J.R. Dry Sr. had ended a long and successful career in retail and western wear, but grew tired of being retired. That itch to return to business led to the founding of our company, Drysdales.
Dry felt certain Tulsa, Okla., was ideal for a western wear store. He found a former grocery building, gutted it, and nearly doubled its size. Dry hired experienced managers he knew, and our first Drysdales store opened Sept. 22, 1981, at 3220 S. Memorial Drive. That store still thrives today.
Drysdales Vice President Sig Schwier, one of the managers that Dry intially hired, remembers that Dry “stood at the cash registers and greeted people as they came in. He loved to do that.”
Jim McClure, another of Dry’s initial hires who is now president of Drysdales, says Dry’s influence on our company endures well after his death at age 72 in 1982, less than a year after the first Drysdales store opened.
“He was our mentor,” McClure said. “He came from the Depression era, where there’s nothing they’d rather do than work. He was very customer-oriented.”
The Drysdales name
The Drysdales name is derived from a horse ranch Dry owned in Arkansas.
A mother-son team that hand-drew advertisements for a western wear store that Dry ran in Wichita, Kan., paid him a visit. Seeing the trees on the hills and dales on a road leading to Dry’s idyllic property, they dubbed it “Drysdales.”
The nickname stuck, and eventually served as the name for our company.
We published our first Drysdales catalog in 1989. It contained 16 pages, all in black-and-white with hand-drawn illustrations. Just 16,000 copies were mailed. But it served its purpose well.
“We knew there were people on the East and West coasts who wanted western wear and couldn’t fly to Tulsa to get it,” Schwier says of the catalog’s usefulness.
A typical Drysdales catalog often contains more than 100 full-color photo pages and is mailed to hundreds of thousands of homes. Previous catalog covers featured country-music superstars such as Brooks & Dunn, Blake Shelton and George Strait, plus rodeo champions Ty Murray and Trevor Brazile.
In 1994, we bought a warehouse near U.S. Highway 169 and Pine Street in Tulsa to operate our call center, and later, the Internet division.
In 2003, we opened a second Drysdales retail location at a busy commercial corridor at 10127 E. 71st St. in Tulsa.
McClure says Drysdales continues to excel in the Western apparel business due to value and service. For example, we still offer monogramming and tailoring of our apparel.
We also support local and national events, associations, and charities. We serve as a longtime sponsor and official retailer for the National Barrel Horse Association and the American Quarter Horse Association.
We take note of what colors and styles will become fashionable and incorporate them into Drysdales’ own line of western wear - a product approach that was unique when the company started.
And our enormous selection remains a big source of pride. For instance, we keep more than 100,000 jeans in stock.
“We’re not everything to everybody,” McClure says, “but we’ve got something for everybody, whether you’re a doctor or a rancher.”