In celebration of the 30th anniversary of its opening, Mobile-based Shoe Station has launched 30 days of promotions to commemorate the history of the successful locally owned corporation that has become one of the area’s leading businesses.

Furthermore, three stores are slated to open or expand in 2015 reflecting the company’s intention of not slowing down a bit. A 13,000-square-foot store is set to open in Foley next spring, followed by doubling up on the size of their Eastern Shore Shopping Center spot to 24,000-square-feet. A 14,000-square-foot site wraps up construction for the year in the fall, breaking new ground in Madison, Mississippi.

“We’ve grown slowly and steadily over the past 30 years, basically adding a store about every other year,” owner and president Terry Barkin said.

Currently with 18 stores in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi and Louisiana – and more than 500 employees – the company carries more than 100 name brands of foot wear.

“My father opened the first store determined to provide his customers with the best quality shoes at the most affordable prices,” son Brent Barkin, vice-president of marketing said. “That has never changed.”

After working for the Rich’s Department store chain in Atlanta for 22 years as senior vice-president of merchandising, overseeing six divisions, Terry Barkin took a gamble in 1984 by launching Shoe Station in a former tire and battery shop in Mobile. The initial reason for a taking such a leap of faith to start up a new business in a new town with no family connections (Barkin is a native of Winter Park, Florida) was simple – job prospects.

“My career had peaked. Rich’s had been bought out by Federated Department stores five years prior to my leaving. I was last of the old upper management regime that hadn’t been replaced. It was time to move on and I thought, ‘Why not become an entrepreneur?’”

Using knowledge he’d acquired as a veteran in the industry, combined with sound business principles – low overhead, conservative growth, solid financing, no debt, savvy inventory negotiations – Shoe Station’s business model became a resounding success and far exceeded Barkin’s initial expectations.

“Of the first five stores, four were tremendous successes that really made the chain. For example, on the day we opened the fourth store (Baton Rouge) they were calling Mobile for additional inventory. You’d think that they’d never seen a shoe store over there before,” Barkin said. “It was far beyond my modest goals. I never had the dream of managing 500 employees, bringing in staffs of people and running an 18 store operation.”

Famous for large, self service, open-shelf stores, the retailer stocks a wide selection of styles and sizes, including athletic wear, for men, women and children. With some stores as long as football fields and nearly half as wide, Shoe Station also offers accessories such as handbags, belts, wallets, socks, and T-shirts.

The most successful producer of the chain is the spot in west Mobile, according to Brent Barkin.

“In West Mobile, we had plenty of time to design the store as we thought it would better serve the customers. We have a generous front to the store, with plenty of table room for accessories. Our handbag section is the largest in the company. High ceilings and dome lighting allow for a more open feel.”

When asked about advice he’d give to budding entrepreneurs today, Terry Barkin offered up several nuggets.

“Three things you need to have before going into business for yourself today. First is extensive knowledge about the product or service you are providing. Second is funding. You have to have not only the availability of initial capital when starting, but also backup funds for down the road. Finally, invest in a solid marketing plan. We’ve always out-promoted our competition on a regular basis,” he said.

Part of the anniversary celebration is a “Win Free Shoes for Life” giveaway that awards selected customers almost $50,000 in cash prizes and shoes. Along with the grand prizewinner – who chooses to receive either $20,000 worth of shoes or a $10,000 cash prize – $1,000 gift cards are awarded to customers at each of their 18 stores. Customers have until Sept. 30 to register at any store for the giveaway.

Not ignoring social media, Shoe Station also has a Facebook contest currently set up awarding one $100 gift card per day during September to a daily winner.

“Shoe Station has, for 30 years, been the area’s regional chain. We conduct this promotion to give back to our customers who have supported us over the years – many of them since 1984. This drawing allows anyone in any of our markets the chance to win,” Brent Barkin said.

For more information about anniversary celebration activities, contact Brent Barkin at [email protected]

Commercial Real Estate Moves

The Love’s Travel Stops & Country Store chain recently purchased the former Express Truck Wash and Fuel for $1.76 million that sits on the 5.5 acres of property at the corner of Highway 45 and I-65 in Prichard. Plans are to demolish the current building and construct a new facility by fall of 2015. Robert Cook, real estate broker with Vallas Realty handled the transaction.

Sources familiar with the development said that the new construction could be a major sales tax generator for the city of Prichard and robust resurgence of commercial growth centered on the heavily trafficked interstate exit area could be seen in the near future due to the acquisition. Oklahoma-based Love’s has 300 locations in 39 states nationwide. Closest stores in the franchise outside of Mobile are seen in Foley and Evergreen.

A 1,670-square-foot office space in Daphne at Lake Forest Business Plaza on Highway 98 was leased to Coastal Therapeutics. Grand opening of the medical practice is planned for late October. Robert Cook with Vallas Realty handled the transaction.

Burton Clark with Cummings & Associates was the company that sold the 14-acre parcel located on University Boulevard just south of Overlook Road for $1.6 million to the new Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market currently under development. J.L. O’Brien & Associates worked for the mega retailer. Expectations are for doors to open by spring of 2015.

Vallas Realty is concurrently offering four outparcel spaces adjacent to the incoming Wal-Mart for smaller retailers. Sizes range from 1.41 to 1.64 acres at a cost of $12 per square foot.