Carrie Rengers

Boot Barn purchase means Sheplers signs will disappear in Wichita

California-based Boot Barn Holdings is buying Texas-based Sheplers and rebranding the 25 stores in the western wear chain. (June 1, 2015)
California-based Boot Barn Holdings is buying Texas-based Sheplers and rebranding the 25 stores in the western wear chain. (June 1, 2015) The Wichita Eagle

After more than a half century of the Sheplers name in Wichita – and more than a century in business – the name of the Western wear company is going away with its sale to California-based Boot Barn Holdings.

The $147 million acquisition is expected to close no later than the week of June 29, and Boot Barn plans to then rebrand the name of the Texas-based Sheplers and its 25 stores.

“The acquisition of Sheplers enhances Boot Barn’s position as the largest, fastest-growing western wear and work chain in the United States and creates the leading omni-channel business in the industry,” said a statement from Boot Barn CEO Jim Conroy.

Sheplers had long been known for its catalog sales and then its online presence.

“Our ability to grow the largest online business in the industry started with building upon our loyal customer based from our long-standing catalog format,” said Sheplers CEO Bob Myers in the same statement.

E-commerce sales accounted for $66 million of Sheplers’ approximately $157 million in net sales for the 12 months ending March 28. The Sheplers.com site will continue.

In an e-mail, Myers referred questions about the sale to a Boot Barn spokeswoman, who didn’t return calls for comment. Another Boot Barn spokeswoman declined to comment.

The Sheplers chain began when J.W. Gibson opened Gibson Harness Co. in what the Sheplers website calls “a modest storefront in Wichita, Kansas,” in 1899.

Then in 1946, Harry Shepler carried a brown paper bag with $25,000 down Wichita’s Main Street to buy the business.

At the time, the store, which was located where the Sedgwick County Courthouse is now, sold harnesses and tack. Shepler called it Harry Sheplers Saddle and Leather Co.

In 1961, he built a 10,000-square-foot store at 6501 W. Kellogg, which is where it still is today.

The business has undergone several name changes through the years, eventually becoming known simply as Sheplers.

The company also has had a few ownership changes over the years, including when Jabara Ventures Group and about 70 employee shareholders sold the company to Gryphon Investors in 2007. Gryphon is the group selling to Boot Barn.

As with a couple of previous acquisitions, Boot Barn will rebrand with its name. The Sheplers purchase will mean eight additional retail markets for Boot Barn, making a total of 200 stores in 29 states.

The name change will be another in a long line of changes for Sheplers, said Hatman Jack’s Wichita Hat Works owner Jack Kellogg, who said he has benefited from Sheplers sending business his way through the years.

“It had a wonderful legacy in this town based upon Harry Shepler and what he meant to the industry,” Kellogg said.

“I still talk to people who loved Harry Shepler,” he said. “Of course, he hasn’t owned it since 1968. … But it has continued to be a destination.”

Reach Carrie Rengers at 316-268-6340 or crengers@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @CarrieRengers.

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