Now in its fourth season, the hit television series Yellowstone, starring Kevin Costner (aka John Dutton) has ties to one of Salina’s oldest traditions, Burns Saddlery. Products hand crafted by local artisans employed by Burns have been featured in seasons 2, 3, and 4 of Yellowstone, including hats, belts, buckles, and gear.
“The storyline of Yellowstone is based on a fourth-generation farm in Montana, and the series creator Taylor Sheridan loves the connection between this four-generation family and our six-generation family,” said Dana Shaw. “Yellowstone, the hit series of the summer, was filmed in Park City for the first three seasons, and Sheridan stopped in our Burns shop there. He loved what he saw and sent in his costumer designer; they love our products and the most unique part in this is that it is all crafted under one roof, here in Salina- the boots, saddles, hats, belts, buckles, all of it.”
As the Dutton family evolves through time on the show, things have also evolved and changed for the Burns family since they first opened shop in 1876; but the thing that remains is they still cover things in leather. In the beginning it was pieces designed to do the work such as harnesses and saddles, now it includes a wide variety of arts. The shop is set up “campus style” where the trained artists tutor the newcomers, and it is the goal of the Burns family to keep the lost arts growing. Growing and expanding come as necessities to the business as supply and demand puts them six months out on saddles, though they are constructing twenty saddles and sixty hats per week.
Burns hats and hat bands, popularly showcased on Yellowstone, were the brainchild of Dana’s son Braydan, and Burns hats are the fastest growing sector of the business. Many of Burns’ custom hatbands, in particular the one worn by John Dutton in Yellowstone, are impossible to keep in stock due to the demand. Shaw said though Burns has always manufactured, when the internet started to take hold, the family decided to go back to their roots, back to who they are, which is builders and craftsmen, and through learning and evolving other sectors have fallen into place, and each piece produced is a collaborative effort by highly skilled artists.
“For example, our hats are a collaborative effort,” said Shaw. “We build the hats out of the highest quality materials and build the hatbands to include sterling silver buckles and hand tooling. And this is the same for all the products we manufacture. The sterling silver also goes on boots, saddles, belts, and jewelry, and the hand tooling is used on the tops of the boots, the saddles, etc. It truly is a collaborative effort by all of our artisans, who work together under one roof to create heirloom quality products that will be passed down for generations.”
Her grandfather, Vern Burns, is known for saying, “If it’s leather, leave it to us,” and that motto still applies today.
Obtaining the leather and basic materials to sustain their demand has been a challenge for Burns throughout the current pandemic, as the majority of their materials are by-products of the food industry.
“We use the highest quality all-natural materials through refining processes,” said Shaw. “We get a lot of our Beaver from Canada and the fur for our hats from Europe where they eat a lot of rabbit. However, when slaughterhouses are shut down for weeks, that takes 10,000 hides a day off the market. And Europe was just completely shut down which made it difficult to obtain and ship supplies. A lot of our ostrich comes from New Zealand and goat skins from South Africa.”
To stay liquid during the pandemic, Burns’ Carmel, California store was closed for a time and their inventory was sent to Park City or their wholesalers who have accounts throughout the world. Regardless of where they end up, the ultimate goal of each piece produced by the artisans at Burns is the celebration of a lifestyle: the spirt of the west, the American cowboy blazing trails looking for a better life, and this spirit is revered across the world.
“Our pieces are built in a high quality, authentic way with old school construction that is built to last,” said Shaw. “And that is why Yellowstone is interested in our products. We represent what they are attempting to portray- the uniqueness and authenticity of the American cowboy, and we are able to do it in a collaborative manner, under this one roof in Salina, regardless of the piece being manufactured. We all work together to get the end goal.”
Shaw’s husband, Scott, is the silversmith of the operation and that facet of the business originated as Sunset Trails. Scott learned his craft from fifth generation artists who were silversmiths to stars such as Roy Rogers and John Wayne. Each solid sterling, hand engraved piece features exquisite hand tooling and hand painting, and Burns owns the largest collection of western die cuts and use turn of the century equipment.
Events at the Blackhawk drive people to the live-action museum at Burns Salina location to see pieces manufactured and Burns will also have hat or jewelry booths on location. Custom saddle fittings are popular, and customers will stop by for a hat or boot fitting, custom buckles, jewelry, or other pieces. The Salina location features a few in-stock saddles, logo wear and essentials for horses, but much of their work is custom.
“The pieces are built for function and fashion and are revered all over the world,” said Shaw. “It’s a unique experience to see each facet of a piece being constructed and people fly in from all over the world to view the manufacturing, all here under one roof in Salina.”
Matt Wanner oversees the boot shop and is a master saddle maker. He is the general manager of the Salina operation. Sue Williams, who has been with the company for over 40 years oversees the boot manufacturing and James Sorenson is over the saddles.