Carrie Rengers

Setting the record straight on the first Sheplers site

The first Sheplers store in downtown Wichita at 452 N. Main St.
The first Sheplers store in downtown Wichita at 452 N. Main St. Courtesy photo

A septuagenarian and an almost nonagenarian with excellent memories would like to set the record straight about where Sheplers first was located.

Have You Heard? incorrectly reported that it’s where the Sedgwick County Courthouse is now.

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

When Harry Shepler bought the business in 1946 and renamed it Harry Sheplers Saddle and Leather Co. – the first of several names – it was across the intersection from where the courthouse is now.

City historian Kathy Morgan says a 1946 phone book identifies the store as being at 452 N. Main St. near the southeast corner of Central and Main.

She says that was the third building south of Central. Morgan says that building and the others near it are no longer there. New ones are in their places.

Eric Cale, director at the Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum, says the Sheplers building was one that was “just so typical” of its time.

That’s a two-story, late 19th Century building.

“They were all over the place,” Cale says. “Everywhere you see a parking lot downtown, there were about three or four of those in that spot.”

On Monday, Boot Barn Holdings announced it’s acquiring Sheplers and the 25 stores in its chain at the end of the month and then rebranding them.

Cale spent quite a while digging up a photo of the old Sheplers building on Tuesday.

“I can’t help myself,” he says. “The local history’s fascinating.”

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

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