Oregon saddlemakers open up a new chapter

Sharp Saddles owner and master leather craftsman Clay Sharp recently moved the business to Big Canyon, just east of Minam.(Steve Tool/Wallowa County Chieftain)

Northeastern Oregon saddlemaker and leather artisans, Sharp Saddles, have packed up and moved. Formerly located in Joseph, the shop is now located in Big Canyon, northeast of La Grande. The shop moved in early October.

Lack of housing was the major factor in the Sharps’ decision to move.

“The magic bullet is trying to find a house,” Clay Sharp said. “We have eight horses, dogs, RVs, horse trailers and (semi-trucks).” “We’ve lived in our RV for 10 years, and you have no idea how happy I am living in a house,” Robin Sharp said. Clay Sharp added that the Joseph shop wasn’t making enough money to pay for its rent and power bill in addition to the rent and power bill they paid where they lived. Those costs together ran into several thousand dollars per month.

In addition, the shop had just finished the busiest part of the year in which September was their best month. The tourists provided very little in the way of revenue and one even dumped a 32-ounce soda onto a new $5,000 saddle and tried to cover it up. The couple was quick to say that they haven’t experienced those kinds of problems with locals and appreciate the local population.

“Local people were very good with repairs and custom stuff,” Robin Sharp said. “What really surprised me is that I thought the tourist trade would have done better, but it didn’t.” The couple also said the market has changed considerably since they had their saddle shop in Water Canyon in the early 2000s.

“We made 25 saddles together in one year there,” Clay Sharp said. He also thought more people were strapped for money these days. “Our Christmas business is normally ramping up hot and heavy this time of year, and this year it’s increased a little, but not very much.”

The couple is very happy with their new digs, which they found through a friend while they were looking at moving into a building in Enterprise.

They look for an uptick in business, particularly local business.

“I actually believe our local business will probably be better out of Joseph,” Clay Sharp said. “I think we lost a lot of local traffic by being there. We’ve already had some local traffic drive down from Joseph.”

The new saddle shop is attached to their home, which the Sharps are currently getting set up to get back to work. They still offer the same leather goods they’ve always offered.

In addition to the move, the couple has a cubicle at the “All For You Salon and More” in Elgin as well as goods in an Ontario store.

“We still have some organizing to do, it’s a work in progress, but we’re open for business,” Clay Sharp said.

The couple also has internet and can be reached easily on their Facebook page: www.facebook.com/sharp.saddlery

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