By Jennie L. Ilustre
Virginia Assistant Secretary of Commerce Jimmy Rhee describes Kim Maloney, president and CEO of Williamsburg Pottery Factory as a “a natural leader who has the ability to be laser-focused on her vision – one who clearly knows what she wants and follows her plan to the teeth.”
He added in an email interview: “She’s consistent with her expectations from her customers and employees, efficient in how she approaches operational issues, and competitive in the sense that she is determined to bring out the best in everyone.”
Kim’s sister, Shin Murphy, who is the Pottery’ Human Resources Manager, recalled in a phone interview from Williamsburg: “When we were kids, she already showed great leadership, she always wanted to be the boss but in a nice way, leading the others in our games because she knew a lot about them.”
“And if she lost in the game, watch out!” she added, laughing. “She will try to win next time–she has always been very competitive.”
Meet Kim Maloney, who truly personifies the meaning of entrepreneur, French for “risk-taker.” She was the driving force behind a $20-million dollar, two-year modernization project. The state-of-the-art new look and new system was unveiled in April last year, attended by top Virginia officials and Korean dignitaries, during Jimmy’s 100th birthday anniversary.
“My husband was a retail visionary, as well as an innovative entrepreneur. I work hard every day to continue his legacy and instill his values of hard work and commitment in a new generation of employees,” she said in an email interview while on an overseas business trip.
The original company’s name is Pottery. But over the years and under Kim’s leadership, it has expanded into a global business empire, offering diverse products for all ages, as well as providing employment for thousands of Americans.
The Pottery is also a nice spot for spending time with family and friends after shopping. According to Next Door Neighbors newspaper, the place has a food area open 12 hours daily, where customers can linger after dinner. There’s also a stage to showcase performances.
When her husband. Jimmy Maloney, the legendary Pottery founder, passed away in 2005, Kim dedicated herself to the mission of building on his legacy.
A University of Texas Business Administration graduate, she knew a lot about it, having started as a part-time worker before a fateful meeting with Jimmy, and then becoming his wife and partner.
In the mid-1990s, she and Jimmy worked together to adjust the half-century old business model, factoring globalization and the rise of “big box” store retailer chains.
Kim has taken the business into a new level with her keen eye for design, and her wealth of experience in the areas of home décor, floral design, gardening and food preparation. Today, the Pottery is a diversified business that includes manufacturing, import, wholesale and retail.
“I am committed to providing all of our customers with high-quality products at very competitive prices,” Kim stressed. She also places a high premium on providing the best customer service. She considers her customers as neighbors and part of the company’s family.
Like her late husband, she can rarely be found in her office. One recent customer said in a phone conversation, “I had bought some wonderful stuff and I was talking with this nice lady on the sales floor, and boy, was I surprised when I learned she was the owner!”
Kim has been recognized for her achievements. She was the recipient of the Best business award from Asian American Chamber of Commerce in 2011; Best Female Business Owner from Commonwealth of Virginia in 2011; and the President’s Award for Great Achievement issued by the Korean Government in 2012.
Kim is not too busy for other things, though. She enjoys playing golf and traveling, and she always finds time for participating in church activities.
In Kim’s first years at the helm, the Pottery was further renovated with the goal of transforming it, offering something special for everyone, as the 21st Century “Marketplace for All.”
Her company’s website describes the bold undertaking. A state-of-the-art IBM Point of Sale system was installed to ensure the accurate tracking of sales and inventory.
The manufacturing division was reorganized with a focus on consumer direct marketing. Artificial flower arrangements, picture framing and our world-famous, handmade Salt Glaze Pottery were the areas of major manufacturing concentration.
The retail operation took advantage of the opening import markets and the availability of inexpensive, yet high-quality home and house wares to boost the growth of the retail operation.
The result was remarkable. In a phone interview, Sanford Wanner, former County Administrator for James City County and currently a Special Advisor for the Williamsburg Pottery, pointed out: “Kim is creative, highly-energetic and a risk-taker. In a down economy, she invested in excess of $20 million, making the company well-positioned in an economic resurgence. We’re talking new buildings, new fixtures, new inventory and computer systems, you name it. In some instances, the transformation was like night and day.”
Civic Work, Philanthropy
“Kim is also well-respected in the community,” Wanner added. Kim is actively involved in civic activities, and was recently re-appointed by Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell to serve another term on the Fort Monroe Authority Board of Directors.
She is also an active member of the Colonial Heritage Foundation Board of Directors, the Korean Peninsula Association and the Greater Williamsburg Chamber and Tourism Alliance.
The Maloney family and the Pottery have always been strong supporters of the community and the region. Kim established the James Maloney Foundation in 2005, which provides funding to philanthropic and educational initiatives.
The Maloney Foundation is funded entirely by the Williamsburg Pottery, which annually contributes one percent of its gross sales.
The Pottery gives back to the community and to its customers. It offers a daily discount of 10% to shoppers 55 and older, and to active and retired military members.
Truly, the Pottery is a company with a heart, which is another secret of its success. This quality starts from the top. Remarked Virginia Assistant Secretary of Commerce Rhee: “Kim is an honest person who truly believes in and practices what Benjamin Franklin once said: ‘Tricks and treachery are the practice of fools that don’t have brains enough to be honest.’ Kim is virtuous and fair but very decisive in her all actions. She leads by example.”
Who are the people who continue to inspire Kim? She named her late husband, the late British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and her parents Hyon and Chu Kim (who passed away last year).
Kim was born in Seoul, Korea and came to America in 1979. She’s the oldest in the family. She has four siblings–two sisters and a brother. She has a son, Ronald Kleveland, and two granddaughters, Shelby and Seleen Kleveland.
He offered hand-crafted pottery made in the 17th-18th-century style that he had learned as an apprentice at the Jamestown Colony Pottery. Jimmy named his new business venture the “Williamsburg Pottery”.
What started as a simple roadside pottery stand continued to grow over the years. Dinnerware and glassware were early product additions, followed by many more kinds of merchandise.
By the early 1980s, the business known regionally as “The Pottery,” was a sprawling, 200-acre shopping mecca that offered more than 80,000 different items.
Long before there were outlet stores and outlet malls, Jimmy was going directly to manufacturers to obtain “factory pricing,” sometimes on seconds and irregulars, but increasingly on first-quality goods.
He created an outlet business years before today’s outlet malls were built, and he was a pioneer in traveling the world to find unique merchandise at great prices.
People couldn’t wait to get their hands on all of the bargains and would leave the Pottery on a daily basis with shopping carts overflowing with treasures from all over the world.
The new Williamsburg Pottery renovation, which resembles a Dutch-inspired European Marketplace, covers 19 acres and includes three separate buildings that encompass nearly 160,000 sq. ft. of retail and restaurant space as well as over 10,000 sq. ft. of office space.
The buildings feature a unique silhouette that truly resembles a European market town. Among the features: A beautiful clock tower, outdoor and indoor plant area, outdoor courtyard plaza with a stage for performances and a flagship Au Bon Pain restaurant.