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111-year-old Sioux Falls shoe business to close in May as owner retires

Updated: Mar 28, 2021

Tom Coppock's resume is short: he's always worked at Arthur Johnson Shoes.

The 69-year-old owner of the century-old shoe retailer started stocking shelves at 13 years old, shortly after his family bought the store in 1962. The business had been passed down from its original owner Arthur Johnson to Coppock's parents.

But working at the shoe store is more than just a job for him.

He learned the importance of customer service while he worked the floor at the shop, painted his family's ads for the Argus Leader and worked 30 hours a week while attending high school and college at Augustana College, and he eventually bought the business from his parents in the '70s.

He moved from the store's original location at 119 S. Phillips Ave. that had been housing Arthur Johnson Shoes since 1910 in the '90s. The original space now holds Crawford's.

Coppock sold the current shoe store's building at 41st Street and Kiwanis a decade ago, signing a 10-year lease for the space. With a decline in sales during the pandemic, a break from his lease and celebrating his 70th birthday later this year, Coppock decided it's time to retire.

"I don't know if I'm really ready, but I kind of am, too," Coppock said. "I have a new grandson, and I have four adult children. Because this is retail, I haven't spent a lot of time with my family. That's my number one priority now."

Coppock plans to close the store at the end of May. He's running a closing sale until he's out of inventory.

"After being here for 35 years, it could easily take us a month to get all our stuff out of the basement anyway," he joked.

Many of his customers have stuck with the shop for decades, and his client base included older people who were more cautious about shopping during the pandemic.

Coppock takes pride in the work he was able to accomplish at Arthur Johnson Shoes. He brought Birkenstocks to Sioux Falls in the '70s, and he was one of the first Sioux Falls retailer to stock Ugg boots.

His store is also one of the few places in town to stock shoes for extra-large feet, including men's sizes 17 and 18. He's a little concerned about where those customers will go now that he's closing.

The store's sale, which started Thursday, has already been bittersweet for Coppock. He's been able to see plenty of longtime customers stop in that he hasn't seen in a year, and many gave him cards of congratulations on his retirement.

"It's been nice," he said. "Every one can come in to say goodbye and get a good buy."

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