By Robert Barron, Staff Writer
Enid News & Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
It’s been 40 years since Dixie McKinney first started working at Zales jewelry store, and she has no plans to retire.
McKinney started in the downtown store Nov. 20, 1973. Her first job was bookkeeping, but she later was asked whether she would like to work the sales floor. She took the job and still is at Zales, albeit as manager of the store in Oakwood Mall, the only Zales in town.
“I continue to see a generation of customers. Some of the original customers, I’m seeing their children and even some of their grandchildren now,” McKinney said.
Wedding and engagement ring purchases are most common, then anniversaries roll around, and customers need another ring. There also are birthdays and other events when people give jewelry. But McKinney said the business has changed since she started and has become more specialized.
At the old downtown store, cameras, giftware, china and small appliances were available for purchase in addition to jewelry. “We even sold Norelco razors at the downtown store,” she said.
Now, the store specializes in jewelry.
McKinney enjoys the people she sees daily. Every day is a different day with different people, she said. She likes hearing about the fun events in people’s lives that she learns while picking out the right piece of jewelry. “They are celebrating the birth of a baby — we’ve even had marriage proposals right here in the store,” McKinney said.
Most men who come in the store are unsure about how to present an engagement ring, and McKinney sometimes makes suggestions. “I try to make them at ease,” she said.
When McKinney learned of the opportunity to work at Zales, she was a homemaker raising two sons. Once she saw the opportunity to work there, she took it and said she never regretted it.
McKinney said she started working when minimum wage was $1.60 per hour, not knowing she would have a lifelong career. “It’s been very fulfilling,” she said.
McKinney originally is from southwestern Oklahoma and attended school in Ripley. She came to Enid with her husband, Phil, who had a job here.
One of McKinney’s sons, David, lives in Enid, and another, Doug, is in Round Rock, Texas. She also has two grandsons.
McKinney said she tries to make a connection with all of her guests to understand what they are looking for. She knows what their wants and needs are and tries to help them find the right gift to help them out, she said.
“I always want my customers to be pleased their purchase met their requirements, not what I thought they should buy,” she said.
But she keeps returning to her favorite part of the business: the people she meets and their stories. “It’s mostly about the love, and finding just the right gift for any special occasion,” she said. “I’ve been here 40 years and I plan on staying for a while. I still enjoy what I’m doing.”