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Monday, Nov. 9, 2015

History in retail

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E-commerce site, larger store launch expansion for Davis’

Follow the retail history of the Davis family and one will uncover a business story that spans more than a century.

It’s story of a family-owned retailer that places customer service above all things.

And it’s a story that weaves in and out of words like e-commerce and brick-andmortar, ending with two brothers who are carrying their great grandfather’s legacy into its next success.

“It’s the only business I’ve ever known,” said Lee Davis, who became part of the legacy in 1984, working as a buyer. Both he and his brother, BJ Davis, became owners in the early 90s. At that time, the store was Davis’ Big and Tall.

W.H. Davis started the Davis family’s retail future in 1902. A retired railroad worker, he opened up shop on Texas Avenue in Shreveport’s west end and sold work clothes, cigars, newspapers.

Today, Davis’ great grandchildren, Lee and BJ, are running a similar business, albeit in a way their ancestor could never have imagined: Davis’ Clothing and Outdoor, 4481 Viking Drive in Bossier City.

It’s housed in a 25,000-square-foot building – 15,000 is retail space, and the remaining 10,000-square feet includes space for offices along with warehouse and shipping to support the brothers’ online ventures.

Lee and BJ’s push into e-commerce is actually what molded the Davis family’s new direction.

“We were selling a lot of things online that were not part of our big-and-tall items,” Lee said, “And as Web business grew, it grew our inventory.”

By 2007, the Davis’ were renting off-site locations to store product. Lee said this made the business less efficient and increased operating cost.

BJ said the brothers considered two options: Go strictly to online sales and build a large building to house both.

Enter Davis’ Clothing and Outdoor, a massive site full of clothing for the whole family. Brands include Levi’s, Wrangler and Carhartt. And the sizes offered can accommodate all walks of like from tall and skinny to short and round and everything in between.

But, not only did the brother’s shed their big-and-tall niche, they also added guns.

“It’s a totally different business than clothing,” BJ said.

When he and Lee split up buying duties, BJ landed the buying duties for guns and ammo.

“It has a steep learning curve. Totally different animal … But we wanted to do it because we knew it would be a draw,” BJ said.

Since the store’s Oct. 16 grand opening, BJ and Lee have proved their shot-in-thedark was right-on-the-mark.

“Because the Davis family has been service-minded. And we’ve put that into effect at the gun counter,” BJ said.

And the Davis brothers took it one step further, they brought in two ringers to handle the gun counter: Greer Griffin and Nate Haddad. Together, these two men boast 35 years of military experience, including respective backgrounds in instructing soldiers on how to shoot.

“We take the time to put every gun in [a customer’s] hand and ask, ‘is this comfy,’” Haddad said. “If it takes an hour-and-a-half to find a gun, it takes an hour-and-a-half.”

Griffin, who manages the counter, agreed, “We start from the ground up and besides service, we’re bow hunters; we’re duck hunters. We are gun guys.”

In addition to finding that right gun, BJ said Davis’ gun counter will also special order ammunition and help any gun buyer customize their purchase, like adding lights or a laser sight.

“We can do that because we’re small,” explained BJ Davis, who sees the freedom of being family-owned as a big plus for customers.

As for the future of Davis’ Clothing and Outdoor, the Davis brothers have their eyes on the horizon.

For Lee, the one-year goal is to get Davis’ Clothing and Outdoor online, joining the brothers’ two other Web stores: www.bigtallpants.com and www.overallwarehouse.com. “We sell a lot of bib overalls,” Lee said, adding that the variety of bib overalls is staggering.

Lee said the second goal is to keep expanding their retail offerings.

“Big-and-tall is very limiting,” Lee said, which is why the brothers expanded their reach when opening Davis Clothing and Outdoors.

And despite his family’s century of success, Lee remains very humble.

“We’ve succeeded through lots of prayer and God’s blessings. We are very grateful,” Lee said. “He has sustained us for 113 years.”

–RT Morgan

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