Thursday, October 18, 2007

King's Western Wear Heads For Last Round-Up!

An end of an era is a phrase that is often misused, but not in this case. I can still remember when I bought my first serious Western boots there and what hat I bought at what time starting in 1966 when I suddenly found myself living in a different world than I had been born in.
And, now along with all those I used to ride with, King's is about to vanish.
UNLESS - someone steps up and buys the name and the memories and either moves it to Chatsworth or Woodland Hills/Calabasas/Malibu nearer horse country - or brings it Downtown to Broadway where men still wear boots and hats.
Or can anyone find the King's a smaller store near horse country where they can continue themselves?
Any volunteers? VEDC? Chamber of Commerce? North or West Valley Neighborhood Councils?

Valley Western wear shop headin' for the last roundup as cowboy era moseys out

BY DENNIS McCARTHY, ColumnistLA Daily News

Maury and Arlene King came back from lunch one day in 1946 and saw their retail future flash right before their eyes.

It wasn't selling barbells and tennis rackets like they thought. It was peddling saddles and blue jeans to a young, growing, still rural San Fernando Valley.

"The only thing that had sold while they were at lunch that day was a saddle," says Randy King, Maury and Arlene's son.

"That's when Mom and Dad realized they could sell more horse tack in the Valley than dumbbells."

King's Sporting Goods and Riding Shop in Van Nuys became strictly King's Riding Shop, and later King's Western Wear. It moved from Van Nuys after 50 years to Studio City in 1996.

And now, after 61 years in business, "it's time to ride off into the sunset," Randy was saying Wednesday - half laughing, half cringing at the old cowboy pun.

The long customer lines that used to snake down Van Nuys Boulevard for the King's Western Wear holiday sale the day after Thanksgiving haven't been long and snaking for years now.

The studios that spent a lot of money at King's buying Western clothes for TV shows such as "Dallas" and "The Dukes of Hazzard" are getting them straight from manufacturers for product placement now.

They're still selling a lot of blue jeans and boots, but not enough to keep a business this size open, Randy says.

So when the last piece of merchandise and all the fixtures are sold - probably by late November or early December - it's last call for King's Western Wear at 11450 Ventura Blvd. in Studio City.

"The day we told people we were closing and kicked off our last sale, all I did was cry," says Arlene, who at 86 was still working in the store with her son until recently. Maury died in 1995.

"This was our baby, and it's very, very sad to say goodbye," she said.

But while the good times lasted, it was one heck of a ride, says Randy, who joined the family business after graduating from Birmingham High in 1977.

King's Western Wear attracted a who's who of Hollywood stars living in the Valley. Old movie cowboys Gene Autry and Randolph Scott were steady customers.

Bob Hope and James Cagney used to drop in every few weeks when they were in town. Actor Tom Selleck still comes in.

Up on the wall are head shots of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and actor Tom Cruise thanking all the employees of King's Western Wear.

Their store was also a trend-setter, Randy says. Long before other retailers selling Levi and Lee jeans got the idea, King's was sending 200 pairs of the rock-hard jeans to the laundry every week to be softened up.

"They came back soft and faded, and we began selling them like hot cakes," Randy says. "We had 2,500 pair on the shelves at one time.

"We sold to everybody from square dancers and weekend cowboys to bell-bottomed hippies in the '70s. It was great."

King's moved off Van Nuys Boulevard and onto Ventura Boulevard in 1996 to be nearer the studios and its customers, many of them living in or near Studio City.

But the handwriting was already on the wall, Randy says. Business - particularly cowboy business in the Valley - was slowing down.

Horse tack, saddles, bridles, bits and spurs weren't jumping off the shelves anymore. The store with the bucking bronco on top was barely hanging on.

"Times changed," Randy says. "Nothing we can do about that. It's time for us to go."

Before they do, Arlene and Randy want to say thank you to all their customers for the past 61 years.

"It's been an honor and a pleasure to be part of the growth of the San Fernando Valley," Arlene says.

But now it's time to ride off into the sunset.

Dennis McCarthy's column appears Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday.
(818) 713-3749


Church Lady said...

There's a Snark fest in the blogoshpere.
Your name was mentioned.
Just wanted to pop in and say hi. Please join in my blog if you like, we try to have lots of fun and comedy!
(PS--your name was mentioned on Orion's blog)

CowBoyEd said...

Oh no! What happened to the cowboy store on 11450 ventura blvd?
It seems the last cowboy store in the area is now gone
I like pets but we have too many pet stores in SC already (just like we have too many Sushis)
I wanted the cowboy store to remain forever, like a classic, like an Arizonian cactus.
Every cool place turns either into a pet store or a Sushi
This sucks,