VANCOUVER – If you’ve ever strolled by East Broadway, around Main Street, chances are you’ve spotted a peculiar storefront crowned by bull skulls. Those who dare to meander through the doorway are transported to a parallel universe of leather cowboy boots, beaver-hair brimmed hats, and tons of new and vintage goodies. The men behind it all? The one and only Cowboy Dave (a.k.a. Dave Lawr) and his second-in-command, Danny Kresnyak.
“The front of the store is obviously very attention-grabbing,” says Kresnyak. “And then you come inside and you maintain that sort of museum-esque quality. People come in and just look at stuff, or you get folks who just stand outside and are almost afraid to come in. They just look at the fact that the door handle is a rifle and they’re so mesmerized by it.”
As a branch of now-defunct Toronto-based shops, the Rockin’ Cowboy opened its doors in Vancouver in 1971 and “has specialized in curating the finest in new and used rock n’ roll, western, vintage wear and accessories” ever since. The bold statement on their recently-launched website is accurate, indeed. There, Elizabeth Taylor’s dear Liberty boots and a never-worn 1970 John Wayne-like cowboy hat share the space with a rack of $15 used t-shirts and bullwhips.
More than a store, the Rockin’ Cowboy is a rock ‘n’ roll and country music sanctuary. The homages are everywhere: “Guitar Slim, a very early blues and rock ‘n’ roll musician who influenced Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy, and all those cats; Waylon Jennings, the king of it all… Essentially, everything you see is for sale, except for this Johnny Cash poster, in his pill-doing days,” Kresnyak points out. Amongst the collector’s items is a dull beige shirt priced at $495 designed by Nudie Cohn, the man behind Elvis Presley’s infamous gold suit.
When asked about the importance of the store for the music scene in Vancouver, Cowboy Dave is categorical: “We make it affordable for musicians to come and buy cool and different things that they can’t find anywhere else – things that are going to set them apart. ‘People aren’t coming only to hear you. They are coming to see you. They want to see what you’re wearing.’ And that’s part of the whole thing.”
To seal the deal and end the visit, a good ol’ cowboy tradition (despite the fact that it was a rainy Tuesday morning): a shot of whiskey. After walking out of the shop, Kresnyak’s words still echo: life’s too short to wear boring clothes. Cheers to that.
The Rockin’ Cowboy is located at 106 East Broadway.