Karen Baty Rice treats customers like friends at Chestnut Hall
Author: Staff
Publisher: Memphis Business Journal

Rice has been a fixture in Memphis interior design for more than 30 years. She and her brother, Michael Baty, opened Chestnut Hall in 1989, making her colorful, traditional style available to the Mid-South. She earned her bachelor of arts and master of arts degrees from the University of Memphis and studied at the University of Dijon, France. In addition to overseeing the majority of inventory purchasing and maintaining relationships with manufacturers throughout the country, Rice continues to design for long-time customers. She is a mother of twins, loves terriers and makes the best pimento cheese in town.

First job: I worked in customer service for the W.T. Grant Co. while attending college.

Education: I studied at the University of Dijon, France, and received my bachelor of arts and master of arts degrees from the University of Memphis.

Residence: Germantown.

Business philosophy: We want our customers to enjoy their shopping experience at Chestnut Hall. Our customers are also our friends, and we truly feel that when they walk through our doors, they have entered our home. We are glad to see them, and we feel that they, in turn, are happy to be in our store.

Best way to keep competitive edge: Listen to your customers, respect your customers and above all else, appreciate your customers.

Guiding principle: Treat others as you would like to be treated.

Yardstick of success: At the end of the day, I like what I do, and I am pleased with the path I have chosen.

Goal yet to be achieved: I would like for Chestnut Hall to have not only a regional presence, but also a national presence.

Judgment calls

Best business decision: Making the decision to carry quality furniture while still providing value for our customers

Worst business decision: Embracing technology at a slower pace

Toughest business decision: Severing ties with long-term vendors when their corporate focus no longer aligned with ours

Biggest missed opportunity: Not fully participating in e-commerce

Mentor: Joseph Bergmann, former senior vice president of Goldsmith’s department store

Word that best describes you: Self-reliant

True confessions

Like best about job: Bringing happiness to our clients with the perfect purchase or the realization of a beautiful room

Like least about job: When a much-needed fabric or item is discontinued

Pet peeve: Laziness

Most important lesson learned: Believe in yourself and follow your passions

Person most interested in meeting: Fred Smith

Most respected competitor: Lynda Shea Designs

Three greatest passions: My family, my work and my home

First choice for a new career: I would love to study law


Favorite quote: “Ah, a man’s reach must exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for.” — Robert Browning

Most influential book: I have been influenced by such a wide body of literature that I can’t name just one work. I especially enjoy the poetry of Robert Frost, Dylan Thomas and Edgar Allan Poe, as well as the works of regional authors such as William Faulkner, Eudora Welty and Willie Morris.

Favorite cause: Finding forever homes for abandoned animals

Favorite status symbol: I don’t have one

Favorite movie: “Out of Africa”

Favorite restaurant: River Oaks

Favorite vacation spot: Beaulieu-sur-Mer, France

What’s on your iPod: “Someone Like You” by Adele

Favorite way to spend free time: I enjoy reading, cooking, visiting museums and, of course, decorating!

Automobile: Mini Cooper Sport