Dixie Decorations mentors students

Susan Fulmer (left) and Alesha Dawson work together to create top-notch Christmas decorations. (Photo reporter/Christine Boatwright)

By CHRISTINE BOATWRIGHT / Staff Writer

 MONTEVALLO – Dixie Decorations furnishes cities with Christmas decorations and gives University of Montevallo students the opportunity to gain new workplace experiences.

Susan Fulmer, Montevallo’s new Chamber chairperson, and her husband, Jerry, took over Dixie Decorations from her father, Don Lovelady, who founded the company in 1975.

“Dad was a main-street merchant in the ’70s,” Fulmer said. “He had a hardware business in the building where the Subway is now. He saw Christmas decorations that needed repair, and began to fix the decorations for the city of Montevallo.”

The months leading to Christmas are the busiest for Dixie Decorations.

“It’s like farming,” Fulmer said. “We work all year on the Christmas part for it to come to fruition.”

As the company grew, Susan began to hire University of Montevallo students to work in the office and in the manufacturing portion of the business. With the close location, students could walk or bike to work, thereby saving transportation expenses, Fulmer said.

Alesha Dawson, a December graduate of the university, began working with Fulmer while she was still in school.

“I have an English degree, and at Dixie, I have been able to use my abilities as a writer, but I also work in the warehouse in manufacturing,” Dawson said. “It’s making me a more well-rounded individual.”

Fulmer saw the practicality of hiring local students in order to run the company.

“It’s been interesting plugging them in to the company,” she said. “With the students being so close, I could handle their schedules. They need to work at least 2 hours a day.”

Dawson plans to attend the University of Alabama for graduate school, but is working for Fulmer in the meantime.

“Working here is helping me with any situation in the future. I’ve benefitted in a lot of different areas,” Dawson said. “It’s definitely helping prepare me for grad school.”

As a family business through and through, Fulmer takes in the students to encourage their strengths.

“Because it’s a small business, we have the opportunity to plug people in where their talents are, whether it’s a traditional or student employee,” Fulmer said. “We need people who can do a lot of different things.

“Some of the college students want to work at the mall because they think it’s more glamorous,” Fulmer said. “To work there, though, you have to have special clothes and drive all the way to the Galleria. They’re not paid any more than I pay them here.”

Fulmer used to advertise her employment opportunities through the university directly, but she now relies on word of mouth.

“I had the baseball coach come and tell me that he had a student who needed a job. That led to a string of four or five other students working for us,” Fulmer said.

“The fact that Dixie Decorations is a family-owned business allows the students and other employees that work here to feel right at home,” Dawson said.