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Shaking Off the Dust

BY Shannon Asher | July 14, 2017 | Feature Features

Kemo Sabe Aspen gallops into a new location and looks back at the 24 years of Western experience that got it there.

Hats are being steamed, shaped and branded while an 8-year-old girl models her first pair of cowboy boots for her family. Johnny Cash echoes over the loudspeaker. The time is 2:45pm and an ice cold beer has already been cracked. “This is Ethel. She is our hardest worker,” says Wendy Kunkle, the general manager of Kemo Sabe. Her contagious laugh follows her gesture toward the overstocked refrigerator that protects the most coveted commodity in the store: cold beer and chilled wine served to customers seeking the full experience from the Western-wear experts. For 10 years, Kunkle has been a boot designer, general manager and No. 1 badass—as stated proudly on her business card. “The best thing we sell here is the experience. The staff works to build friendships with their clients. It’s hard to even call them clients,” she says. “They are our friends.”

Kemo Sabe combines old west traditions and crafts with fashion-forward design, luxury goods and handcrafted detail at each of its three locations—Aspen, Vail and Las Vegas. Owners Tom and Nancy Yoder opened Kemo Sabe in Snowmass in 1990, and three years later moved the store to Aspen. When approaching the Cooper Avenue location, one might easily mistake it for a saloon. License plates, horseshoes and cowboy hats line the walls. Shoppers are greeted by bison and longhorn mounts that keep a watchful eye over the cowboy haven while the distinct smell of new leather lingers. Think John Wayne and Indiana Jones. Chairs and couches are draped with brown fox throws, beaver pelts and coyote blankets. Shoppers stand confident and proud as they model their newly purchased cowboy attire. “We are a destination,” Kunkle says. “People visit Aspen just to come see us.”

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