Bob Ward & Sons, a sporting goods retailer with deep roots in Montana, is proud of its heritage and the tale of its founder, Robert C. Ward.
Bob Ward was born in Minnesota in 1885. In March 1900, at the age of 15, Bob set out on a journey to the Klondike in search of gold.
Two states later, in Missoula, Montana, Bob ran out of money. Eager to continue his journey, Bob looked up an old family friend, John Roland, who owned a Missoula jewelry store. Roland offered Bob a job that the young man was sure would pay the rest of his way to the Klondike.
Still in Missoula sixteen years later, Bob was married and on the verge of opening a watch-repair shop. His shop opened in 1917. Over the next decade, he and his wife became the parents of eight children, six of whom were boys. And those six boys followed in Bob's footsteps, creating a Montana business tradition known today as Bob Ward & Sons.
Though a skilled jeweler, Bob Ward's love of hunting and fishing led him to become a well-known gunsmith. Bob was also the first person in the country to import wire-haired griffons from Germany. These highly trained hunting dogs earned Bob a national reputation for breeding and training. As he aged, Bob Ward's enthusiasm for outdoor activities did not diminish. At 66, he won a national rifle marksmanship competition. When Bob was in his 70s, "Ripley's Believe it or Not" featured an article on Bob after he'd successfully hunted a black bear with a bow and arrow.
Eventually, the Bob Ward & Sons business grew to include custom gun-making and fishing-tackle manufacturing (part of the fishing line was the locally famous "Ward Wobbler"). Robert C. Ward passed away in 1985 at the age of 100, leaving his dedicated sons to keep the business thriving.
After returning from World War II, Bob's oldest son, Irvine, expanded the business into retail sporting goods, which is its primary business today. The company grew to become the largest sporting goods company in Montana. Under the guidance of Irvine's son, Keith Ward, the company has further expanded its reach to include stores in four other markets in Montana. Bob Ward & Sons has become one of the largest privately held sporting goods companies in the Northwest. Keith's son, Chad Ward, also joined the company full time in 1997 after graduating from the Wayne Callaway School of Business and Accountancy at Wake Forest University. He is currently in charge of company operations and internet services.
It all began, simply, because Robert C. Ward, at the age of fifteen, ran out of money in Missoula, Montana, while on his way to find a fortune. What he found instead was a long, prosperous life in the heart of Big Sky Country; what he left is a proud legacy of service to Montanans and others that the family carries on today.