by Steve Kaufman
“God puts you where you need to be without you really knowing how you got there,” said the longtime New Albany resident.
Her father, Hansen Yennes – a Palestinian Muslim – operated Carpet Corner, a home furnishings store on Vincennes Street in New Albany. Jennifer was living in Louisville and commuting to Indiana to help out in the store, as she had been doing since high school.
On Sept. 28, 2001, 17 days after the World Trade Center attacks in New York, the family’s store was burned to the ground.
A hate crime? “We never found out,” Jennifer replied. “But my father said, ‘I want to rebuild this business, bigger and better than it was.’ And he needed my help.”
Then 25, Jennifer was completing an MBA at Indiana University Southeast and preparing for a life of exciting world travel.
Funny how life works out. The world travel became missionary trips to Ecuador, her mother Laura’s native land, to teach English.
On one such visit in 2003, she reconnected with a young Ecuadorian accountant named Mauricio Vizhnay. They were married in Ecuador in 2004.
Mauricio got his permanent visa the following year and integrated himself into Jennifer’s American life – “It took him about a minute,” she recalled – including going to work in the family business. Daughter Naimah was born in 2009; her sister Zaina in 2011.
“My father had fixed up a mini-apartment above the store, and we were able to bring the girls to work with us,” said Jennifer. Now they both come to the store every day after attending school at St. Anthony’s in Clarksville.
How does all that family time work out for her? “We get to spend a lot of quality time together,” she says. “My children get to be with their grandparents, I get to be with my mom and dad, and with my husband and our children. Most people can’t say that.”
In charge of marketing, Jennifer brought the business into the 21st century, paring down the product list to strictly flooring materials and creating a web site and multi-media advertising program of online, mobile and print. “Before, all we did was the Yellow Pages.”
Additionally, Jennifer invests her considerable energy back into the community. She’s multi-lingual. Her mother spoke only Spanish to her four children at home from the time they could understand. Jennifer also speaks a little Arabic and some French. She’s most proud of intervening on behalf of 10 Hispanic families when St. Mary’s Catholic Church in New Albany had to close its school. “I took it upon myself to help all these people find new schools,” she said, “and since then, I’ve made myself available to the larger Hispanic community in Floyd and Clark counties. They all have my phone number, and I’m available whenever they need me.
“Truthfully,” she admits, “I get more out of helping them than they get from me.”
At A Glance
602 Vincennes St.
New Albany IN 47150
8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday-Thursday
8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday
9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday
At Carpet Corner, you’ll find a variety of flooring materials – carpets, rugs, tile, wood, vinyl – plus consulting, custom installation and a promise to provide the best products, best service and lowest prices.