Burns: 145 Years and Going Strong

Scott and Danna Burns-Shaw, left, and Braydan Shaw, 5th and 6th generation owners.

As 2021 enters its final month, we’re reflecting on our 145th year in business. We’re the oldest, same family-owned western retail business in the world, so we thought it was worth taking a peek into our past with a mindful eye to the future.

It’s survived 25 presidents, two world wars, a Great Depression and Recession and much, much more. When it first launched, horses and trains were how people got around and today, people are catapulting into space as a nearly common occurrence. Business ledgers were the key to keeping the books and now it’s all about tech. So just how does a business sustain for nearly a century and a half?

According to two of the business’ main leaders, it’s all about its ability to grow and adapt and to pass along knowledge and an understanding of previous generations.

Danna Burns-Shaw is the company’s fifth-generation owner and CEO. She says that each generation has been blessed with creative visionaries who embrace the entrepreneurial spirit.

“As my grandfather used to say, ‘you’re either green and growing or ripe and rotting,’” she says.

It’s all about examining what consumers need at any given time and then working to create a product that offers a solution. In the beginning, Burns created harness for horses and then pack bags during the Great Depression. Next came the Pic-Pocket, a storage bag that hooked to the back of a pickup seat and then came automobile seat covers.

“Often major disruptions to our business propelled us to success in a different lane,” Braydan Shaw, Burn’s president and sixth-generation owner, says. “If Burns had remained harness makers, we’d have been out of business when the tractor was introduced.”

Braydan shares that the automobile put a lot of saddle shops out of business, but being open to change, his grandmother invented the automobile seat cover, which became the largest producing sector of the business.  

“We’re fortunate that managing change and the opportunities that come with it are at the core of our culture,” Braydan says. “We dedicate a section of our weekly leadership meetings in all sectors to discuss issues/ideas concerning the changing business climate.”  

Danna and her husband, Scott Shaw, have been married for about 40 years.

“Whenever we add a new product or acquire a new business, we have to learn something new,” she says. “For example, we recently got into silversmithing and Scott’s learned the craft. And who knew we’d ever own an events company and media business that produces “Shop Talk!” Magazine? But we do.”

It was in 2008, that Danna made the first attempt to move the business into the tourism industry, so it could expand its equestrian reach. The result was a retail store front in Park City, Utah – Burns Cowboy Shop.

Today, Burns has a strong social media presence thanks to the millennials who are at the helm. Tik Tok videos have received millions of views and showcase talented artisans. It’s even broken into the film industry being outfitters for talent on the wildly popular “Yellowstone” series.

“We’re lucky that our family dynamics have continued to work,” Danna says, “We’re the ‘Burns Bunch’ and we’re going strong.”

For a complete recount of the company’s history, read more here: About Us.

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