Samantha and Daniel Martynowski’s careers in equestrian retail began, of all places, in their living room.
“We had started a family and settled in Virginia, and decided that working for someone else wasn’t what we wanted to do,” recalled Samantha. “So I said ‘Let’s go to local auctions and buy some tack, and clean the pieces up and sell them online.’ That’s how it started – doing that in our living room – and it blew up very quickly.”
The husband and wife team grew the business one customer at a time, transitioning from online consignment sales to a mobile unit they would set up at horse shows.
“When we were doing the mobile unit we mostly went to english hunter shows, so most of our stock was for them. We had a lot of show apparel and nickle and dime items that people would lose or break or leave at home and needed to grab before they went in the show ring.”
Today, Mad Tack in Madison, Va., is home to three buildings including the main store, a jump workshop, and a new and used saddle and blanket building. The business caters to both english and western riders, from weekend warrior trail riders to show circuit riders. Additionally, Samantha is a carded judge, which ups the ante on the level of expertise in the store.
“When we opened the store we knew we needed to expand to western. There aren’t a lot of western shows so we really had to figure out how many of our customers were trail riders or english riders. Moving into the store, it was an eye-opener to see how many trail riders we have in our community.”
This is a large part of how the couple grew Mad Tack into the business it is today – by taking customer input very seriously.
“Facebook has been a great tool for us and we do a lot of polling customers on what they want to see in the store. We’re here for them, so giving them an option and a say in what goes into the building develops a loyalty.”
Additionally, Daniel builds custom jumps, constructing anything from individual pieces of a fence to full replicas of jumps seen at shows.
“The whole idea is that the customers can get whatever they want,” said Samantha. “We have done a lot of replica jumps that riders request because they’ve had trouble at a show. They’ll take a picture of the jump they had an issue with and bring it in, and we’ll build it so that they can school it at home. They’re not just your cookie cutter white picket fence jumps.”
Samantha grew up riding hunters and saddle seat, and her husband had years of western trail riding experience from his childhood. While transitioning into equestrian retail was a natural fit because they both had a diverse knowledge of the industry, Samantha warned that’s not the only tool you need to make it in the business.
“It’s important for people to understand that this is a huge commitment. Just because you’re a horse person doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a business person. Its horse stuff, but it’s really about knowing retail.”
Samantha and Daniel run the entire business themselves, six days a week. So in addition to killer work ethics, they are able to balance either other’s strengths.
“It’s just us, and we do everything. He has a degree in business administration and I have a degree in business management. He handles a lot of the paperwork and does the social media, and I run the website and take care of the people-oriented stuff and vendor and distributor relationships.”
The other unexpected but crucial requirement of owning and running a tack shop that serves the local community? Never stop learning.
“People that come into the store don’t always know what they want or why, or their trainer told them to get something that they aren’t familiar with,” explained Samantha. “So you have to be continually increasing your knowledge through lectures, clinics, etc., because you need to be a resource for them.”
“I didn’t know much about western tack and especially western bits. I went and sought out specific information from qualified people, so now we offer bit evaluations at the store for people that are having trouble but don’t know why. I couldn’t have done that three years ago.”
Learn more about Mad Tack on their website, madtackandsupply.com
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.