Award: Best Children’s Shoe Store, 2012
Because the pace of change seems ever to increase in the modern age, the few institutions that manage to endure become even more beloved. That’s certainly the case with Sikes Children’s Shoes in Homewood. Owner Frank Youngs has been with Sikes selling children’s shoes since 1968. He has served generations of children, and continues the store’s original mission of providing quality shoes that are fitted properly (Sikes is one of the few children’s shoes stores left that actually measures a child’s feet and fit them with shoes).
Nick Peters and Fred Sikes opened the shop, then called Sikes & Peters’ Shoes, in 1955. The original shop was located next door to its present location, selling shoes for all ages, until Peters left the business in 1959. Sikes changed the name of the store to Sikes’ Shoes and began selling only children’s shoes.The hallmark of the shop was personal attention and a proper fit.
A few years after the store opened, Sikes’ Shoes moved into a new, larger retail space that opened next door. Mr. Sikes recognized an opportunity to increase traffic to his store by joining forces with a nearby children’s clothing retailer, Jack n’ Jill Shop, then located across 18th Street. He approached the owners, Eddie and Jeanette Burman, with his idea of moving Jack n’ Jill into the space next to his, and sweetened the deal by offering to build a doorway from his shop to theirs inside his store. The Burmans agreed and moved Jack n’ Jill across the street next door to Sikes Children’s Shoes, creating a sort of “one-stop shop” for local parents. To this day, the stores remain neighbors.
Sikes’ daughter Nancy met Frank Youngs while attending the University of Alabama. Youngs grew up in the Norwood and College Hills areas of Birmingham, where he attended Woodrow Wilson School, McElwain Elementary, and Shades Valley High School before enrolling in the University of Alabama, where he earned a degree in marketing and advertising. Youngs and Nancy Sikes married in 1962, and Mr. Sikes asked Youngs to join the family shoe business. In 1968, Mr. Sikes and Youngs opened Sikes & Youngs’ Shoes in Vestavia Hills, which Youngs operated. When the shop’s sign needed to be replaced, Youngs suggested changing the name to Sikes Children’s Shoes, which he thought would better communicate to potential customers that the store only sold shoes for children. In the late 1960s the store’s name officially became Sikes Children’s Shoes.
Youngs bought the Homewood Sikes location from Sikes’ son Wayne in 1991. In 1993, Youngs closed the Vestavia Hills location, feeling that the two stores were too close and drew customers from the same areas of Birmingham. In 2002, Mr. and Mrs. Herman Blitz, who owned the Jack n’ Jill Shop, decided to retire and sold their store to Youngs. Youngs says he bought the Jack n’ Jill Shop because he didn’t want any other type of business moving in next door to the shoe store. Plus, with the interior doorway from one store to another, it made sense that the same person should own both stores.
Youngs has led a full and fulfilling life, raising four sons with Nancy, and later becoming stepfather to a son and daughter when he married his wife Karen. He now has two grandchildren and three step-grandchildren to keep him busy, but continues to work in the store, no longer fitting shoes, but telling riddles and performing yo-yo tricks for the newest generation of customers. Laura Player, manager of Jack n’ Jill, who has worked for Youngs for 21 years, says, “Not many stores can say that they have third and fourth generation customers shopping with them. In fact, it’s quite a tradition for families to stop by Jack n’ Jill, purchase an outfit, head to Sikes Children’s Shoes for their matching shoes, and swing into Savage’s Bakery for lunch or a special treat.”
The manager of Sikes Children’s Shoes, says, “Frank is so passionate about maintaining the tradition that we have of being a “sit-and-fit” store that gives awesome customer service. He loves to interact with the children and it brings such joy to him to meet people out in the community that he fit in shoes as children. He is truly one of a kind.”
Sikes Children’s Shoes
2920 18th Street South
Homewood, AL 35209