By Donna Thornton/News Editor
Chester Hicks Jr. says the closing of Hicks Family Shoes – a fixture in Gadsden for 76 years – is bittersweet for his family. However, the family and the store’s staff intend to emphasize the sweet with a massive closing sale and prize give-aways that started Thursday (March 13).
Chester Hicks Sr. and his wife Phyllis opened the store in 1942.
“They started in a small building close to where Life of Alabama is now,” Chester Hicks Jr, M.D., recalled, before relocating to the larger location in the 400 block of Broad Street. “In 1972 the store burned and they had to totally renovate it.”
“They built their business based on hard work and exemplary customer service,” Dr. Hicks said. “They were wonderful people, very active in the community. Hicks Sr. was president of the Chamber of Commerce at one time, and ran for mayor once.
“They specialized in narrow width and wide width shoes,” Dr. Hicks said. “That was sort of their niche in the shoe business.”
That, and the personal service provided in the store make the closing strike a chord with many a resident of Gadsden and beyond.
On Broad Street this week, many people were talking about the closing of the store, and reminiscing about parents who brought them to Hicks, from Collinsville, or Boaz, to have their feet measured by Hicks’ employees and carefully fitted with properly-sized shoes.
Dr. Hicks knows the place the store has played in multiple generations of area families.
“I’ve talked to people who’ve brought their fourth or fifth generation of children there,” he said.
It’s been a generational business for the Hicks family, too. After Chester Hicks Sr. died in 1995, and Phyllis Hicks passed away in 2007, Dr. Hicks and his wife Martha took over the store. In recent years, their daughter Heather Hicks Copeland has managed it. Now Dr. Hicks and his wife have decided it’s time to do something different.
“It’s bittersweet for us,” he said. “It’s sweet in the sense that Mother and Dad were such fine people, with integrity and honor, and service to their community.
And it’s sad in the sense that the store won’t be there for those future generations.
“We’re going to try to go out with dignity and let everyone know how much we appreciate the support they’ve given us,” Dr. Hicks said. “I believe that’s the way Mother and Dad would have wanted.”
“We have new spring merchandise and a lot of shoes that are discounted for the sale,” Dr. Hicks said. “We’re going to make it a lot of fun, very upbeat.
Customers can expect nice prices on best brands, he said, as well as the chance to win some great prizes.
“It’s a kind of reward for the people who’ve shopped with us over the years,” Dr. Hicks said.
Downtown Gadsden Executive Director Kay Moore said she’s knows it was a “heart-wrenching” decision for the family to close the store, and it’s a sad thing for the downtown business community.
“It hurts every time you lose somebody who’s been around that long,” Moore said. She said she will be working with Dr. Hicks to fill that retail space when the store closes.