Weldon's Hangs Up Their Hat
Weldon's Saddle Shop & Western Wear will close its shop on Saturday, January 14, after nearly 60 years of business. The items remaining in the store will be put up for auction via JonesSwenson.com as shop owner Mr. Weldon Burgoon settles into retirement.
Burgoon was inducted into the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame in 2010 and two years later he was inducted into the NBSSCA Hall of Fame. The amount of memorabilia a professional cowboy can collect in a lifetime is impressive. Mr. Burgoon and his daughter Kippie plan to lease the building after the shop closes on Saturday. Despite plenty of offers, they do not have a signed lease as of yet.
The auctions are taking place in two stages, online & in person. There will be two online auctions to include the Saddle Shop collection that will go live on Friday, January 27 and the Western Wear collection that will go live on Monday, January 30. Both auctions will end on Wednesday, February 8. The second part is the in-person auction for the Bits & Spurs Collectables that takes place on Saturday, March 4 at 10:00 AM at 345 E. Hickory Street. After the auction ends, any remaining items will be placed online for a final auction, and more details will be available via the auctioneer's website.
Mr. Burgoon is a hard-working man who has supported the Denton community for decades. Whether he was helping a friend with a plumbing issue, making or fixing your next saddle, creating a beautifully crafted belt or wallet, or telling you a story from his infinite past experiences, Mr. Burgoon understands people, business, community, and how to make all three work together for the greater good.
“I enjoy working with my hands, but I kept thinking - you’re limited, you’ve only got two hands,” he says. Burgoon opened his shop nearly 60 years ago to repair saddles, cowboy tac, and anything you needed that was made of leather.
“In another life, I was a plumber,” Burgoon says. “My father owned a plumbing business right across from the Record-Chronicle, where Noles sits.” In a 10-foot office space, his mother took their plumbing calls. “She took jobs for me and I made belts and billfolds, I tooled leather all way before I started a business.”
For his birthday in 1938, he received his first saddle. He remembers his father working at Evers during that time, which meant they got the wholesale discount. “They used to have a harness shop on the top floor of the old Evers Building,” Burgoon says. That birthday-saddle has been on display in the shop for years.
“I rode it, golly, I guess 10 or 12 years,” he says about his first saddle. He broke horses for the public. Burgoon started roping cattle in the rodeo when he was 11 years old in breakaway roping events.
From 1950 - 1957, Burgoon worked for his father's plumbing business. In 1959, after his mother falling ill, he had to choose between being a plumber or being a saddle shop owner. Needless to say, he choose to be a saddle shop owner. “I kept my plumbing license open til I turned 65, because I didn’t want to burn any bridges behind me, so I did some plumbing,” he chuckled.
Burgoon bought the sewing machine, moved their business across the street, and he continued to be a plumber, working for his father. He did the saddle repair and other custom work in his downtime. He made and sold his first saddle in 1959; he mostly did repairs.
“The most I ever made was 15 in one year, I would generally schedule one per month,” Burgoon says. A fully tooled saddle would take about 100 hours of work. They weighed about 48 pounds when he was making them. “The market for those have changed, though,” he says.
“You can learn a lot about a saddle by taking it apart and putting it back together,” he says. Burgoon is a self-taught leather craftsman.
Talking about business trends, Mr. Burgoon remembers a particularly trying time in the 1950’s where there was a 7-year drought in North Texas. “That was a troubled disaster financially,” he says, “because if you didn’t have water for your cattle or your horses, and you didn't have hay for them, you had to liquidate them. So there wasn’t that much business.”
Weldon’s produced the Denton Junior Stampede for a decade, with the last one taking place in 1982. They had 1,300 contestants from 13 different states and gave away horse trailers, championship saddles, trophy buckets, boots, and more. Burgoon made himself a producer saddle that is proudly on display, and framed in the shop is the flag that his daughter Kippie carried in the Grand Entry.
“My mother & I made my wife a red, rough cut fringe jacket before we married,” he says. “We made a cow-girl out of her.” He smiled and pointed to a photo of Mrs. Burgoon that was thoughtfully placed along the trim of his tooling station. The jacket is on display in the front of his store. Burgoon and his wife have been married for 66 years.
“Some part in most everybody's life - especially in that time - everyone wanted to look like a cowboy,” he says.
But why did Weldon Burgoon want to be a cowboy? “For the money and the glory,” hey says.
Burgoon stopped making saddles after a while but continued to make belts, billfolds, and other leather goods. “I enjoy it,” he says. “I’m not looking forward to not doing it anymore,” he chuckles. “But, I’ve gotten to where I can’t stand up to work on saddles for very long.” He's had both of his hands operated on and they don’t quite like they used to anymore. “I started having my hips replaced in ‘92.”
Within the last 10 or 15 years, Weldon’s has seen a change in their clientele. “We still have a lot of working cowboys, people who ranch,” he says. “There are still a lot of cattle, lots of rodeos.” Their clientele turned into a professional lady, though, and she had a good job and had money. “She wanted a 25- 28 lbs saddle that she could ride in the parks and on the trails,” Burgoon says. “We specialized in helping people get the right saddle because there are different seat sizes, different styles, different weights. A lot of folks used to come in and tell me what they wanted, but a lot of them come in and ask me what I recommend they get.”
“Internet and the big box stores are tough on the mom & pop stores,” he says. “But now the big box stores aren’t doing well. It’s all just changing.”
With that change comes an end to the cowboy corridor of Downtown Denton. Mr. Burgoon and his family have spent 60 years providing quality goods to Denton and will sadly be closing their doors on Saturday, January 14.
Photos by Brian Doore
Header image design by Sara Button