Hi, my name is Braydan Shaw. I am 6th generation owner of Burns since 1876, a 141 year old same-family owned western retail and manufacturing company. I come from a long line of creative craftsmen so I guess you could say entrepreneurship is in my blood.
Growing up, I was fortunate to be raised in a family business that promoted growth. The support given to new generations by progenitors to follow their passions has shaped the Burns organization into the great company it is today. Founder and First Generation owner, Miles Burns started our journey as a harness maker and black smith. He would trade repair work for goods, even the hand braided whip of the famed Butch Cassidy himself. He also developed the Utah style pack bag for the US Government. Second Generation, Vivian Burns moved the business 60 miles northwest to Salina UT, where it still resides. Under Vivian’s direction the company’s focus shifted from harness making to saddle making and canvas goods. The introduction of the automobile gave Third Generation owner Vern Burns the opportunity to expand the business. He invented and patented the Pik-Pocket, a collapsible storage pouch that installed behind your truck seat. The Pik-Pocket was distributed all over the United States. Fourth Generation owner Dan Burns brought retail expansion to the established saddle shop and Pik-Pocket businesses, adding cowboy boots and factory produced tack items. His wife, Donna created the first saddle blanket seat cover for automobiles. Her first prototype was made for our uncle Don who worked for the local auto dealer. The first dozen orders came in the very first day. The Indian Blanket seat cover was distributed worldwide and was soon running three full time sewing shifts out of the factory to fill orders. Donna oversaw the day-to-day operations of the seat cover business until her retirement. Fifth Generation owner Danna Burns-Shaw, my mother, added a ladies touch introducing fashion to the company. She soon had a 13,000-square foot retail store built that boasted over 10,000 pair of boots and a full line of western clothing.
This was the environment I was raised in, a bustling retail operation, a full throttle seat cover factory and a working saddle shop. My whole life I have witnessed the hard work of my family and what it takes to run the evolving and growing business.
I began working in the business at a young age stocking and dusting shelves, taking inventory, shipping seat covers and building fence on the family horse farm. When I had free time to do what I wanted, I found myself in the back corner of the retail store behind the jiffy steamer with a pile of Resistol hats. I was constantly reshaping them, experimenting if you will. In my early teens, my first customer walked in the store for a hat cleaning and I was excited to do a great job. I quickly went to work scrubbing and brushing this cowboy’s hat. I noticed a loose string under the hat band so naively, I gave it a pull. Needless to say, the gentleman’s sweat band fell on the floor right in front of him. I quickly composed myself, snatched up the band and acted as if sweat band conditioning was part of the cleaning package. I ran over to the saddle shop, grabbed a needle and thread and taught myself to hand sew a sweat band in a hat right then.
I loved spending time in the hats and by the time I was 20 years old, had introduced a line of Burns branded hats into the retail store. Our inventory quickly grew to where the shop was stalking almost 1,000 hats.
Six years ago, Burns Custom Hats was born when I picked up a truck load of old equipment and armed myself with 45 minutes of training, a few supplier connections and a ton of zealous energy. Six years and countless all night hat building sessions later, Burns Custom Hats has found its ideal spot nestled between our custom saddle shop (Burns Saddlery) and custom silver shop (Sunset Trails Silver) in the basement of the 13,000-square foot retail store my mother built in Salina UT. Just recently we have converted the basement into a campus style working environment for young and experienced craftsmen. The campus style environment allows for a lot of collaboration between the different artists in the three shops. I am grateful to be paired with Trevor Alexander, Burns Saddlery’s extremely talented shop foreman for the Fusion show.
Hats continue to be my passion but my full-time responsibilities as President of the family business keep me very busy. Overseeing the day-to-day operations for 10 different companies is what some may say, “a very left brain task”. Building hats gives me the opportunity to innovate and express myself creatively. I have always been exposed to leather work and just recently, when we acquired the 100 year old silver company Sunset Trails Silver, I have been able to watch the trade of silversmithing. But hat making is what I love to do. I love the history of the craft and the antiquated equipment. I love the process; sanding, blocking, shaping, sewing and distressing. When asked what I do for fun to unwind from the pressures of owning and managing your own business, the answer is always, “I make hats.” The hat shop is my place to crank up the 90’s alternative rock, intently focus on creating a great hat and lose myself for a few hours, clearing my head. So, you will only find me in the hat shop late at night or when we are working to launch a new line.
The Burns Custom Hats shops young, talented artists have grown and developed with the shop. They oversee day-to-day operations and I am proud to have them entering pieces in the show as well. I am honored to have met and associated with many great hat makers who have inspired me to stretch myself and keep trying to build each new hat better than the last. I am excited about collaborating with Trevor and creating a custom piece for the Fusion Show.
Hi, I’m Trevor Alexander. I have been learning the art of leather crafting for six years now and two years ago was hired by Burns Saddlery. My passion for leather and art has always been alive in me but being able to combine the two, creating functional, usable works of art for clients gives me great satisfaction. Off the clock I have a passion for dirt bikes, long range shooting, hunting and the outdoors. I am thrilled to be working with Braydan on a custom hat for the Fusion Show.