7 secrets of Rockmount Ranch Wear – they put snaps on Western shirts

DENVER - Many may think of Denver as a Wild West Town, but a shop on Wazee Street is actually THE place to buy classic western wear.

Let’s go inside Rockmount Ranch Wear and learn the secrets behind the glass.

Secret No. 1: Back in the 1940s, when Jack A. Weil moved into this building on Wazee Street, this was just a warehouse.

All five stories and the basement were used for storage. The retail store on the first floor didn’t open until more than 50 years later, in 2001.

There’s a small museum inside the store that explains how Rockmount’s founder introduced the first western shirts with snaps. The snaps were better than buttons because they let loose if the shirt got caught and snaps hold more permanently than buttons, making the shirts popular with cowboys.

Secret No. 2: Those famous snaps come in two shapes -- diamond and round.

Current Rockmount president, Steve Weil, the founder’s grandson, says the snaps only come in two shapes because it takes special machinery to attach them.

Secret No. 3: While Rockmount is famous for its snaps, the shirts also have another feature you might not notice – a cuff tab.

Only two clothing companies have a trademark for a tag location – Levi’s jeans have a tag on the back pocket and Rockmount shirts have a tag on the cuff.

Secret No. 4: The cheapest item in the store is a postcard. The most expensive items are cowboy boots.

The most expensive boots in the store on the day we visited were Lucchese Caiman-skin boots for $1,600, but Weil said they’re happy to special order you a custom made pair of Lucchese boots, too.

Secret No. 5:  As you wander around the store, you may notice they also sell western shirts with marijuana leaves on them.

Weil says the company has a long history of floral embroidery on its shirts.

"We brought it [the marijuana leaves] out as a joke," Weil admitted. "Then we sold out the first batch."

So it appears the Cannabis Cowboy and Cannabis Cowgirl shirts are here to stay.

Secret No. 6: There are lots of historic remnants in the store, if you look carefully.

That tin ceiling? It’s original.

Weil says they found the tin ceiling was covered by a false ceiling when they renovated and decided to make it a feature of the first floor store.

The door to the dressing room? Look under the shirts being displayed here and you’ll see one of the original vault doors.

There’s a second vault door elsewhere in the store.

The vault wasn’t used for money, but it was used as fireproof storage for the company’s important papers. During the remodeling, the vault was removed, but the doors were reused.

Also during the remodeling, the basement was turned into a parking garage and the second floor was turned into offices for rent. Those changes helped pay for the renovations and help Weil buy the building.

In the basement, the numbers you see on the wall aren’t for parking spaces, those were the numbers for the storage shelves back in the warehouse days.

On the second floor, an old fire door was turned into a piece of artwork.

And if you look on another original floor, you’ll see tin numbers.

Again, this was part of the numbering system back when the entire building was a warehouse.

Go to an upper floor and you’ll see the numbering signs still being used.

Secret No. 7: If you see a dog wandering around the store, he’s actually a crime fighter.

A few years ago a young man tried to buy $1,000+ in merchandise, but his credit card was rejected. While Weil called the credit card company, the man grabbed his card and left.

Weil was walking Wazee the dog the next day when a co-worker insisted they take Wazee into the Oxford Hotel for a biscuit. As Wazee got his biscuit, Weil spotted the same young man. Police were called and the young man and his group were arrested.

Weil said it turned out the gang had stolen thousands of dollars in merchandise from several local stores that week.

Rockmount Ranch Wear is on Wazee Street, between the 16th Street Mall and 17th Street. It’s the last warehouse in LoDo still used as originally built.

Learn more about the history of the company here. You can go behind the scenes at Rockmount and dozens of other historic buildings in Denver during Doors Open Denver April 25 and 26.

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Got a place you want us to go inside and learn the secrets of? Email Debbie@TheDenverChannel.com.

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