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Boots, belts, buckles and more: The history of The Cowhand
By Maggy Wolanske,
(WOODLAND PARK, Colo.) — A bright red building catches many eyes when driving through Woodland Park. For those unfamiliar with this store, it is The Cowhand, a store filled with Western-themed treasures for all ages to enjoy.
“We carry Christmas decorations and housewares and Western clothes and ladies fashion,” said Merry Jo Larsen, Owner of The Cowhand. “We’ve got an awesome collection of Native American jewelry which is silver and turquoise mostly, but other stones. We’ve got antiques and collectibles. We’ve got a lot of memorabilia from the past. It’s kind of fun.”
Larsen shared memories growing up in the City Above the Clouds as her parents started the store back when she was in school.
“I grew up here, 650 people lived in Woodland Park when I was growing up,” Larsen said. “It was a great place to live and grow up. We rode our horses everywhere, everybody had horses. The rodeo grounds was right across the street. We had some, up to seven professional rodeos a year.”
While the city has grown over the years, both the store and the enduring western spirit have remained alive and well.
“I’m glad because little stores like us are dying every day,” Larsen said. “The older people are getting tired and the young ones don’t want to do it and it’s just, it’s becoming lost. It’s gone to big corporate and to find little fun stores like this that have all kinds of different things and can actually provide some customer service, is a delight for the customer.”
One family inside of the store was visiting from San Francisco and said this the first time their daughter, Amelie Rojas, had picked out her own pair of cowboy boots.
“The first that she actually chose,” said customer Alfredo Rojas. “The other ones have been given to her by family or friends, so these are the ones that she actually came and decided that she wants.”
On this busy Thursday, a pause in time as this father and daughter now share a precious moment, all thanks to a pair of cowboy boots. A true testament to The Cowhand’s western treasures which bring smiles to those of all ages.
“We’re one of the few things that’s still the same, still looks the same and still fits into what people remember of the past,” Larsen said. “It’s fun when they come to town. They always have to come in and say, ‘I recognize you, I was in this store, I bought my first boots.’ So it’s fun.”
For the Rojas family, they stumbled upon the store thanks to the internet.
“We’re staying here in an Airbnb just visiting for a few days and we just Google it,” Rojas said. “We saw that this was a fantastic store but when we opened… the doors, it’s amazing, it’s beautiful, it’s way more than what [we] expected, it’s fantastic.”
Thanks to Larsen and her family, this store takes customers back in time and lets them bring home any western wishes they may have.
“We are our history,” Larsen said. “We need to pay attention to it or, you know, we don’t have a direction and I think a lot of the younger people have lost direction because they don’t know our history. People move here said, ‘well, you know, there’s no history here.’ We’re so rich in history with the mining of Cripple Creek. We are one of the gateways to the west.”
As the trees change colors and more people drive up into the mountains, Woodland Park is proving it’s a city worth stopping by and getting to know the shops and people inside.
“It’s a wonderful little town,” Larsen said. “We invite everybody up. It’s a great day trip. We are the best kept secret on the front range and our whole county is a small county, but we’re rich in history and beauty.”
The Cowhand has served the Southern Colorado community for 58 years and does not seem to be stopping any time soon. This blissful boutique is a cowboy and cowgirl’s dream come true.
“We really serve the community,” Larsen said. “We’re aware of our customer, what they need. We changed with the growth through those 58 years and, you know, we’re still doing the following, but we’re in tune with our customer and that’s the secret big bucks could not do.”
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