Younger people are used to seeing the big Shepler’s Western Wear Store out by the Wichita airport. It’s really something to behold. If you need cowboy stuff, that is the place to get it. My first visit to Shepler’s was nowhere near as grand as what you see today.
Even an Augusta kid like me knew about Harry Shepler. Besides running his store, Mr. Shepler also sponsored rodeos and other western events. I was probably between 10 and 12 years old and that would put the time from 1946 to 1948. On a Saturday morning, I was with my great uncle, Dave Peebler at his home at 124 High Street. I was there to do yard work or whatever needed to be done. Uncle Dave said he needed to go to Shepler’s Wichita and invited me to ride along. I liked the idea and jumped in the car and we took off.
It’s been a lot of years since I have cruised around Wichita, but as I recall, Shepler’s was on Market Street, about 3 blocks north of Douglas. The business was located in a small store front that was completely filled with western gear. In the store, we walked to the back, where the counter was located and there was no one in sight. The door to the back room shop area was open and out came Harry Shepler. He and Uncle Dave shook hands and greeted each other. They told me that they were old acquaintances who didn’t get to see each other very often but caught up on things when they could. Uncle Dave introduced me to Mr. Shepler who invited me to go look around the store while they visited.
I thought I had died and gone to heaven. The place was filled with the wonderful smell of leather and there was cowboy stuff everywhere. I ran my hands over the floral carvings of the saddles and fondled the bridles and smelled them. I looked at the spurs and belt buckles and tried on a couple of cowboy hats. All this stuff fit right in with the cowboy movies I saw at the Isis Theater every Saturday afternoon. Mr. Shepler was indeed a lucky man!
I understand that the Shepler stores have prospered and can now be found in many cities. I’ll bet none of them smell as good as that first one.
December 16, 2015