Ever since Cody and Julie Newport met 12 years ago in Long Beach, California, they’ve had their sights on running a business together. Both have owned their own companies at one point. But the married couple, who bought Wild Bill’s Western Store last summer, wanted something they could do together. And they wanted a business in Dallas.
Cody Newport grew up Princeton, just 20 minutes southeast of McKinney, putting in long hours on his grandfather’s farm. “I hauled hay, we had cows, and grew up in boots, jeans, and a hat,” Cody says. “Julie has adopted it now, too.” The couple prefers outdoor pursuits, often jaunting to their little cabin in Oklahoma for hiking, ATV rides, and cooking over an open fire.
Feeling a deep connection to Cody’s Texas roots, the couple moved back to Dallas a few years ago. They hadn’t let go of that dream of working together, though. “We knew we were too young to retire so we were working with a broker to help find our next business,” Cody says. They weren’t looking to open a retail shop, but when they got the opportunity to purchase Wild Bill’s, it just felt right.
The Newports bought West End store in July, and, just like that, they became purveyors for all things Western apparel, namely cowboy boots and hats. They’re now custodians of a 50-plus-year legacy.
The beloved Western brand’s history is rooted with the Dewbre family. In the 1940s, Bill Dewbre’s family owned a leathercraft company across the street from Fair Park. Perhaps by osmosis of working at the family business, Dewbre learned to craft “western works of art.” That bedrock knowledge served as a strong pillar for him when he opened Wild Bill’s in 1971, then called C-Bar-D.
Since then, the brand has developed a reputation for its custom boot-making, personalization, Wild West experience, and deep-rooted Texas identity. Some of the biggest celebrities have stopped by while in town over the years. Wild Bill’s outfitted the original cast of Dallas back in the day. In 2018, they made a belt buckle for Blake Shelton. The store even has a collection of custom belt buckles created solely for celebrities who have visited, including Kevin Hart, Chuck Norris, Ice Cube, and Patrick Swayze.
Thanks to the store’s proximity to the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center, Wild Bill’s often receives requests for private corporate events, too. These events include shutting down the store for its Wild West experience and to focus on team building. The brand’s notoriety has caught the attention of a collection of mammoth brands, including National Geographic, Google, Twitter, Disney, Amazon, Twitter, and BMW, to name a few.
“In addition to corporate events, we have a lot of tourists who are visiting Texas for the first time and the minute they walk through the door, they are hit with the smell of leather,” Julie says. “Just imagine 6,000 square feet, and it’s nothing like they’ve ever seen before.”
Although tourists are the majority of the brand’s clientele, the Newports want to appeal to locals, too. Especially as the couple has noticed a big shift toward western wear integrating into mainstream fashion trends.
“I think the shows Yellowstone and 1883 are really having an influence,” Cody says. “People are digging the western.”
And they’re seeing that in their boot1 sales. Men spend more on boots instore, Cody says, but will typically just buy one pair from the exotic collection. That includes stingray, ostrich, and elephant, among others. Women typically purchase a couple different pairs with a fashion-forward mindset, Julie says, from brands like Lucchese, Dan Post, and Corral.
Although the selection is immense at Dallas’ oasis for authentic western goods, Julie says the experience is the differentiator that has sustained the store for decades.
“When people come into the store they are wowed by the experience,” she says. “It’s really something that sets us apart from other retailers out there. You don’t really understand it until you make it in the store.”
The Newports are clutching onto Wild Bill’s long history with great intent, care, and passion as they look to the future as the brand’s owners. The couple isn’t looking for a big shakeup to the current business model. After all, the brand’s “friendly spirit of the west,” which is felt (and smelled) the second you walk into the store, has contributed to its success and longevity. And that’s what attracted the Newports to the marquee Dallas brand.
“If something isn’t broken, don’t fix it,” Cody says. “The former owners were just ready to retire and move on and get a fresh set of eyes in there. We’re keeping that ‘Texas welcome experience’ there. It’s key.”