In January of 2004, I took ownership of a small saddle shop off Hwy 21 in Bryan, TX. I had spent the previous two years working and apprenticing in that shop under the guidance of Jim Plantt. Jim and I became very good friends and he helped me to begin my saddle making career. When the opportunity presented itself for the 24 year old me to purchase the business, I thought “Why Not?”
Over the next 16 years, I worked hard to grow the business, build relationships, and above all else, create a quality product and service. We had our ups and downs as all businesses experience. I spent 10 years in that location before selling the property in order to downsize a little and focus on my custom work and less on managing a store.
For the past five years or so, I have focused on my saddle list, custom work, and expanding the LeatherCraft Education side of our business. The latter has become a passion for me that allows me to continue my call of making quality gear as well as passing on the knowledge I have of the craft. We have been operating all of this from a private studio setting which cut down on the “store management” side of the business. This gave me more time to focus on my family and my skills.
Much has changed in my life and business over this time. The greatest change was having my children. This time has been amazing and I have learned a ton about working to balance all aspects of my life so that I am present as I can be. It is amazing how a man’s goals change after he becomes a father.
With all that being said, we are relocating our family and Don Gonzales Saddlery to a city that we feel is the best choice for our family and business. Many of you may already know that I am originally from South Texas. Although I am from the Corpus Christi area, we are not moving that far south. We are moving to Moulton, TX which is just about as far south as I want to go. My mom and dad found this little town while out scouting around for property one weekend. Dad was planning on retirement from his career and wanted to get off the coast and settle in an area where he could relax and raise a few cows. They purchased a house there and after retirement they moved in and he set to looking for land. Unfortunately he wasn’t able to see that through. We lost dad in 2013. My mom stayed and we have spent many weekends and holidays there becoming very familiar with the area.
Moulton is a tiny little town just south of I-10 east of Gonzales, TX. The town has a population of around 900 people and a great school district that is tiny. With our kids becoming of the age to start school, school district played a very large role in deciding on where we wanted to live. As all parents do, we spent the last couple years thinking about the type of school and environment we wanted to raise our children in. We looked into small towns around the Bryan/College Station area, the Bosque County area, and even a short lived thought on moving to Alaska and living “off the grid”…. It gets far to cold up there for my delicate constitution.
We settled on the idea of Moulton and began to research our options for the business and our housing. We quickly found a building that seemed to have the potential for becoming the new home of DG Saddlery. After a few phone calls, negotiations and family meetings, we now have a building that we think will serve us and our customers very well.
The future home of DG Saddlery is a 2700 square foot building on Main St. in downtown Moulton. I need to do much more research to put a complete history together on the structure, but it seems to have been built around the year 1897. A friend of ours, who does rock work in and around the area, said he did the work on the front of the building years ago and found a brick in the face of the building high in a corner that had “1897” carved into it.
The town of Moulton has a rich history and the first post office was opened there in 1855 along with a private school. In 1887 the San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railroad was built from Yoakum to Waco two miles from where the town was located. The railroad built a station there and called it “Topeka” and the community of Moulton began to move closer to the railroad. (History found in this article)
By the late 1890’s the original town site was almost vacant and the area around the railroad station Topeka became known as Moulton. The original townsite became known as Old Moulton and is still there today with a small community, a Baptist Church, and the Old Moulton Cemetery. Along with early pioneers, the Old Moulton Cemetery also includes veterans of the Texas Revolution.
The date of 1897 that my friend carved into the rock atop our building may or may not be accurate, but it probably isn’t far off based on this history. One thing is for sure, the building is old and to us it looks like a “Saddle Shop.” I have always wanted to have my shop in a historic downtown setting. This building felt just right for our business.
Now that the building is ours, we are beginning to put a plan together for a remodel of the inside. Currently the front area is set up like an office and we would like to get it back to the way it might have looked at the turn of the century… with air conditioning and heat of course… and a coffee pot.
Our plan is to have a decent size showroom in the front of the store where we can display our work as well as some select work from other craftsmen in the cowboy trades. The rest of the building has plenty of room for our workshop, machines and inventory. We should also have room to have classes.
The education side of our business, DG LeatherCraft, has grown a lot over the last few years. One of my goals with this move was to find a place where we could begin to hold in person workshops and events. We have mainly focused on the online education of leathercraft skills, but now we will have the space to schedule small workshops for those that want more of a hands on education in the craft.
We do not currently have an exact date on when the new shop will be open to the public. We suspect that it will be in July 2020 sometime if all goes according to plan. I plan to document the remodel, move, and set up over the next few months. As we get closer we will certainly keep everyone up to date as to when the open sign will be hanging in the window.
I have been in the Bryan/College Station area since 1999. Being in this area for 21 years made this decision extremely difficult. We have accomplished a lot in this area and have made lifelong friends here. Leaving the area was not a decision that we made lightly. I am sure fear will increase as the time draws closer and there will most likely be tears shed by us as we prepare for the move. I have lived in this area longer than I lived where I was raised.
We know that our relationships with our friends and customers are strong enough to survive this. Life takes all of us on a journey and every journey is different. This is ours.
If you are interested in finding out more about the little town of Moulton, visit the City of Moulton website.