Introduction

 
From 1907 to 1982, the Buckner-Ragsdale Clothing Company operated at Cape's Quality Corner of Broadway and Main Streets. 
Originally opened by William "Buck" Ragsdale and his uncle, Charles "Charlie" Buckner, by 1911 it was controlled by Robert E. Lee Lamkin and eventually his two sons, Bob and Jack.  In 1973 the three were joined by one of Jack's sons, Richard B. Lamkin, who carried the family traditions of turn-of-the-19th/20th century retailing into the 21st Century.
 
The store was closely associated with the explosive growth of Cape Girardeau MO in the 30 years between 1910 and 1940.  Mr. Lamkin and a dedicated group of men fostered that expansion more for civic pride than personal gain.  During the Depression of the 1930's Buckner's, as it was known, provided expanded credit for the citizens, especially employees of the International Shoe Factory, as a way of retaining jobs.  It also agreed to purchase enough pairs of shoes through the Buckners confederation and associated stores to keep the factory operating.
 
Buckner's and its primary rival, Hechts, also pledged to provide the fledgling Southeast Missouri Hospital supplies and payroll funds to keep that entity afloat.  And, it was the Buckner's advertising that kept the Southeast Missourian publishing during that desperate time. 
 
Messrs. Buckner, Ragsdale & Lamkin built the store upon and retained those principles of  retailing that placed the customer first. 
Services such as free alterations, free delivery, no interest credit, free gift wrapping and an in depth knowledge of customers maintained in the memories of the large and loyal sales staff differentiated Main Street retailing from the Sears catalog.  
 
In the days before national chains, the major ready-to-wear wholesalers built their brands through long relationships with local retailers.  In most small to medium markets this resulted in an arrangement whereby the the merchant paid for advertising the brand using materials provided by the manufacturer.  In return, store held the exclusive marketing rights for the brand within the service area.
 
As the oldest and largest such retail establishment between St. Louis and Memphis, Buckners and its confederates in Sikeston and Charleston offered customers the best of the clothing names.  The list from 1958 is found on the next page.  As long as this relationship maintained, the company had little about which to worry despite academic criticisms.
 
During the 1970s, marketing professors at Southeast Missouri State College often used Buckners as an example of an antiquated, service oriented retail establishment.  It was, without apology.  Those inculcated with modern numbers driven retailing practices might try this experiment.  Call the  Macy's salesperson most knowledgeable of your personal preferences and say, "I'm going to a party tonight.  You know what I like.  Send me five dresses/coats/pairs of shoes on the afternoon delivery, and I'll pick one.  I'll return the others sometime next week, and pay for the one I keep maybe next month."  What response would one receive for this once standard '60's request?
 
Present SEMO marketing wisdom focuses on the demise of the current manifestation of the retail store as these service-less entities are overtaken by the e-store, the 21st century version of the mail-order catalog.  Perhaps the academics will come full circle and advocate a return to service as a means of mall survival. 
 
A more complete BR history through 1957 can be found on the following page along with some photographs of the Lamkins and the Buckner-Ragsdale family. 
 
After Buckner's closing, the Jack Lamkin family retained the building at 130 N. Main St. where Jack and wife Po led the move to reclaiming the waterfront for residential purposes.  The children sold it in 2013 ending a 100 plus year history on Main Street.
 
 
Send questions and comments to HIRR@juno.com
 
Subpages (1): Photographs & History