GETTING BETTER WITH AGE
By Jim Frankowiak
Adult beverages are not for sale at Southside Western & Outdoor Wear, Farm & Pet, but like a fine wine, the store and its diverse offerings keep getting better with age.
A Plant City icon on James L. Redman Parkway since 1978, the retail establishment was purchased by Tim and Pam Lopez in March of 2013 from its founder and their friend, Dennis Der.
“Dennis did a great job with the business, and we have grown and invested substantially in the infrastructure of the store and the lines of boots, clothing, hats, jewelry and more,” said Pam. The 15,000-square-foot front of the store is devoted to apparel and accessories, while the store’s middle section, which is now fully air-conditioned, offers a range of pet and large animal supplies. The rear of the operation continues to house the bagged, bulk and liquid feeds along with gates, panels and posts, all with easy access for drive-up and loading.
While the Lopez’s have been pleased with the response of the community and growth of the store, “we continue to aggressively market what we have to offer through a variety of means from outdoor billboards along I-4, radio and print advertising, to community engagement and support,” said Tim. “Facebook has been great for us with over 4200 followers and we are seriously looking at television advertising in the near future.” Also the Southside staff has grown from 11 to 14 employees.
“Despite our continued growth and strong community response, there are still people in our immediate market area that have the mistaken impression we are a dirt floor feed store with some western wear for sale,” said Tim. “Honestly --and this has been proven time and time again -- first time visitors to our store typically become regular customers. They quickly determine that there’s no need to go to any of the local malls since our selection is better and our pricing is the same or better.”
A BROAD SELECTION OF WESTERN WEAR...AND MUCH MORE
One of the new Southside staff additions is Store Manager Michelle Sapp. “We are delighted to have Michelle as part of our team,” said Pam. Michelle’s husband, Richard, is a strawberry farmer and “she shares our commitment to daily hands-on involvement with the store, providing the best possible customer service and responding to our customers' needs and the products they want us to carry, which leads to a great experience for them every time they visit our store.”
Tim and Pam’s son, Michael, a University of Florida alumnus who majored in Agriculture, manages the Farm and Pet Supply side of the business. "Michael is very passionate with show animals and helping FFA and 4-H folks with their animals in regards to the latest in nutritional feeding," said Tim. He attends classes annually at the Purina land labs in St. Louis, Missouri to stay on the cutting edge in animal health.
Though not visible to shoppers, the Lopez’s added a large second floor storage area to house the store’s very substantial line of boots. The Boot Saloon carries a variety of fashion, work and western style boots from a number of respected brands such as Ariat, Justin, Corral, Lucchese, Roper, Stetson, Nocona, Durango, Boulet, Old Gringo, Tony Lama, Georgia Boot, Dan Post and Black Jack Custom Boots.
“We carry riding boots, cowboy boots, ropers, work boots and fashion boots as well as Minnetonka Moccasins and Columbia water drainer outdoor shoes,” said Tim. “When you are on the hunt for the right boot, you may find it best to consider what you expect functionality-wise from your boots. We have whatever you need from that standpoint. We are the premier store in Florida for Ariat.”
Southside carries a broad selection of fine western wear, outdoor apparel and fashion wear that includes some of the most beloved and respected brands in fashion clothing. “Whether you are looking for jeans, shirts, dresses or accessories, we offer full lines from designers such as Miss Me, Grace in LA, Wrangler, Ariat, Cinch, Columbia, Roar and Rock n Roll. We also carry hats by Stetson, Resistol, Charlie 1 Horse and Atwood," said Pam.
"We don’t cherry pick from a brand, we carry the full line so we can meet the most discriminating tastes in fashion wear. Southside has one of the largest selections of Columbia, Miss Me and Grace in LA in Florida."
This is well attested, too, by the breadth of denim styles available at Southside. “From casual to glam, we’ve got it,” added Pam. “Tried and true brands, such as Wrangler and Ariat, have become a fashion staple for many and are known for their excellent quality and comfort. If you are looking for glitz in your jeans, Miss Me jeans and Grace in LA are known for their tailored fit and trendy western-inspired embellishments, which really make them stand out against other jeans.”
Roar shirts are also available at Southside. “Roar designs have the wow factor and include casual designs to shirts embellished with beautiful embroidery and crystals,” said Tim. “You will find any Roar shirt to be a fine addition to your wardrobe.”
Shoppers at Southside will also find a large selection of jewelry items such as bangles, necklaces and rings from Montana Silversmith and others, which can complement their trendy look, whether casual or dressy. “And, living here in sunny Florida makes it mandatory to have a good pair of sunglasses, and we offer a full line of Costa sunglasses, “said Pam. “When it comes to accessories, we have you covered from hats and sunglasses to jewelry and purses.”
Another need here in the Sunshine State for outside activities, both work and play, is the right cooler and Southside has the best available with its line of Brute Box Coolers that feature maximum ice retention and extreme durability in an extensive selection of capacities.
FOCUSED ON PEOPLE, FARM...AND PETS
The Farm and Pet staff at Southside recognizes there is much that goes into taking proper care of pets and livestock from their feeding and grooming needs and beyond. “We offer a variety of supplies for both pets and livestock,” said Michael. “From the family pet to farm animals such as cattle, horses and swine, we can fulfill many of the needs your animal may have for their proper care.”
To meet those varied needs, Southside offers a variety of Purina feeds, a known and trusted brand of feeds that provides a proper and balanced diet for both beloved pets and livestock. “That includes Purina feed that has been specifically formulated for show animals,” said Michael. The store also carries food concentrates and supplements used to provide optimal levels of nutrition for pets and livestock. “Our staff has the know-how to help customers determine the best food and supplements to benefit their pets or livestock,” said Michael.
Southside’s community engagement includes active memberships in the Greater Plant City Chamber of Commerce, Kiwanis Club of Plant City, FFA and others, as well as a range of continuing sponsorships for various schools and community groups. “Fashion shows for groups such as the Plant City Garden Club, Plant City Strawberry Festival and others really have had an impact on the group members and our store,” said Pam.
“For some audience members, they are surprised that our models are showing off clothing and accessories that are available right here in Plant City. It’s great to have them race us back to the store to take a look at what we have to offer and buy those items that appeal to them.” This year, Southside was a major sponsor at the state FFA convention in Orlando.
"With the help of Ariat, Southside will be dressing the state FFA officers including boots and clothing items,” noted Tim. Later this month, Southside will participate in Fashion, Feathers and Fur (www.fashionfeathersandfur.com), a fund-raising event the evening of September 27 at Winthrop Barn in Riverview, benefitting local animal rescue groups.
“This is a great cause and another opportunity to make residents aware of our store and what we have to offer,” said Pam. And both she and Tim urge area residents to mark Saturday, November 8, on their calendars. “That’s the date for our annual Fall Extravaganza including free lunch, hourly giveaways of boots, jeans and shirts and some great deals.”
COME BY FOR A VISIT!
For more information about Southside, visit www.southsidestores.com. The store is located at 3014 James L. Redman Parkway, Plant city, FL 33566. Telephone: 813/752-2379. The store hours are Monday through Saturday 8am to 6pm.