The Shoe Bar at Pieces is changing hands, but those hands are very familiar with the business. 29 year-old Becki Hicks, granddaughter of original owner Kaye Simmons, takes over as of today. Is she ready? “Absolutely, absolutely – absolutely,” Simmons says for emphasis. “I hope people will be as good to her and supportive of her as they have me over the last nearly 20 years.”
Hicks has been a part of the business since it was Designer Shoe Palace on Lakeland Drive when it began in 1993. “I was ten years old and would come in from school to the store,” Hicks says. “ I had to do my homework first but then I could interact with customers.” Two years later, she asked her grandmother for an official name tag. It would seem this is the business Hicks was always meant to be involved in? “Yes,” she tells us. “I was born ready. I am Kaye’s mold.”
Clients shouldn’t expect much to change. Hicks says the merchandise they carry will likely be geared even more towards her age group. “I will probably have a fresher take on the younger generation,” Hicks explains. You’ll still find Mississippi exclusives like Be Be, L.A.M.B., Penny Hearts Kenny and styles of Jeffrey Campbell exclusive to Shoe Bar. Hicks also says she will scale back inventory somewhat to help keep a lower overhead.
Those we talked to on Monday say they love The Shoe Bar, not only for the unique merchandise, but mainly for the people. “They have become my family,” says Flora Anthony, a part-time employee since day one. “Kaye and (her husband) Conrad are my godparents. They treat me like I am theirs.” Katie Aiken, a customer for 15 years, says Hicks has become her best friend. And Sonya Anderson, a part-time employee and a self professed shoe addict, started working with Shoe Bar since the beginning. “I have learned so much from Kaye and the people here,” she says. “It’s my style.”
Simmons gets emotional when explaining what The Shoe Bar has meant to her. “Retail is the only thing I love,” she says. “It’s my hobby and my job; it’s my life. It’s been a tough decision, but I know it’s right.” After 45 years in the business, Simmons says today’s market needs a different set of eyes. “It takes youth and passion to hang in there, to kick butt and to be gung ho. Becki has youth and passion. She understands how to think totally outside the box.”
Hicks believes 2013 is her time. “I turn 30, I will have been with Reece (her husband) for 10 years and the store turns 20,” she explains. “What better time could there be?”
Hicks says some may call 13 an omen, but not her. “I think it’s my lucky number.”
In January, The Shoe Bar at Pieces at 425 Mitchell Avenue will be closed Mondays and open Tuesday-Saturday, 11am-6pm. February hours are subject to change. And don’t worry that you’ll miss seeing Kaye; she will still be a regular part of the day-to-day operation of the store.