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Tuesday, Sep. 2, 2014

Heart and sole: Local shoe store owner's work is labor of love

Sunday, May 6, 2007

(Photo)
Tracy Cookson purchased D.J.'s Shoes and Things in September 2006.
SIKESTON - After 10 years as a social worker, Tracy Cookson's feet led her down a new career path. Cookson became the owner of D.J.'s Shoes and Things last September.

"I had known the original owner for a while," recalled Cookson, referring to the store's former owner Debbie Hurst. "When I found out she was selling I thought this would be a good investment and fun to do."

Describing her change in careers as a big transition, Cookson said she had to master management and bookkeeping. But, she added, it is still fun and, thanks to the help from Hurst and the staff members, the change is going well.

Over the past several months, the new owner has made some changes to the business, too. The store, located at 937 E. Malone Ave., has new carpet and the interior was repainted.

Working with the same shoe salesmen as the previous owner, Cookson is adding new selections to the already packed shelves. Also the store now carries shoes for children.

"With two little girls of my own, it is hard not to try to find specials for children," admitted Cookson.

In addition to working with 15 different shoe salesmen, the new owner attends shoe shows also. The shows, she explained, enable her to see the latest trends and the upcoming styles she will bring to the store.

"We are an outlet. We get closeouts as well as new shoes," Cookson said. "We are always going to be cheaper than a department store for name brand shoes. You don't have to drive out of town."

Brands available at D.J.'s include Clarks, Madeline, Duckhead, Azale'ia, Carlos Santana, Propets and EZSpirit.

There were some things she didn't change - the original staff is still on hand to greet customers as well as some new employees. Working at D.J.'s are Dena Hastings, Theda Hartzog, Jean Trotter, Sue Worth, Holly Hunter, Rebecca Tinnin along with Cookson's mother, Mary Beth Lee.

While best known for its discount prices, D.J.'s is also a popular place for those who want to special order a shoe style, size or width.

"We really cater to our customers. We want to please them," said Cookson. "From children to older women, we work hard to fit their needs with a wide selection."

Apparently they do. Not only is D.J.'s a favorite stop for many regional shoppers, Cookson said the store also has a large out-of-state following. Many customers make the business a stop while visiting the area from as far away as Texas and Mississippi as well as neighboring states.

"We have some of the most loyal, loyal customers. People like to stock up on shoes here because they are getting such good prices," she said.

Customers also like stocking up on the jewelry and purses kept in stock at D.J.'s. Cookson has added other lines including reading glasses and speciality bags, such as diaper bags and make-up bags.

"We are not just a shoe store. I like to think of this as a gift store," said Cookson, pointing out they have gift certificates available and offer free gift wrapping.

D.J.'s Shoes and Things is now open from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.