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Longtime owner of iconic clothing store in Belleville is ready for a new chapter

Roger Wigginton stands in front of Don Rodgers, the Belleville clothing store he has owned for decades. “I’m very proud of what I’ve done,” Wiggington said. “I’m opening a new chapter in my life.”
Joshua Carter
Belleville News-Democrat
Roger Wigginton stands in front of Don Rodgers, the Belleville clothing store he has owned for decades. “I’m very proud of what I’ve done,” Wiggington said. “I’m opening a new chapter in my life.”

Editor's note: This story was originally published by the Belleville News-Democrat.

It’s been a 47-year run in the clothing business on the west side of Belleville for Roger Wigginton, but now he’s ready to “move on.”

Wigginton, who has owned and operated Don Rodgers Ltd. clothing store since 1976 off West Main Street, plans to begin a “Retirement Sale” on Jan. 2.

“People say you’re going out of business. No, I’m not going out of business,” he said. “I could stay in business as long as I want. But I want to retire.

“The toughest part is going to be leaving the people behind,” he said. “That’s going to be the toughest part.

“Because people are coming to me now, ‘Well, where are we going to shop?’ Oh that’s like a stab in the heart,” he said with a laugh.

But he quickly notes he’s “totally at ease this is the right decision.”

“It is definitely time to move on.”

Wigginton, 74, is looking forward to a new chapter following the death of his wife, Mary, in 2021, and then making the decision to retire.

For starters, he and Valerie Terschluse are planning to get married in July.

“I did exactly what I had to do and now I’ve got a new future, a new love in my life,” Wigginton said.

“I want to spend my life with her.

“And down the road, I was kidding her the other day, and said, ‘Maybe I’ll start a new business.’ And she says, ‘Oh no you’re not, we’re going to travel,’” he said with a laugh.

Along with their plans to travel, they are looking at getting a home in Clayton, Missouri, and spending time with their families. Wigginton has three children and seven grandsons while Terschluse has two daughters.

Terschluse, who has been a full-time assistant buyer for Don Rodgers merchandise since earlier this year, said, “I was looking forward to buying for spring and then he started talking about retirement, so here we go.”

And Wigginton said in reply, “Here we go.”

Business history

Wigginton is not sure how long the Retirement Sale will last.

He knows if someone offers to buy the store at 6727 W. Main St., the sale would end that second.

The store is listed for $275,000 with BarberMurphy of Shiloh.

Wigginton said the building is “turn-key” ready if someone wants to open an apparel store, although he notes it’s a “tough” business climate for brick-and-mortar clothing stores competing with online companies. He also said a nail salon could be a good fit.

There is what he calls a “fabulous” apartment above the store so the new owner can walk to work. It also has a new garage.

Don Rodgers opened at this site in 1994 after operating in various places within the nearby Arcades shopping center beginning in 1976.

The name Don Rodgers came from a combination of Wigginton’s first name and the first name of his former partner, Don Napoli.

Wigginton’s first name doesn’t have a “d” in it but they added that to make it look more like a last name.

“For all these years, people think I’m Don Rodgers,” Wigginton said.

Wigginton bought out Napoli’s share in 1985 after a lease they had for a women’s clothing store expired in Creve Coeur, Missouri. Napoli is now retired in Indiana.

Wigginton and Napoli got together in 1976 when Wigginton was offered a corporate retail position in New Jersey but decided he didn’t want to move to the East Coast. They’ve been friends for over 50 years, and both will turn 75 on Feb. 3.

“I knew I would own my own business at one time,” said Wigginton.

And this was the time.

Wigginton, who has spent a total of 57 years in the retail industry, got his first business loan on a “handshake” deal with the late Belleville bank executive Harry Cruncleton Jr., who agreed that a women’s clothing store was needed on the west end.

Life in Belleville

Along with running Don Rodgers and raising a family in west Belleville, Wigginton spent decades contributing to civic life in Belleville.

He served on the Belleville City Council from 2015 to 2022.

Wigginton said he enjoyed his work with Belleville Mayor Patty Gregory when they were co-chairs of the West Belleville Promotional Committee.

“Patty and I started this west Belleville group,” he said. “We put west Belleville back on the map and did a lot of great things.”

Other groups he served on include the city’s zoning board, the city’s planning commission, the board of the Greater Belleville Chamber of Commerce, Family Hospice, Blessed Sacrament Catholic School, a group that supported the former Lindenwood University-Belleville and the merchants group in the Arcades.

Wendy J. Pfeil, president and CEO of the Belleville chamber, lauded Wigginton for his commitment to Belleville.

“Roger definitely made an impact on the community and what he did has not gone unnoticed,” Pfeil said.

“To be in business that long and then to finally step away from it, has got to be hard for him and the city,” she said.

“He brought in a lot of different clientele from not only Belleville but from outside of here, and they’re all loyal clientele that shopped with him for years and years and years,” Pfeil said. “He’s truly going to be missed.”

Wigginton said, “You have to put back into the city what you take out.”

“People come in and say all the time, ‘Roger what you did for the city and what you did for west Belleville is amazing,’” he said.

“I’m very proud of what I’ve done. I’m very, very proud.

“And it was a labor of love.”

Mike Koziatek is a reporter with the Belleville News-Democrat, a news partner of St. Louis Public Radio.

Mike Koziatek is a reporter who covers the Belleville area for the Belleville News-Democrat, a news partner of St. Louis Public Radio.