Robert T. Jones, Kansas City’s well-known shoe merchant and people person, died Tuesday. He was 87.
Jones, a native of Detroit, lived in Kansas City most of his life, graduating from Central High School and working in his father’s grocery store in downtown Kansas City.
Jones began his Bob Jones Outlet at 19th Street and Grand Boulevard around 1960, offering a wide assortment of clothing, shoes and other goods that changed based on whatever he found available.
The business grew through Jones’ partnership with Ernest Horowitz, a Kansas Citian who had gone to Paseo High School. Their company became Bob Jones Shoes as the shoe side of sales “took over everything else,” said Jones’ son, David Jones.
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Bob Jones Shoes’ business success made Kansas City a destination for footware shoppers. Customers found shoes they couldn’t find anywhere else.
“We’d get customers from all over the country, movie stars,” David Jones said.
Jones said his father would talk to customers over the public address system, touting specials and even holding chats with individual customers for all to hear. He did magic tricks to impress children.
“Back then, I thought it was corny,” Jones said. “He liked that more than anything. He was a big people person.”
Jones said his father sold his share of the business to Horowitz in the mid-1970s, and Horowitz later sold it to his son. Horowitz, who died in 2011, also had been known for his love of dealing with people and for being a likable boss.