Tools of the Trade: Cobbler & Saddler

Throughout the month of June 2020 we will feature local businesses related to the new Tools of the Trade special exhibit now on display at the History Museum. The exhibit will run through October 12, 2020 and features the past tools and objects of various trades. The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. 

Herzberg’s Saddle Shop & Saddle Rack

When Fred Herzberg borrowed $100 from the State Bank in Kissimmee in 1917, little did he know how his shoe repair business would grow in 40 years. Beginning with a one-man operation in a 100-square-foot room, by 1957 he had more than 8,400 square feet and 13 employees, one being Fred’s son, Enoch. A shoe department was added in 1932 followed by a saddle shop in 1944. Two years later Herzberg’s moved to 12 Darlington Avenue and added boot and saddle makers.  

Two special orders stand out in the history of Herzberg’s – a pair of size 22 boots for Al Tomaini, an 8 ft., 4 ½ in. man weighing 356 pounds. The other order was for two elephant Howdy girths, eight elephant head pieces and three dozen horse and pony halters for Ringling Bros. Circus.

In 1967, Enoch gave up retail sales and concentrated on wholesale. The business was sold to Clyde and Bubba Story and Earl and Sherry Evans. Bubba, Earl and Sherry ran the business and changed the name to Saddle Rack Inc. When he was a teenager, Earl had worked at Herzberg’s sweeping, cleaning and shining shoes for 50 cents an hour. Earl learned saddlery under the Diversified Cooperative Training program as well as from two fellow Herzberg employees, Cicero Knechel and R.E. Taylor.

The Saddle Rack continued the tradition started by Herzberg’s in 1951 of giving away a hand-tooled saddle to the Silver Spurs Rodeo’s all-around cowboy. In a 1986 interview Earl stated “the saddle hasn’t been made by hand since 1970; we now buy the saddle.” Earl gave up molding the trophy saddles out of wood and rawhide after business demanded more time be spent doing other things. The Evanses bought out the Storys in 1986. They continued the tradition of donating a saddle to the Silver Spurs and focused their business on repairing and customizing saddles, belts and even did about 10,000 baseball gloves. In late February 1998, Earl and Sherry closed the store but continued to do retail work from a trailer at Kissimmee Sports Arena.

Written by Anza Bast

Sources:

“Kissimmee Gazette” November 22, 1957, June 13, 1958

“Orlando Sentinel” January 20, 1960, February 8, 1966, December 8, 1966, May 21, 1967, June 29, 1986, May 6, 1990, February 15, 1998