Yeah ! A peek inside the area’s only “Wild Wild West” boutique
If you’ve ever driven along Yonge Street in Innisfil, just north of Highway 89, you’ve surely seen the remarkable ‘Wild Wild West’ shop with the big red cowboy boot on its sign.
The store has been around since 1999, owned and operated by husband and wife Kevin Kent and Joanna Rycroft, who also live on the property in the house adjacent to the store.
Inside is a western-themed wonderland full of western clothing, from cowboy hats to boots, belts to buckles, with a variety of styles and products to choose from.
Kent and Rycroft not only sell products, they also design them.
“Most of the hats and belts we design are all our own,” Kent said. “We’ve been designing them since 2004.”
The pair are proud of their hat and belt designs. One of their belts even made an appearance on one of the main characters in an episode of Netflix’s new western series, Yellowstone.
There is a real art to designing a cowboy hat, with different ways to style it to give it a specific look and feel. In order to create the desired look, hats can be blocked, trimmed and even painted.
“We’re doing some of the work here now,” said Kent, who hand-burns some of the brims of the hats with a propane torch to give them a unique look. “It’s not easy to do, but I’ve done it so many times, and we shape everything.”
“It’s like having a hat track and visualizing the color and the group and all that and you go through it until you get what you think is perfect and then you sit down and say ‘Wow I created this, it’s awesome,'” Rycroft said.
When asked where they get their design inspiration from, they say it comes naturally, but often comes from their clients.
There are shelves upon shelves of cowboy boots inside the store from brands the couple know and trust, including Justin, Tony Lama, Nocana, Ariat and Old West Boots.
Rycroft says sometimes customers don’t know what they’re looking for, but she and Kent are there to help.
“We don’t want anyone leaving here with a goofy hat,” Rycroft laughed. “When they’re so thrilled and happy with how they look, it’s worth it.”
Before the pandemic, the store was open six days a week, but with closures, staffing and supply chain issues, it is now only open two days a week.
“Everything has changed for us because of COVID,” Kent said. InnisfilToday. “Staff and closures were a problem.”
Kent says the only reason they’ve been able to stay in business is because of their loyal customers and the fact that they’re already well established.
Before moving to Innisfil, the couple lived in the town and had their shop on Queen Street in the Beaches. It was originally Kent’s store; he met Rycroft one day when she came looking to buy a pair of cowboy boots. And the rest is history.
They fell in love with the beauty of Innisfil, which is why they decided to move.
“We always wanted a home and property all rolled into one,” Rycroft said.
“He was a different type of person (customer) there (Toronto), so when we moved here, I think I was inspired by my surroundings,” Kent said of his designs.
He notes that there has been a gradual shift in Western styling over the years, from the more classic Johnny Cash look to a more “Shady Brady” California/Urban Cowboy vibe.
They now say they see a much younger urban clientele coming through the door, many of whom are inspired by the styles of famous singers and artists.
“Everyone who comes here is happy,” Kent said.
Wild Wild West attracts customers from across the region, many of whom have become regulars, but their main sales have always come from the rodeos with their mobile shops.
The couple have pop-up trailers, filled with merchandise for sale, that would travel to various rodeos, events and concerts in Ontario.
Their next big event is the Stevensville Rodeo, which will take place later this month.
Wild Wild West is located at 5872 Route 11 (Yonge Street) in Churchill and is open every Wednesday and Thursday from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m.