Lori Lehman didn’t burst onto the equestrian retail scene with truckloads of high-end merchandise and years of retail experience. Instead, the start of Tackroom Treasures was modest and a bit quieter, much like Lori herself.
After feeling burned out from years in the racehorse training and veterinary medicine industries, she had the idea of selling a few consignment saddles in her town of East Berlin, Penn., and seeing where things went.
From Consignment to One-Stop Shop
“We opened in March 2002 as a consignment tack shop because at the time, there weren’t any local tack shops in the area,” said Lori. “This place I found in East Berlin was small but the rent was affordable, so I decided to give it a trial run.”
The business grew organically over time.
“We started with a lot of used saddles and slowly built on as the need continued for people to get other items like brushes, horse care products –those every day type items. We a good response from local horse community, and it just grew.”
Lori had no experience owning and running a business. Instead, she relied on her background in horses, her knowledge of her local community, and most importantly, she listened.
“I had worked at our local Agway store for a few months and so I had a little bit of retail experience. But really, I built my business based on horse knowledge and listening to feedback from customers. I take customer feedback very seriously, and that’s how I’ve chosen several brands and lines in the store.”
About a decade ago, Lori moved Tackroom Treasures into a bigger store that would accommodate the new products she offers. The new store is situated right off a main road, so she gets customers from out of town that are just passing through.
“We’ve always offered consignment items, even miscellaneous tack, and now offer riding clothing, horse care products of all types, décor for the house, etc.” said Lori.
“But in doing that, we’ve reached out to different brands of supplies that are more of an average price for our riders. We’re not a high-end store by any means. We have a lot of families that do trail riding and local showing, and we try to meet the needs of every rider and what their discipline is.”
Ups and Downs of Small Business
While business has grown, Tackroom Treasures is still very much a small local business, and Lori faces all the challenges that come with that.
“When I’m looking at products for my store, quality and pricing is the most important. I try to find companies with a low opening order and a low reorder amount. If the opening order is a $10,000 minimum, that won’t work!
“Also, friendly customer service is important to me. I value working with companies where you can call in and talk to someone. Some places act annoyed when you call in and they want you to order online. If it’s urgent and my customer needs something next weekend, I’d rather communicate that on the phone.”
For lower overhead costs and to grow relationships with her customers, Lori runs and manages the store largely by herself. She only has two part time employees, and there’s almost never a day that she isn’t in the store wearing many hats: owner, manager, salesperson, and community resource.
“I have to laugh because I get so many calls that are just asking for my advice. People call looking for recommendations on vets or farriers in the area, or their horse is having an issue and they trust me to recommend a product to them to try.”
And for Lori, all are welcome.
“I love everybody that comes in. I don’t care if they’re a backyard rider or a A-circuit hunter rider. We treat everyone with kindness. It doesn’t matter how they’re dressed when they come in or anything like that. We are very down to earth.”
The American Equestrian Trade Association’s mission is to unite and advance the community of equine trade businesses by delivering education, trade shows and services designed to sustain, support and grow a strong equestrian industry marketplace. Find out more at www.aeta.us.