J-Ray Shoes in Mobile built on friendliness, customer service

J-Ray Shoes in Mobile built on friendliness, customer service
Leigh Dominick Kercher, the youngest of John Ray and Marian Dominick's nine children, manages day-to-day operations at J-Ray Shoes, the Mobile store her parents founded in 1954. (Alabama Retail Association)

For more than 64 years, a family-owned shoe store in Mobile has been providing a ray of sunshine for shoe-shopping parents — a “J-Ray” of sunshine.

J-Ray Shoes and the family behind it are known for their friendliness, customer service and expert shoe fittings. The store carries brand-name children’s shoes, as well as backpacks, hair bows, socks, rain gear, belts, purses and women’s shoes. J-Ray also partners with area schools to provide custom-made shoes to meet the uniform requirements and colors for each school.

“I’ve been buying shoes from J-Ray since I was a child – 46 years, to be exact. Wouldn’t go anywhere else for school shoes,” said longtime customer Shirell Dortch.

Aside from its selection of high-quality shoes and accessories, J-Ray Shoes is unusual in how the owners’ family’s story is woven into the fabric of the business.

J-Ray Shoes moved to its current University Boulevard location in the early 1990s after outgrowing the space at its original 1954 store on Old Shell Road. (Alabama Retail Association)

From shoe repair to shoe sales

John Ray and Marian Dominick opened J-Ray Shoes in 1954, just two years after they married. The store’s genesis was a shoe repair business, but Marian had the idea to begin selling Keds shoes in the front. It wasn’t long before the shoe-selling business took off, and their family grew along with the shoe store. Over the years, the Dominicks had nine children, and the store needed a newer, larger location than their shop on Old Shell Road. In the early 1990s, J-Ray Shoes moved into a larger storefront on University Boulevard.

While Marian died in 2014, John is still involved with several daily operations at the store. Their youngest daughter, Leigh Dominick Kercher, manages the day-to-day operations of the store.

“We are very blessed to still have our father’s help at the age of 93,” Kercher said.

“My parents worked so very hard to grow the business and build a strong customer base. I am very happy that I am able to continue growing the business and carry on the legacy of J-Ray as a family-owned store,” she added.

All the Dominick children grew up in the store. Kercher recalls being there as a youngster, learning the ropes from the time she could walk. It was during college, however, that working in the family business became more than just fun, and she officially jumped in to help grow the business in new ways.

Customers like family

Today, she’s helping fit second- and even third-generation J-Ray shoppers, who “have become like family, too,” Kercher said. “We love our customers and love watching them grow.”

With the back-to-school shopping season behind them, which is their busiest time of the year, they’re focused on another busy buying season – Christmastime. The store is often filled with parents and grandparents searching for the perfect shoes to complement a holiday outfit. Trunk shows and special events also bring extra foot traffic through the doors.

“As an independently owned store, we take pride in being able to offer a shopping experience that you can’t find in a chain store or online,” Kercher said.

“We go above and beyond for our customers, and very often, we’ll special order hard-to-find styles and sizes to meet their needs. When you shop with us, you know the shoes will fit properly, and you’ll get the very best in customer service.”

J-Ray Shoes at 121 S. University Blvd. in Mobile is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays. Learn more @jrayshoes on Facebook.

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