Shoe store’s closing brings era to end

Sun News correspondentNovember 7, 2012 

WARNER ROBINS -- There’s 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. Crumpton’s 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.

“It’s true about your feet,” Crumpton said. “People just don’t 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 you’re feet are going to be happy and you’re going to be happy. Put them in a bad-fitting pair of shoes and you’re going to have all kinds of problems you could have avoided.”

Crumpton, 87, said he hasn’t really been selling shoes all these years. He said he’s been fitting customers in good shoes, and a good-fitting shoe sells itself.

“He does know what he’s doing,” Ginny said. “I think he’s 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. I’m not bragging on him -- it’s 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.

“That’s 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 don’t 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 I’d go have a look. We didn’t have to go to Macon because we had Crumpton’s. 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 didn’t know how many pair of baby shoes he’s 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 we’re in, but a depression and banks aren’t lending money. If the good Lord lets us, we’ll be able to sell the shoes down to where somebody can more easily buy the store and use the name. It’s the first time I’ve had a store going down instead of up.”

Crumpton credits some of the store’s success to the town where he and Ginny made home and raised their children, Sandra and Mark.

“In the early days, and still now, there’s 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. It’s one of the friendliest towns we’ve 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. There’s not a day goes by we shouldn’t 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 we’ll get down there more,” Crumpton said. “But it’s kind of tough going out of business. Some people still come to us counting on shoes for their kids and we have people that don’t 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 I’ve still got my shoes on. A good fitting pair of shoes can make your feet feel just that good.”

Contact Michael W. Pannell at mwpannell@gmail.com.

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