WARNER ROBINS -- Theres a saying Sonny Crumpton has been repeating for a long time: Do your feet a little good each day and you save your feet. Do your feet a little bad each day and you hurt them and the rest of you, too.
Crumpton knows feet and he knows shoes. Doing your feet a little good each day means putting them in shoes that really fit.
Crumpton and his wife, Ginny, have been selling shoes in Warner Robins for 59 years. Crumptons Shoes first began as part of another business on Commercial Circle in 1953. Soon after, Crumpton opened his own shop on Watson Boulevard just two blocks west of the circle.
By the early 1960s, Crumpton was on the move again with a growing Warner Robins and moved still further west on Watson to the newly built Stantom Plaza. Still in Stantom Plaza today, the Crumptons are open Thursdays through Saturdays trying to sell their stock down in order to sell the business.
Its true about your feet, Crumpton said. People just dont realize how important it is to get a good fitting pair of shoes. If you treat your feet right and get a pair of shoes that really fit, then youre feet are going to be happy and youre going to be happy. Put them in a bad-fitting pair of shoes and youre going to have all kinds of problems you could have avoided.
Crumpton, 87, said he hasnt really been selling shoes all these years. He said hes been fitting customers in good shoes, and a good-fitting shoe sells itself.
He does know what hes doing, Ginny said. I think hes still the only one in the area that really knows as much as he does about feet and how to fit a pair of shoes. He knows the business, too. Im not bragging on him -- its the truth.
Crumpton said he got into the shoe business by accident. Originally from Laurens County, Crumpton said he was living in Macon in the mid-1940s working a job at Cochran Field. He said he needed extra Christmas money and happened into the Macon Shoe Company in the old Dempsey Hotel. They needed part-time help so he asked for the job.
Thats how I fell in love with fitting shoes, he said. Those men knew what they were doing. They had an orthopedic store that really paid attention to fit and to serving customers. I learned a lot.
Crumpton learned even more by attending special classes for shoe salesmen at the Pennsylvania School of Podiatry. He said understanding how the foot works, its parts and problems made all the difference in his attitude toward fitting versus selling shoes.
He made sure his staff understood the concept as well.
For years, as well as fitting the public in fashionable shoes, Crumpton helped people with problem feet find comfortable shoes and when necessary, find just what the doctor ordered.
One was longtime resident and former Warner Robins Mayor Henrietta McIntyre.
I dont know what we would have done without Sonny and his shoe store, she said. My son wore corrective shoes and we depended on him to get us what we needed and make sure they were right. But me, I loved his fashionable shoes. He used to call me when he got in a new shipment and Id go have a look. We didnt have to go to Macon because we had Crumptons. I still have Crumpton shoes in my closet. My high-heel-wearing-days are over, but I like to take them out for a look now and then. Beautiful, beautiful shoes.
Crumpton said he didnt know how many pair of baby shoes hes sold through the years but said he still has people coming in showing him baby shoes--some bronzed--that their parents bought for them in his store decades ago.
Crumpton was good at the business side of shoes, too.
We started the store in 53 and opened others through the years, he said. At one time, we had eight stores open between here and Perry, Macon, Athens and Columbus. Reducing stock like this has been an unusual experience. This is not a recession were in, but a depression and banks arent lending money. If the good Lord lets us, well be able to sell the shoes down to where somebody can more easily buy the store and use the name. Its the first time Ive had a store going down instead of up.
Crumpton credits some of the stores success to the town where he and Ginny made home and raised their children, Sandra and Mark.
In the early days, and still now, theres an enthusiasm in Warner Robins, he said. When we were all beginning in business back then, nobody really had any money to speak of. We were all getting started and trying to make do the best we could and we tried to help one another and help the city grow. Its one of the friendliest towns weve ever known. It still is friendly with a lot of good people--and a lot of them are right down there at Robins Air Force Base. Theres not a day goes by we shouldnt be thankful for what that base has meant to the community and for the people it has brought here.
The Crumptons are looking forward to retirement. They did retire briefly in the 1990s, but this time they say they mean it.
Our son in Atlanta has a beach place in Florida that we like to go to and well get down there more, Crumpton said. But its kind of tough going out of business. Some people still come to us counting on shoes for their kids and we have people that dont live here that have stopped by to get shoes for years as they travel down the interstate. I hope our customers can find what they need and get good shoes to fit. It pays. After all these years on my feet in the store I can sometimes get ready to climb in bed and not even realize Ive still got my shoes on. A good fitting pair of shoes can make your feet feel just that good.
Contact Michael W. Pannell at firstname.lastname@example.org.