SYCAMORE – Kathy Jones loves the downtown Sycamore shopping scene. Even though she has opened a store outside of it, she still encourages people to go downtown.
“I believe the downtown Sycamore is one of the nicest I’ve ever been in,” Jones said. “But I’m watching the downtown really struggle, mostly because the strip malls make it convenient for one-stop shopping. People ... need to support the downtown.”
Jones’ new shoe store, a Red Wing dealership, recently opened at 2692 DeKalb Ave., next to Hy-Vee. She described Red Wing as being an extension of her other shoe store, Stomp Shoes, located in downtown Sycamore at 307 W. State St.
Her love for the downtown section of Sycamore led to her becoming a franchise owner of the Red Wing brand.
“It was either Red Wing corporate put a corporate store here, which would virtually destroy my business downtown and maybe forcing me into early retirement,” Jones said. “Or we open it up. We can add extra services to the industries that believe in us.”
Jones added that she has seen customers in Stomp Shoes who were previously in her Red Wing store, looking for shoes they haven’t found elsewhere.
Although there are similarities in the appearance of their logos, there is no connection between Red Wing shoes and the Detroit Red Wings. Jones described Red Wing shoes as being “the best work boot out there on the market today.”
“Everybody wore Red Wing. Everybody wanted Red Wing,” Jones said about her previous retail experience in Missouri in the 1980s. “But you could only get it from specific people who had them. ... You didn’t find them in box stores.”
Jones said the store will celebrate its grand opening at a ribbon-cutting ceremony with the Sycamore Chamber of Commerce on Nov. 6. That will kick off a week-long series of events at the store, which will include contest drawings and free food, Jones said.
Jones acknowledged that she cannot directly compete with big retailers such as Walmart and Target, but the customer service she offers sets them apart. She said her employees will work however long with a customer in order to make sure their shoes fit properly.
Right now, she is using some of the Stomp Shoes staff to work at Red Wing because of how good her staff is. Jones said she uses college students to fill her part-time positions, but she keeps track of their grades while they’re working for her.
“If I find out about it from anybody, I cut back your hours until your grades are up because that is your most important job,” Jones said.