Bob Ward’s, Montana’s oldest and largest sporting goods retailer, first opened its door in 1917. With deep roots
in Montana, the Ward family continues to own and operate the now 5-store chain and is proud of its heritage and
the tale of its founder, Robert “Bob” 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, he 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 the six boys followed in Bob’s footsteps, creating a Montana business tradition known today as Bob Ward & Sons.
Bob Ward's love of hunting and fishing led him to become a well-known gunsmith in addition to being a skilled
jeweler. 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 69 years young, "Ripley's Believe it or Not" featured an article on him 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: Bozeman, Helena, Butte and Hamilton. Bob Ward & Sons has become one of the largest privately held sporting goods companies in the Northwest.
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 Bob Ward's carries on today.