TAILS FROM THE TRAILS
You couldn’t pay me enough to brave the crowds at a big-box store or a mall. It’s the crowds, the pushing, the noise, the hunt for a parking space. In fact, I had only one item on my list this Black Friday, and only one store in mind: I needed a jar of Ichthammol hoof ointment, and I was going to buy it at the Tackeria.
They opened at 9 a.m., but I arrived at 10, pleasantly surprised to find the place nicely full but lacking the crazy, frenzied feeling sometimes engendered by people overcome with the shop-’til-we-drop mentality.
“It’s still early, so we’re not as crowded as we’ll be later on,” Jennifer, an employee, confirmed. “We’re doing all right, so far.”
Indeed, there were adequate, helpful employees throughout the establishment, ready to answer questions or help you find exactly what you were after. Owner Tony Coppola and manager Lou Cuthbertson had made sure the store was stocked and ready.
“We brought in a lot of extra inventory just for the sale, as usual,” Lou told me. “We have some very nice riding breeches and show coats. We’re discounting just about everything 10 to 70 percent, which is quite a savings. Some of the breeches start at $25, which is unbelievable. And, as usual, we’ll be giving away all sorts of door prizes throughout the weekend, and a new M. Toulouse saddle and a riding helmet on Sunday.”
In addition, some vendors had tables and booths set up just outside the store. Lee Middleton had a display of his Point Two company’s inflatable air vest. It is similar to a car’s inflatable cushion — the rider wears what looks like a normal riding vest and hooks a strap to the saddle. In the event of a fall, it inflates to protect the chest, spine and neck. “Jockeys and event riders wear these,” Lee explained. “We supplied vests to 14 Olympic teams. I think they will catch on with show jumpers, as well as rodeo bareback and bull riders.”
Shoppers perused the aisles, fingering bridles thoughtfully, considering saddles, collecting pairs of breeches.
“This is fabulous, a very good sale,” said Janice of Portland, Ore. She’d coordinated her visit to her daughter and son-in-law, trainers in Wellington, to be able to take advantage of the savings. “I’ve gotten some show breeches and a jacket. A lot of stuff is marked way down, and that helps a lot.”
Kim, from White Fences, had her shopping cart filled with saddle soap, bridle brackets and assorted items: stuff for the barn, and stuff for her, personally.
“I don’t usually get here this early,” Kim said. “But I had off today, so I thought I’d get everything before it got too busy. I have a whole list of what I’m after. It’s nice seeing all the people out here today.”
She hurried off with a cheerful, and taller, store employee to help hand down the saddle racks, stored too high for easy access to height-challenged shoppers such as ourselves.
Meanwhile, Tony, the store’s owner, periodically bellowed out customers’ names to hand them door prizes. You had to be present to win the door prizes, but all the names went back into the box for the big saddle and helmet drawings on Sunday afternoon; you didn’t have to be present to win those.
“If you buy a saddle in the next hour, all the fittings, including girth, stirrups and leathers, are 25 percent off,” Tony hollered, and some shoppers migrated to the saddles to see what they could find.
“Unfortunately, most of what I’m buying today isn’t on sale,” said Whitney, a Wellington resident. “But you can come here for a lot of laughs.”
Nicole, from Parkland, a first-time customer, had managed to snag some sale items: tack, blankets, grooming supplements, hoof polish and breeches. “This is all stuff I need,” she said.
Wellington resident Sheila was another first-time customer. “I got everything I needed,” she said happily. “Plus some extra items. I got shampoo, horse treats, leg wraps, fly spray. I saved more than $65, which is a good amount. This sale definitely brings in business and helps us out as well.”
Still another first-time customer was Patty from Orlando.
“I’m very happy to be here,” she said, paying for her shirt and socks. “I wanted to come last year, but I couldn’t find the store. Now that I know where it is, I’ll be back next year.”
Some people do travel a good distance just for this sale. Melanie drove across the state from Fort Myers.
“I make a yearly trek just for this sale,” Melanie told me. “There are no good tack shops like this one in Fort Myers, no place there to buy things like this.”
Her collection included five pairs of breeches, gloves and fly spray. “The thing with breeches — you have to try them on to see how they fit, and you want to touch them to see what they feel like,” she said. “You can’t just order them from a catalog. It’s very touchy-feely.”
Melanie had been worried: her postcard announcing the sale had arrived only the day before. “I was getting stressed. But it all worked out right in the end,” she said.
Yes, it did. I bought my Ichthammol and headed back home. I was happy.