Staying in style: Derby Shoppe sees changes over 40 years

Published 10:34 am Saturday, October 14, 2017

It’s been 40 years since the Derby Shoppe opened as a men’s clothing store — and 40 years has brought a lot of changes to the business, located at 124 North Third Street in Danville.

John Caywood was the owner when the business opened, which he ran with the help of one employee, Bill Robertson. In 1981, the store expanded to include women’s clothing, and Caywood’s wife Martha began working at the store as well.

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A few years later, 1985, they bought Raggs, which was a clothing store in the Danville Manor shopping center. They eventually moved it into the store on Third Street, knocking out the wall between the two businesses and creating one large store.

Martha Caywood explained that they often get asked why the one store has two names.

“We felt it was important to the customers and employees to keep the name Raggs,” she said.

At one time, they had a cashier in both sections.

“People would go out the one door, come in the next door and only then realize it was the same store,” she said with a smile.

And, after 32 years?

“At this point, it’s been so long, it would not be good to drop the name,” Caywood said.

In 1996, they discontinued the men’s clothing. Her husband John had decided to return to the banking industry. The store was without any male employees, which sometimes made their male customers uncomfortable.

So, the time was right, Martha Caywood said. “Men’s dressing had changed. Of course women’s dressing had changed, too, but many men who were working and wearing coats and ties all the time were no longer wearing coats and ties.

“That was our main men’s business.”

The store still does tuxedo rentals, Caywood said, motioning to a rack in the back of the store with jackets for men and boys to try on.

But, primarily, the focus is now on the women. Three to five times a year, Caywood and employee Bonnie Purcell will go to market in Atlanta where they purchase clothing for the store.

“It’s more than just putting the clothes in here. You’ve got to go to market, you’ve got to do the buying — it’s a lot to keep up with the women’s buying,” she said.

Caywood said they focus a lot on jackets, sweaters and other layering pieces, slacks, shoes and “lots of jewelry, scarves and purses.”

The store doesn’t carry a lot of outer wear, because it’s hard to predict how bad the weather will be in the winter, and she says if you buy too much of that, you’re stuck.

They also carry jeans and some T-shirts, she said.

“Denim, like anything else, changes styles,” Caywood said.

When she started with women’s clothing in 1981, she said, preppy clothes were the thing: Shetland sweaters, slacks and khaki skirts.

“If anyone opened a ladies store at the time, you couldn’t miss. You shouldn’t miss, let’s put it that way,” Caywood said. “You could call it preppy and classic. That gradually, as with all things, changed. It’s an enormous difference in style — now it basically is everything. Going to market now is nothing like it was then.”

Now, leggings and slim-leg jeans are popular, with the flowy tops.

“Some ladies say, ‘Are these leggings going out, should I buy more?’ I will say, ‘Leggings aren’t going anywhere for a while.’ They don’t change that fast,” Caywood said. “Leggings will go out.” Eventually, she said, all styles change.

Besides Caywood and Purcell, there are two other employees — Jan Qualls and Beverly King.

“That’s about what it takes,” Caywood said. “We’ll have one person open — I opened today — and we overlap. If the day works out, I will go home before closing time.”

Smiling, she said, “It doesn’t usually work out that way.”

The store also carries from size two miss up to a 3XL. Caywood said she doesn’t buy a lot of the same outfit in every size, but they can special order. Having that uniqueness is part of what makes the shop a specialty shop — knowing that the pieces are more one-of-a-kind.

“You want it a little unique to you,” she said.

They also provide alterations for pieces.

Service — that’s part of what she believes has kept the store in business for so long.

“We can give a better service and more services than you can get when you walk in a store where you, basically, wait on yourself,” Caywood said. “There’s a niche we’ve found that is a little better. We’re not trying to compete with another level of clothing.”


Throughout the week of Oct .16-21, there will be daily drawings for a $40 gift card and door prizes, discounts up to 40 percent off and cake and punch.

On Thursday, the business will host the Chamber of Commerce in a Business After Hours event from 4:30-6:30 p.m.