In 2003, Cato Fashions opened their doors in Independence and they have never looked back. In fact, they are looking forward. Especially since the Bartlesville, Okla. closed their doors for good Dec. 24, sending much of their merchandise to the Independence location, including clearance items.

Independence store manager Amy Easley noted the store has seen a rise in customers since the closure of the Bartlesville location. "We already have customers who would travel from Bartlesville to shop our store because each Cato has a lot of different merchandise," she said. "We often ask customers where they are visiting us from and Bartlesville has been a very popular answer the last few weeks."

According to company history, the fashion store began as a family business in 1916 when founder Wayland Henry Cato made his start working a summer job in a general store in his hometown of Ridge Spring, SC. His retail prowess was so profound he quickly became top salesman and convinced his father to help him open a dry goods store, but faced challenges when wholesale prices dropped in 1919 after he purchased a shipment of goods. In 1946, Wayland Cato left United Merchants to launch his own business with his sons, Wayland Henry Cato, Jr. and Edgar Thomas. 

By 1948 Cato's seven stores garnered $700,000 in sales and $30,000 in net earnings and sales hit the $1 million mark the next year. Cato continued opening stores across the south and southeast and went public in 1968, selling shares at $19 each although mediocre performance and stock prices over the next 12 years prompted the company to go private in 1980. After five years of improved results, Cato again was taken public. 

John P. Derham Cato is now the chairman, president and chief executive officer for Cato Fashions and the company is headquartered out of Charlotte, NC. As of January 2016, the company operates 1.372 stores under the names Cato, Cato Plus, It's Fashion, It's Fashion Metro and Versona.

Easley said they have no plans to expand the store at this time as they have a nice size and selection now. "While we are sad the Bartlesville Cato has closed, we are happy to assist any new and current customers that may bring us," she said with a smile.

Independence Main Street Executive Director Tabatha Snodgrass said they have noticed an increase with out of town visitors during the holidays but is not sure if it is due to the Bartlesville Cato closing their doors. "I sure hope it does though," she concluded.