The Story of Woodland Park’s Oldest Retail Hubs

The Cowhand was started as a tack shop in 1965 and moved to its current location in 1967. Photo Courtesy of the Ute Pass Historical Society.

The Cowhand and Chimayo Turquoise Win Top Accolades as Longest-Running Stores

Trevor Phipps

Many residents who move to Woodland Park often wonder which businesses have been in the city the longest.

Out of all of the local gems, there are a few that have called Woodland Park their home for several decades and even longer.

In fact, when asking around town, debate persists regarding who really is the city’s longest standing business. The quickest and probably most correct answer is the Cowhand, located in the city’s downtown region.

The Cowhand was opened up by Howard and Joan Stull in 1965, and it has been operated by Merry Jo Larsen and Marty McKenna (who are second and third generation members of the Stull family), for more than two decades. The store still runs strong to this day.

Another shop owner in downtown Woodland Park, though,  says that his store actually reigns as the longest running business in the town with the same owner.

Dan Vigil started up Chimayo Turquoise in 1976, and he has been the store’s sole owner ever since. Vigil probably wins the race as the longest-serving business under a single owner.

Needless to say, both businesses have strong historic ties to the region and have generated amazing support from local residents and visitors.

The Beginnings of the Cowhand

According to Merry Jo Larsen, before the Cowhand came about, she and her parents (Howard and Joan Stull) ran horse stables near the Paint Pony Golf Course, where the houses on Valley View Drive now sit. She said that her family took care of horses for ranches in the region, and furnished them for a nearby girls’ camp.

“During those three years we had the stables, you couldn’t buy a currycomb and you couldn’t buy a halter in this town, you couldn’t buy any of that stuff,” Larsen explained. “So, we talked about opening a little tack shop so that we would have some horse equipment. Because everybody rode horses with all of the dude ranches around and there was no place you could buy tack. Then, the community said, ‘Well, are you going to carry boots? Are you going to carry hats?’ So, it then morphed into a little western store.”

The Cowhand was originally in the building where Alpine Firearms currently resides. But then in 1967, the Stulls moved the store into its current location, which previously served as the town’s grocery store.

The Ute Trail Stampede Rodeo rides past the Woodland Park Food Market which used to be located where The Cowhand is now. Photo Courtesy of the Ute Pass Historical Society.

Over the years, Larsen and McKenna said that the store has changed what it has sold and has adapted to changing times. They said that the community has driven what they carry in the store.

“We have been whatever the town needed at the time,” Larsen said. “We used to sell kids’ clothes, kids’ boots, bathing suits, towels, tennis shoes, bedding, and underwear. We have sold everything under the sun, whatever the community needed at the time.”

The third generation owner, McKenna, said that the store has had to switch up the products more often since the town has grown through the years. “When I was a kid, every four or five years we had to change what we sold,” McKenna recalled. “Then when I came back from the Navy, we changed it every year, then it was every eight months. Now, if we don’t change our products every two to three months it gets stagnant.”

Chimayo Turquoise Offers a Unique Product

Another local business with big historic roots is Chimayo Turquoise.

According to owner Dan Vigil, before he started the local jewelry store, he worked at a rock shop in Colorado Springs. While he was working one a day, a man from Woodland Park bought some jewelry and told Vigil that he had a building for rent in town.

Vigil lived in Colorado Springs at the time, but he had always loved Woodland Park. He then decided to take the man up on his offer and he has been in business in town ever since.

Vigil is originally from Santa Fe, New Mexico, and he named the store Chimayo to give respects to his New Mexican roots. He said that his business has done well ever since he opened it up in 1976.

“I have never had a season where I said, ‘oh no, I’m going to go out of business,’” Vigil explained. “The winters are long, but I have done pretty good all along, including the last two years. A lot of people are hurting due to COVID, but it sorts of helped us because people are shopping locally. And, a lot of tourists have been coming up here the last couple of years to come up to the mountains and get away from the big cities.”

Through the years, both stores have become staples to Woodland Park’s Downtown strip. And, they both offer unique products that shoppers will struggle trying to find anywhere else.