The joy of running a family business

Alabama Living Magazine

Joy Sorensen is president of Majestic Caverns, the family-owned business in Childersburg that was formerly known as DeSoto Caverns. As a child, she grew up near the caverns which have been in her family for more than 100 years. Her parents, Allen and Danielle Mathis, opened up the caves to the public in 1975 as a tourist attraction. Today, Joy and her husband, Jared, are the fifth generation to manage the caverns. She attended Taylor University in Indiana where she gained a passion for travel and history. After college, she had her own photography business in Chicago, backpacked in Australia, and upon returning to the states met and married her husband. The pair worked as photographers in New York City before returning to Alabama in 2013 to help manage the caverns. — Lenore Vickrey

Tell us about your early involvement with Majestic Caverns.

Anyone who has grown up in a family business knows that heartaches and successes are shared and hard-work is a team effort. I remember when I was 5, my father had a Native American Festival at the cave and mentioned wanting more booths. So my brother and I came up with a plan and the next day we had booths next to each other, his selling dream-catchers and mine selling seashell ribbon necklaces. For nearly a decade, I continued having my own booth at every festival, and at 7, I also started working several hours a week packaging and mailing marketing materials. When I turned 11, I was so proud to be able to work some of the cave attractions and get to serve our guests in a more personal way. For many years, I also had the pleasure of going on cave convention trips with my family where I developed a deeper love and appreciation for caves as I explored unique caverns and listened to cave experts from around the world. Years later, Jared and I were married and working in NYC when I had a major back injury. We came to Alabama to see some gifted spinal doctors and during our visit Jared heard God call us to work at the caverns. I’ll never forget when I came home from an MRI and he told me he had something big he wanted me to pray about. He then told me that he believed God had spoken to him about moving here and working at the caverns. It brought me to tears because although I had lived in many places, no place felt like home the way the caverns had. We moved to Alabama in 2013 and have loved working in our family business ever since.

Why was the name changed from DeSoto Caverns?

We knew we needed to change the name years ago, as many guests would assume we were located within DeSoto State Park, which is around two hours northeast. It wasn’t until 2018 that the caverns were named as the Most Historic Caverns in the nation by the National Cave Association. When President George Washington heard about the caverns he listed it as the first cave on record in the United States. In searching for the right name, we believed it deserved a title that both honored its history as well as adequately described its unique beauty. As we researched historical documents, we noticed that a consistent description used about the caverns was majestic. As exciting new accolades were given to the cave, including being named one of the top caves to visit in the United States, we felt it was time to rename it. It has always been majestic. Now it’s simply official. 

What’s the most fascinating thing our readers should know about Majestic Caverns?

If people are looking for a family friendly bucket-list cave to visit, this is it! Not only because it’s the Most Historic Caverns in the Nation, but also because it has one of the top rated underground laser light shows on every tour. It features a vast collection of unique formations and contains the largest accumulation of gemstone quality onyx in the U.S. For Alabama foodies, our delicious house-made fudge has been named one of the Top 100 Dishes to Eat in Alabama by the Alabama Tourism Department. Oprah named our park one of the wackiest parks in America because of its many unique attractions. Any hesitant first-time visitors won’t have to squeeze through small spaces, as its massive cathedral room could house a 10-story building and a football field inside. 

How do you spend your spare time?

Jared and I have two daughters that are 2 and 3, so spare time is limited! But, when I am not singing songs or playing house with my girls, I enjoy listening to podcasts, reading, and doing yoga while my daughters climb on me, and eating sushi or Mexican food with Jared. I still carry my love of travel and adventure, so I also enjoy planning our next family trip! To me, there is no better experience than sharing what I love, and I am grateful I get to do that both at work and at home.


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