B.F. Smith and Son Saddlery, Arkansas’ oldest saddlery, has moved to Greenbrier. The 137-year-old business, operated by its fourth-generation owner, Stacy Smith Rutledge, recently opened at 118 North Broadview.
In addition to crafting custom saddles, the saddle shop also does complete full-saddle repairs. The store next door carries spurs, blankets and tack as well as a line of Twisted X custom boots designed by Rutledge. There are also work boots, hats, leather purses and wallets, western wear, knives, belt buckles, jewelry, cowboy art and home décor items.
B.F. Smith, Rutledge’s great-grandfather, opened a boot and shoe cobbler business in Sheridan, Arkansas in 1880. He also repaired harnesses on the mules and draft horses used at the saw mills in the area. As was common for the times, he taught the leather trade to his son, O.P. who took a special interest in saddles. He would tear saddles down and rebuilt them, creating his own patterns. He soon building up a strong customer base.
In 1929, B.F. Smith moved his family to Wright Avenue in Little Rock where the saddle shop was relocated so that it could reach more customers. O.P., Rutledge’s grandfather, continued to build saddles in his father’s shop. He and his wife, Pearl, raised four children and started breeding performance Quarter Horses.
O.P. Smith relocated the shop to Highway 70 (East Broadway) in North Little Rock in 1946 so that he could expand and be on a main highway. He passed away in 1963, leaving the saddle shop to his wife Pearl. She grew the business even further and added on to the shop in the early 1970s.
Stacy Rutledge’s aunts were very successful barrel racers and were instrumental in starting the Arkansas Barrel Racing Association. Her father, Mark was a professional rodeo cowboy competing in bull riding, steer wrestling and calf roping. He was also a pro bull fighter and rodeo clown.
The family passed their love of horses down to the next generation and all of Stacy’s cousins competed in various rodeo events. Stacy, herself, qualified in the National High School Rodeo Finals in breakaway roping, goat tying and girls’ cutting. She served as Arkansas High School Rodeo Queen in 1984. She is also a three-time American Ranch Horse Association World Champion.
When his mother passed away in 1989, Mark bought all the machines and tools used in the saddle shop. He eventually reopened the shop, working hard to fill the shop with saddles and tack. It also became one of the largest hat stores in Arkansas. Stacy, his daughter, moved back to North Little Rock and helped her father in the store.
In 2005, Stacy bought all the saddlery equipment, signs and tools and moved the shop to Pleasant Plains near Floral, Arkansas where she and her husband, Philip "Rut" Rutledge ran the business and raised two children, T’Ray and Pepper. In addition to saddles and tack, she began creating other leather items such as purses, Bible covers, belts, suspenders, checkbook covers, wallets, etc.
Rutledge’s husband, Philip, passed away in 2011. She continued to run the saddlery shop and raise her children. Both are now out of the house and it seemed like an opportune time to move the shop. She chose Greenbrier as the store’s new location because she is engaged to Jody Jones who now lives there.
"Justice," a fiberglass Quarter Horse that has stood outside the business for years, is now standing watch at the entrance to the new shop north of Greenbrier. He has been joined by "Charity" a black full-size model horse that stands in the shop.
"Charity is available for use in local fundraisers," Rutledge said. "We have washable paints that groups can use to paint him or take pictures with him."
The store held a grand opening three weeks ago and participated in Small Business Saturday. Rutledge recently acquired the space next door and has moved the saddlery workshop into the new space. There are several consignment saddles on display and she had added a line of western clothing.
"We are excited about being in Greenbrier and we have been really busy already with people coming in. The Grand Opening and Small Business Saturday brought in a number of people," Rutledge said.