Long before the ski resorts made Park City a boomtown, the wide-open spaces of Utah belonged to the cowboys. With a can-do spirit, 13-year-old Miles Lamonie Burns made his own luck by starting a blacksmith and harness shop in the area now known as Capitol Reef National Park. Founded in 1876, this shop has endured six generations of ownership by just one family, making it the world’s oldest same family- owned Western retail business.
Like the American cowboy, Burns has been carrying out the traditions of the West for 147 years. Burns has evolved from a business providing items of necessities, such as a horse’s harness that was essential for agriculture and mining, to providing fine products for people who love the lifestyle of the West. With grit as tough as worn leather and determination that could rival a wild stallion, Burns has wrangled reinvention time and time again. Each
generation has boldly raised the stakes to fulfill the founder’s vision of elevating life experiences. Today, led by the passion of Braydan and Misty Shaw, Burns has four artisan, handcrafted brands: Burns Custom Hats, Sunset Trails, Burns Saddlery and Burns Boots. Like tradition, every creation is made to pass on to the next generation.
Iconic in the Wild West, a hat is the first thing people notice. Burns Custom Hats produces approximately 120 hats per week with a team of just three artisans. Each hat begins as a shapeless piece of beaver or rabbit fur felt. The skilled hands of a Burns hat expert steams, creases and shapes the hat into a custom creation.
Of course, no cowboy is without a belt. Silversmiths operate under Sunset Trails, which
began in Los Angeles in the twenties. Each been soldered and engraved by expert hands to embody the traditions of sophisticated elegance, capturing the poise and refinement of the American cowboy.
Burns is one of the only companies in the country that still builds saddles with premium U.S. leather that they hand cut with their bare hands. Careful attention is given to every detail of each saddle, from a saddle fitting by experts to the team of skilled leather workers who are hands on throughout the process that happens in a 30,000-square-foot workshop in Salina.
The boot shop, Burns Boots, is the newest addition to the family business. Despite being
a newcomer with big shoes to fill, Burns Boots stepped right up to the challenge. Using all the hard-earned lessons of handcrafting leather for saddles, the Burns team built the trade from the ground up, training artisans all along the way.
Although it involves one of the most sustainable materials available, the craftsmanship of leather is becoming like a tumbleweed in a desolate landscape, relying on old-timers showing younger employees the ropes.
Burns Cowboy Shop has three retail locations, and the company has an online store and a network of wholesale accounts across the country that carry their premium brands. The retail shops can be found in Salina, Park City and Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
“The generations before us weren’t afraid to pivot when it was necessary. They would seek new opportunities and were courageous enough to go for it,” said Misty, co-owner of the company and president of 1876 Media. “That has given us the permission to rethink and reevaluate — even when it was a little scary. It is the reason that we are still here.”
The enterprise is so dedicated to the legacy and craftsmanship that it takes to keep the trade alive that through 1876 Media, they own the trade magazine ShopTalk!, run the Pendleton Leather Show in Oregon, launched an online learning portal for those in the leather industry, and are advocating to put the trade back into higher education.