Western Shoppe was invited to participate and a third quarter “20 equestrian brands” feature was pencilled. With the unfolding world-wide COVID-19 tragedy, our 45th anniversary year soon became a year of big change, great appreciation, and reflection of our values and valued.
Thank you to the HQ team for presenting the opportunity and for digging deep! 45 years could never fit into a single feature, but in a strange new world, it pushed us to re-cement our purpose.
We love horses, we love our people and fellow horsemen, and we love the journey.
Western Shoppe was founded on and continues for the love of horses. Be it in top management, the support staff or the weekend casuals, this is our life and our love. The partners and the many staff members are all deeply rooted in the horse world, having experienced every joy and heartache of horse ownership. Young horses, old horses, lame horses, cute horses, after-work rides, weekends at shows, stable mornings and more.
In fact… if the word ‘horse’ doesn’t come out of our mouths at a dinner party, call an ambulance!
A shared passion makes the Western Shoppe journey with customers ever more personal, and remains a key driver in solving every horse’s and horse owner’s unique issues, and meeting their needs. From the moment we lay eyes on a product, to when we present it to our customers in-store or at the yard, to the provision of support with aftersales, the whole process is all about making the horse’s and his owner’s lives better.
The first Western Shoppe was opened in 1975 by Mannie and Darryl Gershow next to Rivonia Produce in rural Rivonia. The shop was dressed in a distinct Western theme and the brand signature wagon wheels were displayed at the front door. In its early days, there was little equestrian about Western Shoppe. The business stocked an apparel selection for the general consumer market, including a comprehensive denim jean offering and country-style shirts.
Darryl, 18 years old at the time, was a competitive and successful showjumper.
The first step towards today’s comprehensive English riding offering in store, was the late Andre Ferreira’s need for a George Parker Toptani saddle, for which Mannie took on the order. To Mannie and Darryl’s ultimate good fortune, there was a minimum order for the saddles, leaving them in the position where they needed to sell the balance of the order. Darryl soon found homes for the remaining George Parker saddles within the showjumping community, and enough demand was created to reorder more and, as a result, Western Shoppe’s equestrian journey began.
The saddlery requests soon evolved into requests for bridles, horseshoes and Pennwood saddles (as requested by the great Anneli Wucherpfennig). The range expansion soon outgrew the home garage, and eventually moved into the Rivonia shop, changing its retail course. With the support of family, great clients and a growing Western Shoppe team, the business expanded over the years to cater for a broader and still growing local equestrian market.
In 1989, Roy Gershow joined the family business. Roy, with his well-mileaged and diverse business history, saw a great national need for Western Shoppe, leading to a journey of expansion into the main equestrian hubs and, also, online. The business’s home base moved into a larger Johannesburg premises, and by 2010, Western Shoppe had opened branches in Cape Town, Durban and Pretoria, as well as its first online store.
Darryl was a keen and successful showjumper, riding well into his 30s. As a junior, he represented the Transvaal Junior Showjumping Team, and won the South African Junior Showjumping Championships twice on his horses, Troubles and Refinery. He competed in major shows around the country and also rode for South Africa at an event in Zimbabwe, receiving Protea colours. Today, Darryl enjoys horses and the sport from the ground, supporting his wife, Shane Gershow, in dressage and showing.
Anyone who knows or has met Darryl, can attest to the fact that he is incredibly personable, a gold star listener, and remembers every detail you may ever have shared with him – even if it was many months ago. Naturally, therefore, with Darryl at the helm, the business built a great sense of community and trust, and the business was really founded on relationships. This still resonates deeply through all of its operations today.
In 2012, after more than 20 years in the business, Roy announced his intentions to retire, which forced the question, “What next?” A change was imperative to find continued growth and sustainability, and so a new family name joined Western Shoppe.
As old Blue Chip Racehorse Carriers colleagues, Roy had, on more than one occasion, approached Deon Augustyn to be a partner in the Cape Town branch, and fate eventually made its call. Deon had moved to Johannesburg with his family for a high-level logistics contract, and through the sport, reconnected with the Gershows and took the leap into a new industry. He joined the partnership in 2012, taking on the role of CEO, to strategically evolve Western Shoppe as an equestrian business for the future and lead the succession plan.
Deon started his riding career at 12 years of age under the mentorship of Ken Hall. He represented the Eastern Province in eventing and showjumping as a junior for a few years with two horses, Moonspinner and Ken’s Horaas. Deon competed in many of the country’s three-phase events, including Leyland Horse Trials in Cape Town, Mainstay Horse Trials in Bloemfontein and Whitbread Horse Trials in Johannesburg.
After school, Deon pursued a career as a military fighter pilot, so had little contact with the equestrian world for a 10-year period. After his military contract ended, he reconnected with Ken Hall at Blue Chip Racehorse Carriers. This is where he met Roy Gershow.
Throughout his business career, Deon has continued life with horses alongside his family. He has chaired a number of disciplinary bodies, and was the chef de mission for the South African team at the 2014 World Equestrian Games. Today he owns and enjoys three horses, who compete in varied showjumping levels with his daughter Jessica.
In the last few years, a lot of energy has gone into Western Shoppe’s supply chain management; the continued expansion of the business and distribution points; and the curation of a focused team that will continue to build and grow Western Shoppe’s legacy in an ever-changing world. It’s no small task to maintain 45 years of very personal business, while always looking into the future! Together, Darryl and Deon have found the perfect balance.
Besides the cool new arena-side Western Shoppe Durban (at Shongweni Riding Club), the major ongoing project has been to find Western Shoppe’s relevancy online while maintaining its traditions. The transformation to the online world has been steady, with a few learning curves, but Western Shoppe’s latest website overhaul and digital journey showcases their evolutions and confidence in the online space.
Western Shoppe has walked a 45-year journey with a tremendous community, and in turn has been able to share many great moments with clients, friends, family, industry partners and an incredible team.
- Nicole Uphoff (dressage gold medallist).
- Franke Sloothaak (showjumping gold medallist).
- Monty Roberts Tour – private evenings at Western Shoppe Johannesburg and Cape Town.
- Prestige Italia Saddle Fitting Experience with Carsten Engelke, showing corrective fitting techniques on horses with unique problems.
- Saddle fitting workshops, including Bates workshops with Frank Reitemeier, and Performance Fitting workshops with Beatrice Blakeman (SMS).
- Grant Moon Clinics with Mustad, hosting over 150 farriers in three cities.
2020 held great plans, which have had to be put on hold, but Western Shoppe can promise many more great moments in the months and years to come!
From George Parkers and Pennwood saddles to today’s stable of great brands, Western Shoppe has committed to a brand selection of high quality and great supply support. The business has purposed itself to serve the broader equestrian market, catering for amateur riders and professionals alike, in a wide budget range.
- Professional Choice
- Prestige Italia (Appaloosa initially)
- GPA Safety Legend
- Sergio Grasso
- Carr & Day & Martin
- Spruced Up
- Heritage Gloves
- Cavallo Hoof Boots
- Kwesta Rider Apparel
- Aktiv Equine
Every horse is unique, and every horse deserves his perfect fit. For years, people thought we were crazy to carry such a wide saddle range with brand and product depth, but for the horse (and his owner), it’s a great blessing. We always arrive at a saddle fitting appointment with the requested saddle selection and a few extra options, because there is no one-saddle-fits-all scenario. Our goal is an all-round fit for horse and rider, but we also pride ourselves in finding a saddle fit that will adapt and mould with the changing requirements of horse and rider as they progress in their chosen discipline.
We don’t shy away from saddle pads. “If the saddle fits perfectly, the horse shouldn’t need a pad.” This is a true and sound principle, but no horse is the same as the next, and no horse stays the same for very long! This means that saddle pads are vital tools along the way to perfect saddle fit. Saddle pads are no longer just for show – they have many specific uses, including aiding in fit and reducing concussion. We always suggest fitting your saddle to cater for a pad if it is required, and never to purchase a pad without consulting your fitter first, as the smallest change, such as including a pad with your correctly fitted saddle, can cause more harm than good.
It’s in Western Shoppe’s ethos to never sell a saddle that doesn’t fit. We value every horse’s wellbeing, and his rider’s satisfaction and confidence in the saddle. Our saddle fitting specialists are committed to a journey with their clients, finding and maintaining the absolute best fit for horse and rider.
The Western Shoppe saddle fitting team has a strong training and mentorship foundation:
- Society of Master Saddlers (SMS)
- Prestige Italia under Carsten Engelke
- Bates under Frank Reitemeier
- Beatrice Blakeman of Crewe Performance Saddle Fitting (UK)
We suggest having your saddle checked every three to four months. Remember that seasonal change, training and illness are just a few of the things that can affect the changing fit of your saddle.
In a forever challenging South African environment, Western Shoppe is committed to walking a journey with the equestrian community. We want to continue providing exceptional service, and meeting the needs of our diverse and sensitive southern African equestrian market with carefully chosen, high-quality products. We always encourage open communication with our clients in order to maintain a high service and product standard. We love horses as much as you do and want to solve problems together.
We see an urgent need to grow the equestrian sport, ensuring we all have a sustainable life with horses. Together as a community, we need to find a way to bring new equestrians in and keep them in.
A focus channel for Western Shoppe has been SANESA, who, alongside many of our riding schools and coaches, have taken on the task of inspiring our young people. These are our horsemen and -women of the future, and a fulfilling equestrian life could await them!
There are incredible people doing incredible things in welfare and education, who need our support.
We are particularly tuned in to charity programmes purposed for work horses, who play an important role in South African life, as well as development programmes, which create opportunities for aspiring riders and horsemen and -women.
Thank you for all of your support on a fulfilling 45 year journey. We look forward to many, many more years serving a wonderful equestrian community, and treasure every moment spent with our customers in-store and at the yard with their horses.
HQ presented a wonderful opportunity for us to reflect on Western Shoppe’s journey, but 45 years could never fit into six pages.