Sipping sweet tea and long conversations on Sunday afternoons are some of April Robinson’s most cherished childhood memories. So, when the former stay-at-home mom was thinking of what to name her jewelry business in September of 2017, she could think of no better name than “Sweet Tea and Sisters”.
To April, Sweet Tea and Sisters is more than a boutique that offers charms and handmade jewelry. It’s a way to pass on her heritage and to create a bridge between older generations and the new.
A Southern belle with sparkling blue eyes, April comes from a large family where women tend to outnumber the men — and outlive them, too. Robinson is her maiden name and members on both her father’s side and her on mother's (Bennett) have lived in Gwinnett for as long as anyone can remember. April’s children are the fifth generation to graduate from Buford High School as well as the fifth generation to attend Buford Methodist Church.
“We used to all go to my great-grandparents house across the street from the church on Sundays after church and stay until it was time to go back to church on Sunday nights. And there are so many women in my family . . . and we’d just sit and talk for hours. It was a safe space where you could say anything. I don’t think families are like that anymore — people move around for work and don’t all stay in the same place,” April said.
Many of her charms are inspired by the matriarchs in her family. The idea for the Praying Hands Charm, for instance, was taken from a painting she saw in her great-grandmother’s house. She thanks her family’s “good genes” for having a relationship with all four of her great-grandmothers, and with her great-aunt who recently celebrated her 100th birthday.
“My mom is probably my main role model,” April said, gratifying her mother, Angela Bennett Robinson, who raised her, like her mother before hers, in the church. April also considers her late grandmother Betty Wages Robinson, who sang in the church choir, a big inspiration behind her traditional church hymn charms, while her grand-mother Helen Smith Bennett, who was always trying new things and careers,” gave [her] the confidence to start something new”.
Some of April’s designs are derived from well-known hymns like the “Praising my Savior all the Day Long,” set that comes with three necklaces. Others are born from April’s own creativity. Set in colors of red white and blue, her “Just Dandy” charm is a personal analogy be-tween dandelions and faith.
“Dandelions are like weeds. You can cut them down, but they just keep growing up everywhere and spreading seeds. You can’t stop them from growing, and that’s how a strong faith is,” April explained.
For the charms, April sketches the designs and then sends them to an established manufacturing company in Oregon. But she makes the earrings and some of the necklaces by hand. She made jewelry off and on through-out the years but didn’t get serious until recently when she decided to launch a business on Esty.com. When the sales picked up, she acquired a space in West Main Trade, a rustic market and café off Main St. in historic downtown Buford.
Eventually, she’d like to expand, marketing her products in sit down restaurants and other appropriate venues. The ultimate goal is to set up shop in her very own brick and mortar so she can have greater capacity to share her charms and faith in the town she knows like the back of her hand.
As a former stay-at-home mom, April is new to entrepreneurship, and she’s enjoying the ride. As for her daughter who graduated from the University of North Georgia, April hopes that she, too, will take the time to nurture her future young ones with the values passed down.
“All the women in my family worked hard. My great-grandmother used to ride a bus all the way to Atlanta. She worked in the fabric department of Riches, “April said. “But mine was a stay at home mom, so I wanted to do that, too. And I’ll tell you, there’s nothing easy about that.”
Angela Bennett Robinson proudly supports her daughter’s endeavor. “At first I thought it was just a hobby,” she said. “But then she got out there, and people were buying it up. She’s so creative with it.”
April hopes her charms will bring comfort to those who wear them. On Etsy, she receives messages from happy customers, such as the woman who wore a charm for her husband’s funeral service. April also hopes to remind her customers of a time when families met together every Sunday and when the sweet tea never quit coming.
“We’d come in from playing outside, and it seemed like there were gallons of sweet tea. Nobody ever said, ‘There’s no more sweet tea!”