published Wednesday, May 21st, 2014

Small Biz: French's Shoes opens two stores in Rhea County

Ivan Lopez, left, the special events coordinator for French's Shoes & Boots mobile store, helps owner Rodney French set up the display, at a fishing tournament on Chickamauga Lake.  French opened two store locations in Rhea County, TN,  at 317 Front Street in Spring City and 4121 Rhea County Highway in Dayton, TN.
Ivan Lopez, left, the special events coordinator for French's Shoes & Boots mobile store, helps owner Rodney French set up the display, at a fishing tournament on Chickamauga Lake. French opened two store locations in Rhea County, TN, at 317 Front Street in Spring City and 4121 Rhea County Highway in Dayton, TN.
Photo: Kimberly McMillian

• Name: French's Shoes & Boots

• Locations: 317 Front St., Suite B in Spring City, Tenn., and 4121 Rhea County Highway, Suite 102 in Dayton, Tenn.

• Products: Name brand sandals, tennis shoes, boots, Western and outdoor clothing, belts, buckles and wallets

• Owner: Rodney French, 51

• Inspiration: Rodney French's dad, Tommy, worked at the former Walker's Shoes on Main Street in Crossville, Tenn. Tommy renamed the store in 1972, where his son Rodney worked as a shoeshine boy until he took over in 1992. Today, the full-service business has 11 Tennessee stores, French said, including Pigeon Forge and Nashville. Its 90 employees throughout the state include his daughter as a merchandiser and his son as vice president of operations.

"It was just a natural progression," he said, to continue the family's shoe retail legacy.

• Prices: Up to $50 for refurbished shoes; $100 to $180 average for new adult boots; $40 to $90 for children's boots

• Target market: All ages, but outdoorsmen and industrial workers are the store's marketed audience, said French. Upcoming fishing tournaments and events will showcase the store's accessibility to its customers, via its mobile store, which French strives to use for servicing local industries, he said.

• Biggest reward: French, an avid outdoorsman, said that living closer to the lake, while "creating a job for our neighbors" has its own daily reward.

• Five-year goal: "[I want] to keep doing what we're doing, and make our business stronger," French said.

Compiled by Rhea County correspondent Kimberly McMillian, who may be contacted at kdj424@bellsouth.net.

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