The Tack Room is back

The Tack Room of Westport is evidence that high quality merchandise -- such as hand-made boots and saddles -- never go out of style. What was the retail operation's core business back in the early 1960s, when Ron Friedson's grandparents and parents first opened the doors of their family-owned Post Road establishment, remains the same today.

After a brief hiatus during which Friedson focused on the company's online operations, The Tack Room has moved back to downtown Westport and joined other businesses now occupying the same Post Road site where it initially resided.

Property owner Linda Tse decided to divide the square footage found at 153 Post Road East to create The Markeplace, a site that could potentially house 10 different businesses.

"The Marketplace concept is how Main Street in Westport used to be," Friedson explained. "I think people in Westport miss all of the mom and pop stores. They like going in somewhere and knowing that they could talk to the owner. This is something that you cannot do in a large department store."

Long-time residents of Westport, the Friedson family's customers are ecstatic that The Tack Room has returned to Westport's business community.

"It's wonderful because people are coming in to say that they are so excited that we are back," Friedson said.

For Friedson, returning to work daily at the 153 Post Road E. site is like `coming home.'

"I grew up in this room," he said, smiling.

Before the Marketplace, Friedson's grandparents, Samuel and Mary Stockek, had divided the store into two separate businesses: The Tack Room and the Music Room of Westport. A talented craftsman, Samuel also made violins for Friedson's mother, Bernice, a concert violinist.

Bernice, now 80, continues to perform professionally.

Eventually, the Music Room of Westport moved a few doors down to the site now occupied by the consignment store, Second Time Around. The business was later sold and moved to another location on the Post Road, near the Southport border.

Through all of the years -- and all of its logistical changes -- The Tack Room's core business has remained the same, Friedson noted.

"The boots that were our best sellers 40 years ago are the same ones today," he said.

Made of high-quality leather on both the inside as well as the outside, the handcrafted boot is just one of many different styles manufactured at the family's workshops in Pennsylvania and Texas.

"They are just really good boots and people keep coming in to get them," he added.

Although The Tack Room is known for its cowboy boots, Friedson also offers trendier styles of boots, some with platform and stiletto high heels. Shearling slippers are also on display at the room's space in The Marketplace. Friedson said that "90 percent of what you see in The Tack Room is made in the United States."

Throughout the years, the business has culled a strong group of loyal clientele. Along with their retail operation, the Friedson family is involved in several industry-related ventures, such as manufacturing riding helmets and providing saddles and other riding gear, which are used as props by the Disney Corp., urban department stores, and well-known interior designers and decorators nationwide. The company also supplies custom designed belt buckles.

And, as it was in the beginning, Friedson calls upon his own family to help make it all work. Everyone pitches in and helps out with the business. Friedson's wife, Susan, is the buyer and son Michael, 17, assists in the Marketplace's sales department. Sarah, a student at Pace University, works on the firm's Web site and Marla, 13, enjoys sorting through e-mail. "It's always been a family business," he explained.

The Tack Room also has a private showroom located at the family's horse farm on Bayberry Lane. "We welcome clients but this is by appointment only," Friedson said.

For more information, visit www.horsemall.com or call Ron Friedson at (203) 246-8013.