The Saratoga Sun -

Expanding Dixie outside the Valley

Dixie and Kirby Berger show Pure Dixie products across the country


November 18, 2020

Photo courtesy Kirby Berger

Leather bags are just one of the many products Pure Dixie has available for purchase.

by Joshua Wood

The Platte Valley has long been home to creative minds. At the turn of the last century, Lora Webb Nichols documented day-to-day life in the Valley with one of the first cameras in the area. Writers, some internationally known, currently or have previously called the Valley home. It is almost as if there is something in the environment that not only encourages creativity, but helps it flourish.

Among those flourishing creative minds are Dixie Berger and her husband, Kirby, co-owners of Pure Dixie. A common site at the annual Saratoga Holiday Bazaar, and at events like Saratoga Days, Pure Dixie has grown rapidly in the past three years. Leather purses, belts and hats fill their booths and it is not uncommon to see a sizable crowd looking through their products.

While the distinct look, and smell, of leather may be a draw for new and returning customers it is likely that the larger reason for the popularity of Pure Dixie is the interchangeability of the products.

"Our products are unique since you can mix and match all the pieces. The customer gets to choose and pick the items that they want. So, basically, you get to come into our booth and design your own bag and your own look," said Dixie. "We just offer the pieces and you get to put it together however you want. We're unique in that sense."

Pure Dixie originally came about during the time that Dixie owned Cowboy Couture, which she sold to another Valley local, Maria Johnson, in 2015. Much like how it operates today, Cowboy Couture's jobs involved stitching and screen printing and the business is still thriving today. It was while she owned her previous business, however, that Dixie began to get more involved with leather.

"Kirby is the leather maker, I was the sewer, so we combined our talents and that's how this came out. I started wanting stuff, kind of, for myself. Leather belts and things," Dixie said. "So, Kirby and I started putting leather on the machine and the more we did that the more people liked it."

The term "liked it" almost seems to be an understatement. While Pure Dixie has a booth at local events and products for purchase at Sweet Marie's Mercantile on Bridge Avenue, the products have been shown elsewhere in the state and in the country.

"Cheyenne Frontier Days is a great show for us. We also, actually, have licensing with Cheyenne Frontier Days, so we're able to use their logo on our products," said Dixie. "The other big show is National Finals Rodeo and the World Series Roping, which happen in (Las) Vegas, normally at the same time. This year, everything got moved to Fort Worth (Texas), so we will head to Fort Worth and we'll have two locations there as well."

Pure Dixie has also shown at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in Sturgis, South Dakota and the Black Hills Roundup in Belle Fourche, South Dakota.

This year, just around the time that the coronavirus pandemic hit the United States, Pure Dixie had a booth at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. This event, held in Houston, Texas, is the largest livestock show and rodeo in the world. The Bergers also have licensing permission to put the logo for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo on their products. Additionally, Pure Dixie also has licensing permission from the University of Wyoming.

"Through the University of Wyoming, we've maintained it since Cowboy Couture, so we've always kind of had that one. Cheyenne Frontier Days happened because, thankfully, so many of them loved it. Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, you go through a process," Dixie said. "It's definitely possible but we feel like that gives us an edge to set us apart."

Despite only being at a few of the events outside Wyoming only once, both Dixie and Kirby say they appeared to be well received by new customers. The reason for that warm reception is, very likely, the same reason Pure Dixie has many returning customers and it goes back to being able to interchange different products.

A belt is not just a belt, but can also become a purse strap. Leather patches can be removed from hats and replaced with other leather patches. Smaller purses and wallets can attach to larger purses and bags.

"We invented the buckle system, so we actually hold a patent on our buckle system and the interchangeability of that and we're also patent pending on the interchangeable patches," said Dixie.

While they received a number of comments about their belts before implementing the interchangeable buckles, the apparent catalyst for the idea was when a customer draped a belt over her shoulder and both Dixie and Kirby realized it could double as a strap for a purse or bag.

"So, Kirby came up with a new buckle system that allowed them to turn into purse straps on the handbags. Then, we were in the diaper bag phase, needing a wallet to run in and get groceries but needing to leave the diaper bag in the car and not needing to carry your phone and a wallet that you could leave somewhere," Dixie said. "That's how the crossbody mini came about, that you could attach that on but detach it and still leave a bag in the car and then just run with the necessities you need and then just attach it back on."

Another reason for working on making their products interchangeable was that Dixie and Kirby noticed people were buying a number of different looks for the same product to match outfits.

"It seems kind of silly to be like 'You shouldn't have to buy multiples of these' but that's where my heart was," said Dixie. "We just didn't feel like it was right that they were buying multiples, so we came up with an interchangeable path so you can buy whatever mini you want but, then, change your look."

"Ultimately, to get and keep long term customers you've got to provide value and I think that's what I think the major catalyst is. To be able to provide value to our customers, that they don't have to buy a whole new mini if they want a different logo on it," said Kirby. "They just have to replace the patch."

Recently, Pure Dixie has been utilizing the Business Incubator at the Platte Valley Community Center in Saratoga. The incubator itself serves as storage for products while a meeting room at the end of the hall is where a lot of the leather magic happens. With the increasing popularity of Pure Dixie, however, it is nearly impossible for the Bergers and their children to create each product from beginning to end.

"We are in a process where we do a lot of in-house but we also have a manufacturer. We create all of our stitch files, we create every single pattern, but we do have sewers in Mexico. We still build all of our higher end pieces, we still customize the pieces," Dixie said. "There is, kind of like, a share on a lot of stuff. We'll have them do up to a certain point and we like to do up to a certain point."

Both Dixie and Kirby have been grateful for the Business Incubator as it has allowed them to expand their product line and get a glimpse at what it will be like as the business thrives without the exorbitant overhead cost of a storefront.

"For us, it was just being able to have a place to start, see what we really needed to grow so we can feel like we can move on to our own space without so much risk," Kirby said. "So, it's been valuable, for us, for that." 

It's not lost on the couple, however, how the support from the community has helped get to them to this point.

Photo courtesy Kirby Berger

Kirby Berger designs much of the leatherwork for Pure Dixie products.

"I think it's important, too, for people in the community to know how valuable they've been in pouring into us and supporting the businesses," said Dixie. "The Christmas Bazaar was always where I showed my first stuff and without all of that support and the outpouring of support from this town, it would be where it's at."

Along with showing at the Saratoga Holiday Bazaar and selling products at Sweet Marie's Mercantile, customers can also visit to shop to their heart's content.

"We're coming up with new stuff all the time. We've really expanded our headwear line, we're in the process of expanding our bag line, and making our products last longer and user friendly," said Kirby. "Any feedback we ever get, we really take it to heart and do what we can to make sure people feel like they can tell us what they need and we'll do whatever we can to meet those needs."


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