At first, the elder Chance stocked saddles, bridles and tack, but as Anne Arundel grew in people, the horse population declined. He found his niche with high-quality western wear, dressing customers from head to toe, in cowboy hats, western shirts, silver belt buckles and jeans made of sturdy denim, not the chi-chi city slicker kind, said the father.
His son grew up in the store, in western wear and still remembers his earliest years, napping inside the displays.
Everyone dresses the part at the store in jeans, western shirts, boots and in many cases, hats. Ed Gray, a salesman for 11 years, never arrives hatless.
"I wear a hat all day, seven days a week," he said.
He sported a tight-woven straw, his preferred summer cover. The feminine version makes for great beach, concert or gardening attire and also comes in pink. In winter, Gray might go for sturdy felt, or maybe a beaver or rabbit hat. With proper care, those can last a lifetime, the Chances said.
The business expanded to a second location in Laurel about 20 years ago and now employs 15. Many customers are regulars, known by name to the owners. A few maintain mini-John Wayne shrines at home and eagerly purchase the latest memorabilia.
"For a few years, I sold auto parts to people in a hurry for a muffler or tail pipe," said the father. "Here it has always been a much slower pace. It's like everybody is on vacation and time stands still."
They usually work a seven-day week, but will mark Memorial Day by closing up shop.
"It is not a day to save 50 percent," said the younger Chance. "We are closed to pay homage to our military
The business has thrived even when the economy has not. At 76, the father has no intention of retiring and his 50-year-old son knows the secret that keeps Carol's Western Wear profitable.
He pointed to his father and said, "He shows up every day."