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New owners take charge at Natchez Sears

Randy and Kristen Dauzat recently bought the Natchez Sears and started working there last Sunday after Randy retired from the U.S. Air Force. (Sam Gause/The Natchez Democrat)

Randy and Kristen Dauzat recently bought the Natchez Sears and started working there last Sunday after Randy retired from the U.S. Air Force. (Sam Gause/The Natchez Democrat)

 

NATCHEZ — Randy Dauzat’s work experience these days is definitely at a different speed than it has been.

“I’ve gone from dog handling, narcotics and explosives to lawn, garden and home,” he said.

Dauzat — along with his wife Kristen — is the new owner of the Natchez Sears. They officially took over the Sears Hometown Store at 31 Seargent S. Prentiss Drive Feb. 22, shortly after Dauzat retired following 20 years as a military policeman in the U.S. Air Force. The couple is most recently from Lake City, Fla.

While the Dauzats are first-time owners of a Sears store, this isn’t their first experience with the brand.

Randy’s mother has owned a Sears in Avoyelles Parish for 20 years, and when Dauzat was stationed with the Air Force in San Antonio, he had a part-time job in the lawn and garden section of a Sears store there.

“Our vacations have usually been spent in (the Avoyelles) store helping out with things like Black Friday, so when we found out this store was available, we decided, ‘Let’s go,’” Kristen said.

The couple wasn’t actively looking for a Sears store, however, when the opportunity presented itself they accepted it, Dauzat said.

“For the past 12 or 13 years, I wanted to do some kind of small business, but I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do,” Dauzat said.

“After I retired from the Air Force, I went to the Florida Police Academy and was waiting to get hired when I heard about this.”

Randy said his goal in running a small business was to be able to work with people.

“It was always important for us to be able to have fun with our jobs, and when people come in and start interacting with us, I love it,” he said. “Having a business is not all about making money, it’s about getting to meet people and enjoy what you are doing.”

Sears vetted the couple to see if they were the right fit for owner-operators, and the Dauzats visited Natchez to see if it was the right fit for them. They liked what they found.

“We drove all around the area on New Year’s Day, did some touring,” Kristen said. “After that, we decided to jump right on the opportunity.”

Both of the Dauzats are former military personnel. While Randy served to full retirement, Kristen served four years as a surgical tech in the early 2000s. They met and married in Biloxi when both were stationed there.

So the fast pace of a boot camp-like training was nothing new to them. Taking over at the Natchez store meant hitting the ground running.

The Dauzats moved to the Miss-Lou on a Friday. They spent the following day unpacking and by Sunday had flown to Chicago for corporate training with the Sears company.

Training — which, unlike boot camp, focused less on physical conditioning and more on bookkeeping — started Monday and ran through the end of the week.

By midnight Saturday, the Dauzats had flown back to Natchez and opened the store Sunday.

Since then, the focus has been on re-arranging the floor plan for efficiency, deploying proper signage and getting ready for spring offerings, Randy said.

The store has two other employees, who were hired by the Sears transition team prior to the Dauzats taking over. They hope in the near future to find a truck and driver to resume delivery of appliances to customers, Kristen said.

They’ll also focus on giving customers an overall helpful and satisfying experience, Randy said.

“I’m very much a people person, and even as a cop you have to have some sense of positive customer service,” Randy said. “It is not new to me.”

The community’s response to the change in ownership at the Sears store has been wholly positive, Randy said.

“The community has already taken us in, and it almost feels like we are family already,” he said.

The Dauzats have two children, Peyton, 10, and Korbin, 8, and reside in Vidalia.