By Dirk Webb
Photo by Dale Pickett
Lynnette and Jeff Boone, Owners
Cowpokes Work & Western
1812 East 53rd St.
Anderson, IN 46013-2830
Jeff Boone is from Markleville, Indiana. His wife, Lynnette, is from Montgomery County. They met at Blackhawk College in Illinois. He finished at the University of Illinois; she finished at Middle Tennessee State. When the dust had cleared, they landed back here in Madison County owning and operating Cowpokes Work and Western. And now they are a finalist for the Madison County Chamber's Small Business of the Year award.
In 1993, Jeff talked about opening a Western store with college buddy, Doug Edge, decided against going into business when Doug and his wife, Lisa began to focus on starting a family. Jeff and Lynnette traveled to Jackson Hole, Wyoming on their honeymoon and when they returned, Doug and Lisa had discussed it and changed their minds and the direction of two families.
According to Jeff, “he called in July, we opened in November with a whole lot of learning to do. Our only link to retail knowledge and support was Doug’s dad, Harold, who owned Northgate Tru-Value Hardware.” Beginning behind the Anderson Applebee’s restaurant, in a leased 3,500 square foot location Cowpokes Western Outfitters set out into the great unknown.
Jeff and Lynnette bought Doug and Lisa’s ownership several years later but their contributions remain very evident in the company.
Tough local economic conditions were to follow and the Boone's knew that simply waiting for business to come in the door wasn't going to cut it. So Jeff contacted friends Ted and Janet Begley to partner in promoting and growing the Cowpokes Brand offsite at equestrian and livestock events. In time, Steady growth allowed Cowpokes to purchase the 20,000 sq ft former Kittle's building in 2003 where they are located today.
From western and work footwear to clothing, work apparel, men’s and women’s jeans, home décor, jewelry, and belts, Cowpokes provides more than just “cowboy clothes.” Included in the business is an in-house embroidering shop as well as a full line of Equine products including a Tack Shop. And hats, let’s not forget the Western hats!
Why here in Madison County? “When we first started there were companies with similar products in Indianapolis, and when they failed, we naturally debated whether we should go there. At the time there were many negative comments about Anderson and whether a business could thrive here. We decided that it was close to home; we spend our money here, raise kids here, so why not here. My grandfather, Mort McShirley, was an auctioneer, we still run the auction house outside of Markleville. We specialize in real estate and estate auctions. We are really rooted here.”
What are your goals for 2015? “To continue to expand the e-commerce side of our business. We already sell to a worldwide audience through our website, we think we can do it even better.”
Why are you in this business? “Back then no local retailers carried a line of products for livestock and equestrian people. If they did, they didn’t have the ‘cool factor.’ We wanted to bring our products to a younger, more fashionable client. We feel we have great service. As we grew and it became apparent we were going to be able to stay in business we noticed the big competitors in Indy went out of business. We struggled like a lot of businesses did in ’08, so it became more about developing sustainability, being there for customers, remaining a family business, and providing income to our employees.”
Who do you consider the most courageous person in history and why? “Courage comes in so many different ways: anyone who’s put their life on the line for someone else. One who immediately comes to mind is Jesus. He stood by what He believed, even in the face of fierce opposition. Someone once said, “Heroes aren’t born, they’re cornered.” There are a tremendous amount of heroes who’ve never had their names spoken.” If you were to take that person on a tour of your business, what one thing would you want them to see? “My first thought as a business owner is, ‘Could I get him to give up his sandals for a pair of cowboy boots. What kind of marketing campaign would that be? Kidding aside, I’d want Him to see how we affect those around us in a positive way, how we try to run a business that is reliable and respected. We’ve never been good at tooting our own horns about our effect and at times we’ve not been good promoters, but we’ve always believed in word of mouth, positive experiences and having impact on our consumers and employees.”
What was the defining moment when you knew your business was making a difference? “It’s not just about us, but how we can affect those around us in a positive way. We’ve had wonderful relationships with our vendors. Well-known companies like Wrangler and Stetson; we’re the number one account for many of them in the State of Indiana. That means we’re doing a pretty good job and are important to them as well. We also provide 20-25 full and part time positions in Madison County.”
> Back to Small Business of the Year finalists
Winners will be revealed the night of the 2015 Annual Awards Gala.