Collierville Chamber’s Women’s Leadership Network Gets a Treat

Mary Jean Smith of the Silver Caboose and Banyan Realty Talks History and Commitment

DREAMBOAT 901-641-6800

Photos by Dreamboat Photography

The Women’s Leadership Network met Thursday, June 20, at the Ridgeway Country Club for an informative and inspiring talk from one of the town’s favorite restauranteurs and entrepreneurs, Mary Jean Smith, owner and founder of favorite downtown dining spot, The Silver Caboose, and the successful real estate firm, Banyan Realty.

Pansy Hall of Patriot Bank introduced the guest speaker, noting her as “legendary.” Hall also commented on the joy that she and Alexis Heinz of the bank have experienced as the bank has been the sole sponsor of the Women’s Leadership Network for the past two years.

Smith began her presentation by questioning the use of the term “legendary” when it came to her. She also added that she hoped that her southern drawl would not cause problems, but “that’s just the way I talk.”  She introduced her granddaughter who had recently graduated from the University of Tennessee and was in attendance to help with the AV side of things.

The talk centered around three main topics: Smith’s own life, the value of life in Collierville, and Smith’s two primary businesses.

Smith described herself as a Colliervillian for life, noting the generations of family that came before her and detailing their many achievements and businesses that found a home on the Town Square. Using historic photos of family businesses, Smith’s pride in her family’s many achievements was obvious. On a more personal level, she showed a photo of herself as a young girl crossing the street on the way to school. And as she began to a examine more current times, she stressed with happiness that “Collierville is still a little town.”

As a matter of record, Smith noted the several awards she has received over the years, including the Town’s 2015 Person of the Year, and a Commendation from the Mayor in recognition of her support for the Town, particularly in the areas of culture and the arts. She described the beauty and magnitude of “Symphony in the Rose Garden” that she and her husband had held for many years. Describing her family as “very large and traditional,” Smith noted that all ten of her children were instilled with traditional family values, adding with a smile, “My children knew they had to eat what we put on the table.”

Turning to her own career path, she remembered taking a job at the famed Knickerbocker Restaurant in Memphis when her youngest child entered school. From there, it was not long before she began her real estate career by founding Banyan Real Estate in 1986. She also noted how it was a natural choice for her, as she always had a love of historic architecture, a knowledge of rural land values, and a penchant for architectural studies.

Her next entrepreneurial step would be the opening of The Silver Caboose Restaurant, now a fixture on the Historic Downtown Square. Taking advantage of available property on the Square in 1996, and later adding to the space when the adjoining building became available, Smith is proud of both the historic nature of the building and the dedication and hard work she and her staff put into the restaurant every day.  She mentioned the use of trains and train motifs in the restaurant as an homage to the importance that the railroad has played in Collierville history.

Her final remarks contained words of advice for any business owner: “Never leave it on autopilot,” she cautioned, reminding the audience of the importance of staying always engaged with the business. Smith also encouraged the audience to give back to the community.

“It’s been a great ride,” she concluded. While many have suggested Smith might want to retire, she has countered their well-meaning advice with, “I’m not going to sit at home and dust.” Nope, not Mary Jean Smith.