COTTONWOOD - Gladys Bridgewater doesn't remember the exact year during the 1970s when she and her husband Dick opened Mode O' Day in Cottonwood's Verde Valley Plaza, but she remembers a lot about what was going on then.
Gerald Ford was president of the United States. Love Boat, Happy Days and Little House on the Prairie were all on television. The population of Cottonwood was about 2,500 and many of those residents were wearing bellbottoms and maxi dresses, and they were paying 5 percent sales tax. Maybe the biggest change from that time is that the town now has stoplights.
Gladys said that her husband Dick had applied for the Mode O' Day franchise without her knowing.
"I didn't know until I got a call and they wanted to come interview me," she said.
The interview worked out, and Gladys became the owner of her own Mode O' Day retail store.
"When the shopping center was first built we were one of the first stores," Gladys said.
Mode O' Day had 800 stores nationally when Gladys opened her Cottonwood store.
Verde Valley Plaza was the first shopping center in Cottonwood. Driving through the shopping center back then one would pass Babbitts grocery and department store, Thrifty Drug, Sprouse Reitz and Pizza Hut.
Gladys said those days were a time of personal customer service, and people shopped for the experience of seeing the clothes and being able to touch the fabric and learn about what was new in the fashion world. She said women came from all over the Verde Valley to shop at Mode O' Day.
Then, in 1981, Mode O' Day became Fashion Crossroads, and the Bridgewaters expanded their store.
Gladys and Dick had three daughters, twins Rena and Renee' and younger sister Robin. All three girls graduated from Mingus Union High School and all three worked in the store during high school after school and Saturdays.
"We expanded when we took the new name," Gladys said.
She explained that there was a vacant space next door, which doubled the size of the store.
After the girls left college and Cottonwood, they still came home in March each year to help Gladys take inventory in the store.
"The girls and I were talking about the fun we've had over the years," Gladys said.
Dick passed away a couple of years ago.
"We lost one twin (Renee') just before we lost my husband," Gladys said.
Gladys kept the store open and profitable through all of the changes Cottonwood and the economy went through. She worried about staying open when Wal-Mart came to town.
"I was fearful they'd put me out of business," she said.
But she was able to survive that and the addition of two more shopping plazas in town.
By 2000, the Internet was becoming more prevalent and online shopping was becoming more popular. In addition, the big mega stores and online outlets were creating new competition for Fashion Crossroads.
Fashion Crossroads officially closed Dec. 21, but Gladys is keeping the store open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. long enough to sell off the remaining inventory and the store's fixtures.
Gladys and her daughters said they are so grateful for the support the family received over the years.
"It is hard for me to give up what I do, because I love it," Gladys said. "I love my customers."
Posted: Saturday, January 26, 2013
Article comment by:
I'm sad to see you're going out of business, you've been a wonderful business in our town. Good luck in your new adventures
Posted: Thursday, January 24, 2013
Article comment by:
Thank you for writing such a wonderful article about Gladys. Members of my family have been shopping with Gladys since 1975 when we moved back to Cottonwood. I moved in 1990 and still went to see Gladys everytime I got the chance when I was in town. I now live out of state and make a point to always go see Gladys when I fly home. She is one terrific lady and I will miss seeing her beautiful face when I go to Cottonwood. May God bless her and the girls as she sets out on a new journey. I love you Gladys! Take Care. Valerie Myers