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The Boot Whisperer

Rachel Rascoe/Texas Standard
Ulli Johnston's Wild West boot store in Wimberley.

From Texas Standard:

Ulli Johnston says most customers at her store don’t know her name, they just call her the "Boot Whisperer."

At her Wild West Store in Wimberley, Texas, Johnston is known for being able to look at people’s feet and find them the perfect pair of cowboy boots.

“A lot of people gave up on boots because they went to all the boot stores and nothing worked for them. Then, somehow they hear about me,” Johnston says. “Whether they have a long and narrow foot or a high arch or a bunion or whatever, when they call me and make an appointment I always tell them: ‘If it’s meant to be, I shall find the perfect pair of boots,’ and a lot of times I do.”

Johnston remembers glancing at a visitor’s feet during a busy day at the shop. Within seconds, she grabbed a pair of boots off the shelf and returned to helping other customers.

“(The customer) followed me and said, ‘You’re almost freaking me out now. How did you know I wanted up to my knee, chocolate brown, round-toe boots? They fit perfectly and I didn’t even tell you my size,’” Johnston says. “Then, the friend who brought her in said, ‘That’s what she does; she’s the Boot Whisperer.’”

Credit Rachel Rascoe/Texas Standard
Ulli Johnston stocks and eclectic variety of custom-made cowboy boots to help customers find the perfect fit.

Born and raised in Germany, Johnston’s mom gave her the money to go visit a friend who was an exchange student in Texas. The two attended an auction in the Rio Grande Valley where Johnston says she accidentally bid on a car.

She had to talk to the auctioneer, Bill, who’s now her husband. The two got married within four-and-a-half weeks and moved to Wimberley, where they would eventually open the Wild West Store.

Johnston says customers sometimes visit the shop to challenge her boot-whispering abilities, to which she says, “Bring it on.” In a particular feat of boot-matchmaking, Johnston remembers when a huge man came into the store. Weeks earlier, Bill had teased her for stocking a very large pair of custom-made boots.

“So, when that guy came in, I seriously started cracking up and said, ‘Careful what you wish for. I’ll be right back.’ He looked at me like, Huh? Johnston recalls. “I brought him those custom boots. They were peanut brittle lizard. His eyes got big when I brought them. He put them on and he had no words. He was completely speechless. They fit him like (they were) made for him and of course he bought them.”

Johnston handpicks her inventory of high-quality vintage and custom-made cowboy boots, as well as other Western goods. She says she is completely obsessed with cowboy boots and loves meeting people from all over the world who visit her store.

“When I come here, it doesn’t feel like working,” Johnston says. “I tell people sometimes, ‘If I didn’t have the boot store I would need medication.’ This is my happy place.”

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