Gary Hauss, the self-proclaimed Godfather of Shoes and owner of the J.Stephens chain, recognizes the importance of tenacity, loyalty and, most of all, family.
Hey Buddy, When looking back at my life, I feel the need to stop and thank you, my younger self. Thank you for having tenacity. You were never afraid to ask questions. Sometimes you thought you were too stupid to know you shouldn’t ask, so you asked anyway. Now I know there are no stupid questions, so even if you think it’s a stupid question…ask anyway!
Thank you for stressing and worrying about everything. It’s made me get creative. It’s made me think outside the box. It’s made me realize that I CAN DO IT. There are no obstacles that will stop me. I just need to find a way around them. It’s made me realize that I am smarter than I thought. I now have confidence that I will always do my best to come out on top. I’ll never give up. Sometimes things will turn out even better than expected. You also made me realize I am not in this alone. There are friends in this industry who want to help and will step in when necessary.
Thank you for finding ways to keep your passion for this industry alive.
I remember when you began this journey—after cutting your long hair. It was just a job then. But the more you delved in, the more it excited you. The more you made connections, the more you felt connected. The relationships you’ve made in this industry are incomparable. Today most of my closest friends are shoe people. They are the people I talk to daily and feel comfortable with. They know my successes and my failures. The more we share, the better we both are. I’ve even helped create the May Event, which brings the entire industry together. It’s designed to help people make the connections and develop the relationships that are imperative in keeping our industry alive. I cannot imagine doing anything else.
Thank you for caring so much. I’ve learned that it’s ok to care a lot and that even when you lose people you love, you can go on. You think you can’t, but you find the strength to move forward. Not sure where it comes from, but it’s there. Losing Mom, Shirley, at the age of 24, was overwhelming but made you stronger. I still miss her every day and try to make her proud in everything I do. Over the years, you will lose many more people who matter in life: mentors, friends, best friends and even your brother. I strive daily to make them proud and carry on for them.
Thank you for being obsessed with the Mob. Ok, not everything about them, but definitely the admirable parts: family, loyalty and keeping your word. I like to think that I’m the Godfather of Shoes. Family is everything. I am loyal to family, friends and business partners. I do everything I can for them. If they ask for help, I’m there for them. Often, I don’t even wait for them to ask; I just jump in and see how I can help. I am equally loyal to this industry and work tirelessly to find ways to make sure it stays around for many, many years. In this regard, it has taken me a long time to get on the digital bandwagon. I still miss those Acme books, but I realize I don’t have to be overwhelmed by technology. I just needed to accept that it’s not my thing, find someone who loves it and hire them to do the job.
Thank you for developing that incredible relationship with our father, Dalty. I’ve had a few mentors in this industry, people who have had lasting effects on me and my way of doing business. But my biggest influence has been Dalty. He is the best person I know and the one who I strive to emulate. He is the person who has influenced me the most and who I look up to more than anyone else. Remember when he grew a beard (you were a long-haired teenager), hoping you’d relate better to him? He’s still that guy! The guy who will do anything for his family.
Even after having such an amazing role model, I never thought I’d be a good father. But having watched my five children grow into beautiful, responsible adults, some of whom are already starting families of their own, I realize I must’ve done something right. Each is unique and special in their own way. They’ve given me more joy than they will ever know. Being “Papa” is my greatest accomplishment and something that melts my heart on a daily basis.
Mostly, thank you for being you. Even though some people might not like it, I have come to realize it doesn’t matter what other people think. I will always be myself. I will say what’s on my mind and share my opinion—four-letter words and all. It’s who I am. It’s what makes me “me.” And if someone doesn’t like it, I don’t really give a sh@#.