!”

Her life can best be characterized as counter-convention.  Whether modeling a swimsuit at forty, riding a moped to work, or striking out on her own --well before the dawn of feminism – after her first marriage had dissolved, Paradise has steadfastly endeavored to live by a personal creed of faith in God and her own good sense.

“My life has not been dull,” she says, reflecting on her experience.  “It’s not that I’ve done anything big,” she adds, extending her arms well above her petite frame to better make her point, “but to have as much happiness from my job as I do, now that’s something big!”  For her, success has not been measured so much in monetary compensation as in the admiration of those she has had the pleasure of serving. 

Nowadays, you can watch Paradise in action as she stands at the ready behind the jewelry counter at TJMaxx in Pittsford.  You’ll easily spot her – she’s the only true gem on display.

Contact Arlene at 585-442-6108 or wordtailor@aol.com
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