Over 100 years ago, Cliff Walker opened a little shoe store on Main Street in the small town of Crossville, TN. In 1903, Mr. Walker’s shop sold new and used footwear and offered a repair service for folks that viewed buying new shoes as a luxury.
As a young man, Esby French discovered his passion for footwear when came to work for Cliff Walker in 1935. He began his career by repairing shoes and boots, eventually becoming a shoe salesman. Over the years, the shoe store became an even bigger part of Esby’s life and he encouraged his 5 sons to follow in his footsteps. Pascal, Kenneth, Tommy, Jimmy and Esby Jr. all eventually worked in the store that gave their father his start.
He was only 12 years old when Tommy French began shining shoes. His strong work ethic and passion for getting to know everyone that came into the store made him a natural fit for a career in the shoe business. He had a knack for remembering customers by name and an ability to recall the shoe size and favorite styles of his customers. At just 20 years old, Tommy became the youngest person to manage Mr. Walker’s store.
In 1972, a 30-year-old Tommy French purchased the shop from Cliff Walker and French’s Shoe Shop was born. Tommy, his wife Diane, and his brother Jimmy worked tirelessly running the business. Tommy and Diane’s son Rodney grew up working at French’s Shoe Shop, where he learned the values and developed the skills he would need to run a successful business.
When Tommy was finally ready to retire, Rodney French stepped in. Along with his wife Kelly, the next generation of the French family began working and raising their children in the family business. Brad and Julie grew up watching their visionary parents grow French’s from a local Crossville store into a chain of the most popular shoe and boot stores in the State of Tennessee. They continued opening stores in major cities like Nashville, Knoxville and Pigeon Forge, while developing a network of warehouses and factories to keep the shelves stocked and the prices low. Over the last 3 decades, Rodney and Kelly amassed an impressive portfolio of French’s stores featuring the best shoe and boot brands at the lowest prices. In addition, they employed a team of more than 90 people entrusted to deliver the same honest and friendly service that made French’s famous.
As Brad and Julie begin contributing to the French family legacy, French’s is opening more retail and outlet stores, adding more brands and offerings like apparel and accessories, and developing new lines of work, western and fashion boots. French’s has also teamed up with celebrities and country music stars to launch new southern brands. Redneck Riviera, John Rich’s line of fashionable boots for men and women are exclusively available at French’s Shoes and Boots locations and at frenchsbootsandshoes.com. The future looks bright for French’s, a business that truly puts family first.