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A NEW ERA

Iconic fly shop has long history in community
By 
Ryan Peerboom — Enterprise Staff Writer
Thursday, April 16, 2020
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365体育网址Enterprise photo by Nate Howard

Dale Sexton, center, new co-owner of Dan Bailey’s Fly Shop, with his daughters Meryl, 13, holding the dog, and Palen, 12, along with former owner John Bailey, at front right, gather for a photograph with what Sexton refers to as his “Timber Trails crew and families” Thursday morning.

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Dan Bailey, founder of Dan Bailey’s Fly Shop, as photographed by Harold E. McGee in this picture dated Oct. 18, 1952.

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A photograph hanging inside Dan Bailey’s shows three women and Dan Bailey tying flies in the early 1940s at Dan Bailey’s Fly Shop.

365体育网址Wednesday’s sale of Dan Bailey’s Fly Shop marks a changing of the guard at one of Livingston’s iconic businesses. 

The ownership passes from John Bailey, son of the shop’s founder and namesake, Dan Bailey, to local business owner Dale Sexton and his business partner Mark Gurley.

The sale includes the storefront at 209 W. Park St. as well as its inventory and any intellectual property related to the brand.

 

The history

Dan Bailey first opened the fly shop in 1938 after he discovered the original storefront when he was stuck in Livingston getting his car fixed the year before, according to John Bailey.

365体育网址Bailey said his father knew he’d end up in the area.

365体育网址“Many years later he told me, ‘I knew before I ever came, I was either going to end up in Livingston or Bozeman,’” Bailey said.

365体育网址Bailey said his father told him that Livingston turned out to be the right place for the fly shop to thrive.

“He said, ‘If I’d have picked Bozeman, we’d have never been in the mail-order or have the wholesale business, because it grew so fast,’” Bailey said.

Bailey became acquainted with the store when he began attending Westside Elementary school in first grade.

365体育网址“After school I’d have to come to the store and I just terrorized everyone,” he said with a laugh.

To keep him busy, Bailey was occasionally given small jobs which morphed into working at the store full time as he grew older. 

Eventually, Bailey became the owner of the shop after his father passed away in 1982. 

The shop opened up plenty of opportunities, Bailey said.

365体育网址“Well I’ve met people from all over the world, holy smokes, because they came to (the shop),” he said.

He also served as the fly fishing advisor on the 1992 film “A River Runs Through It,” which starred Robert Redford and Brad Pitt and was filmed primarily in Livingston and surrounding areas.

“Brad Pitt brought women to fly-fishing like you can’t believe,” he said.

365体育网址In recent years, Bailey made the decision to sell the shop; he just needed to find a buyer.

“Well I’ve tried to (sell it) for some time but there just weren’t any buyers,” he said. “And then Dale (Sexton), he used to work for me, so it’s a good transition.”

 

The new owners

365体育网址Sexton, owner of Timber Trails, and Gurley take over as equal owners of the fly shop. 

365体育网址Sexton, 55, has a long history with the fly shop and will serve as the managing owner of the business.

“I bought my first fly from Dan Bailey,” Sexton said.

Sexton’s first job was at Dan Bailey’s in 1983 when he was a senior in high school. After leaving for college in Alaska for a few years, Sexton returned to work at the shop. He worked his way up to retail manager and eventually became the vice president of sales for the shop.

“It’s been a part of my life since boyhood,” Sexton said.

Sexton eventually left Dan Bailey’s to start Timber Trails. The outdoor recreation store sells gear and offers bike and ski rentals. 

365体育网址Now, with the new purchase, Sexton hopes to combine the businesses going forward. 

“Those two names are going to exist under the same roof,” Sexton said. 

Bailey said he expects Sexton to make changes, but he’s confident that he will do well with the shop.

“I know him and he’ll be good with it, I’m sure of that,” he said. “He’ll change it. You have to change, if you don’t change, you die.”

365体育网址Sexton said Dan Bailey’s name has special meaning to him and the Livingston community.

“It’s a legacy name and it’s foundational, not only to Livingston, but the greater fly fishing community,” he said. “We’re hoping to grow that moving forward.”

Dan Bailey’s helps tell the history of fly-fishing, according to Sexton, which is why he’s glad that the bulk of the archives will remain in the shop 

365体育网址“The place is like a museum, it really is,” he said. “A lot of the history of fly-fishing is within those walls.”

365体育网址Although the shop is special to Sexton, he said the acquisition is about more than just the sentimental value.

“It’s also about our involvement in the conservation community,” Sexton said in a message. “Advocating for clean, free-flowing rivers and lands and our access to those resources. Selling stuff, while important and essential, has never been our emphasis.”

Sexton also mentioned how important and influential his staff at Timber Trails has been during this process. 

“This is as much about, and for, my employees, my family and the Livingston community, as it is about me,” he said.

Gurley, Sexton’s business partner, owns a family business in Kansas City called Frontier Bag which manufactures packaging for food and pharmaceutical supplies. 

Gurley became familiar with Livingston through his father, who frequently visited to fish.

“My father’s probably been going out there every year for 30 years,” he said.

365体育网址About 20 years ago, Gurley began to travel to Livingston with his father, which is how he got to know Sexton. 

Sexton taught Gurley to fly fish, and over the years they developed a friendship while fishing, floating the Yellowstone River and hiking in the mountains.

In recent years, Gurley has brought his sons along with him to pass fly-fishing along to a third generation of his family.

Like Sexton, Gurley has a respect for the history of the shop.

“The first time I walked into the shop I was like, ‘Wow, this place is really cool,’” Gurley said.

Gurley said he will spend more time in Livingston thanks to the acquisition, although he will still remain based in Kansas City. Gurley won’t have much involvement in the day-to-day operations of the shop, but said he has faith that Sexton and his staff can thrive at Dan Bailey’s.

365体育网址“My faith is in Dale,” he said. “Dale and his staff can make it happen.”

365体育网址Sexton has similar thoughts about the opportunity of the new ownership.

365体育网址“I’m optimistic that we’re going to thrive,” Sexton said.

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