The Saddle & Leather Shop has had a long and pleasant niche in the Czech history of this area.
In 1906, the front section of the Shop (where you enter) was constructed to serve as the temporary home of the Jan Hus Methodist Church. Here, volunteer young men of St. Paul's Methodist Church started English-speaking Sunday School classes for the newly immigrated members of the Jan Hus Church.
In 1908, a shop was built behind the temporary church , which became the F. J. John Harness & Saddlery Shop. This is the present work room, which is in many respects unchanged since it's beginning. Many of the working tools still hang on their original hooks, and their use has not changed. The large work table is as sturdy today as when it was built, though it bears the scars of its years of service.
Farmers entered the shop through the rear entrance with arm-loads of harness from their work teams. These were hung on a large ceiling hook and lowered into the dip tank which was filled with neatsfoot oil. Dipping conditioned the leather to keep it supple and serviceable. This was maintenance work for the farm equipment of the time, and kept two harness men busy on Saturdays, when the farmer's teams often had the "day off". After World War II, teams of horses were slowly replaced by tractors, and the service of dipping harnesses finally came to an end around 1959. On weekdays, leather craftsmen were kept busy repairing harness pieces, saddles, tack and many other items.
In the 1920's, the open area between the work room and the front section was enclosed, which became the tack room as it is today.
Mr. George Barta purchased the shop in 1946, (How it looked then) and continues to operate the Shop; doing saddle and leather repairs as he has for over 50 years, very much a family business, George's wife Mary, and later his daughters Kris and Nancy, have operated the business with him. Employees, in the old tradition, are of long association.
In the 50's and 60's, the hobby of leather-crafting experienced a boom. Many area customers attended classes in the evenings where they learned leather tooling and purse and wallet-making. Often these crafted items find their way back to the Shop for repairs, brought by grandchildren (and great-grandchildren) of their makers. The Shop continues to make hand-made, hand-dyed wallets.
In the 60's, the Shop built on and expanded to include the clothing and boot area. Many of the thousands of items hung for display on the walls of this area are part of George's collection. They include bits, stirrups, spurs, sleigh bells, U.S. Cavalry and other items used during the age of horse-power, which has been George's life-long interest.
The Barta family is celebrating their 62th year of the Saddle & Leather Shop. The Barta´s treasure the memories gathered here.
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