Footwear Plus got its start in 1946 as a small country store in rural Bushy Fork known as C.W. Chambers Store. Rumor has it C.W. “Charlie” Chambers returned from Germany and WWII with $300 in poker game winnings burning a hole in his pocket. He had previous retail experience working with his father at “The Farmers Supply,” selling everything from rope to mechanical equipment. Back home with the war behind him, Charlie decided to hang out his shingle and the store was born.
Mike Chambers recalls, “At the time, Daddy said he had three jobs. Both of my parents worked ‘public work’ in Tultex cotton mills during third shift. In the mornings, Mom opened the store while Dad slept. At lunchtime, Dad went to the store and would watch the store while also plowing a tobacco field behind the store with a mule. If a customer came to the store, Dad could tell by the dust in the driveway, and he would leave the mule in the field and help the customer.”
In the mid-1950s, a larger location was built. Mike compares it to Ike Godsey's store on The Waltons TV show. “I recently had someone tell me their family called it the ‘Bushy Fork Mall,’ because you could find anything in it, from animal feed and supplies, to a meat market, to work clothes and shoes, to hardware and groceries,” he says. “Gas, car tires, and oil changes, we did it all.”
The store is an iconic part of Mike's childhood. He was two weeks old when he first entered the store, and he recalls with a laugh that his parents fired him when he was 18. But blood is thicker than water, and in 1986, Mike returned to the family business. A year later, Footwear Plus spun off as a separate retail location for work clothes, western wear and footwear. In 2006, the company launched the mobile shoe truck, bringing expertise and safety-conscious products on location to a variety of safety-conscious industries. Today, there are two shoe trucks, and an ecommerce site is in the works.
Chambers admits he is always looking for ways to grow the company that his father started back in 1946. “Daddy always said, ‘Either you grow, or your competition grows’,” Chambers says. “We intend to keep on growing.”