Shoe Show Employees Remember Late Founder Robert Tucker

Beloved family members and longtime employees remember Robert Tucker’s immense generosity and unwavering commitment to his family business.

Jacqueline Tucker, buyer and daughter

“Daddy was a humble giant. He honored God and God blessed him with an ability to see things that others didn’t in the business world. He could feel a shift in business before it happened and prepare. He never asked anything that he was not willing to do himself, and his employees loved him for that. He instilled something in you that made you want to do your best. He felt a deep responsibility for everyone in the company and wanted to do his best to take care of them and their families.”

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Chase Tucker, buyer and grandson

“One memory I have that will stick with me is when we were overseas in China. We were finishing up with one last factory visit and, of course, this factory had the larger-than-normal concrete stairs and the showroom was on level 3 with no elevator. Well, there goes Mr. Tucker to the stairs. It was a struggle getting his feet up some of the large steps and the lighting wasn’t great, but I knew he wasn’t going to stop or complain. I could see the focus and determination in his face. Something so simple meant so much to me. He was teaching. A man with few words and a man of immense action. I was lucky to be alongside him during some of his best teaching moments, when he could have easily hung up the suit, but he continued to pursue his passion. I am very thankful for having gotten to spend time in the workplace with my grandfather.”

John Walker, VP of merchandise

“Mr. Tucker changed retail by creating efficiencies that do not exist in modern retail. His idea of running a business lean made Shoe Show nimble and able to turn on a dime.”

George Slaughter, buyer

“My fondest memory of Mr. Tucker is something that still endures and impacts my family profoundly to this day. We are among the countless people he touched and helped over his lifetime: Our daughter is a bright young lady who is disabled and goes about life in a power wheelchair. When she graduated high school, despite our best efforts, there were no jobs that allowed her to thrive in the workplace. In the midst of our frustration, one Sunday night after the close of our church service, Mr. Tucker stood up in front of the congregation and announced, ‘Abby, tomorrow you are going to work.’ Today, she is in the midst of her 22nd year of employment at Shoe Show Inc. and looking forward to many more. The tremendous emotions of that moment are still fresh. This has completely transformed her life in the most positive ways imaginable.”

Jay Manning, chief operations officer

“Bob had a passion to do business. As a great merchant, he had a passion for product. He had a passion for his customers and for his employees. He had a passion for life, family and friends. As a great leader, he instilled that passion in others. What he taught us guides not only our business, but the lives of those of us fortunate enough to have learned from him. He will be sorely missed.”

Vicki O’Donnell, chief marketing & construction officer

“Mr. Tucker was a formidable presence, a guiding light not only to me but to many others. I held myself to the highest standards to avoid ever letting him down. His tenacity and unwavering commitment to excellence were legendary. Rising from humble beginnings, he founded a business that can only be described as divinely blessed.

He was devoted to his faith, family and Shoe Show Inc. With over 10,000 employees relying on the success of the company for their livelihood, he bore the weight of responsibility with grace and sincerity. After every major storm, he would personally check on our store associates, ensuring their safety and well-being. Even during the tumultuous times of the COVID pandemic, when everything came to a standstill, he continued to pay every employee, sparing them the stress of mounting bills. In today’s retail landscape, such care and commitment are a rarity. Mr. Tucker epitomized ‘For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required’ (Luke 12:48), and his actions mirrored his beliefs.

I have over three decades of cherished memories with him. Our shared love for classic cars led to him leaving old auction books on my desk, a simple yet meaningful gesture. He was a lover of animals and once allowed me to shelter a stray parking lot cat in my satellite office, which we affectionately named Trinkets after one of the house brands he developed. His fondness for suckers prompted me to keep a bowl of Dum Dum suckers on my desk for his visits. Now, I can never look at one without thinking of him. Mr. Tucker was an extraordinary individual, known for his quick wit and Tuckerisms, those humorous one-liners that made him uniquely himself. It was an honor to be mentored by him, and I am unequivocally a better person for the experience.”

Jack van der Poel, chief financial officer

“It is very hard to put into a couple of sentences the vision of Mr. Tucker, but I would say he was very opportunistic in business. This included increasing store locations in areas with little or no competition — or negotiating the price down of a service or a shoe, even just a few pennies. He truly believed if you watched your cents and half cents, the dollars would take care of themselves.

Bob believed in the underdog — and to that end, he would help numerous people with personal and business issues. Bob knew of the small shoe retailers in every town near our stores. He would visit them, and if they relied on a certain line of shoes, such as a Rockport, Bob would not allow our stores in the same area to stock Rockport. I would ask him why, and his comment was, ‘We have 1,000 stores, they only have one.’ He didn’t need to say another word, I knew why he did it.

On the personal side, and this happened often, if someone in the community needed dental or medical work, Bob would take the steps to help out these folks without anyone knowing, including at times, the individual he was helping. Bob was truly an old-school entrepreneur, along the likes of [Food Lion founder] Ralph Ketner and [Walmart founder] Sam Walton.”

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