By Valerie Baldowski
Krissy Thompson, her 2-year-old daughter, Lily Swanson, and a friend, Tammy Hert, walked through the double doors at Horse Town in Locust Grove to shop.
Thursday, the trio of out-of-towners made their way into the 30,000-square-foot store, at 4583 Bill Gardner Parkway, in search of western-style merchandise. The store's ambiance is western.
There are stuffed animal heads on the walls, and stuffed animals placed high atop racks of merchandise. A three-tiered chandelier, adorned with antlers, hangs from the ceiling near the checkout counter, by the front door. Piped in country/western music plays softly, and walls are designed to look like the interior of a log cabin.
They immediately headed over to the footwear aisle in search of boots for Lily. Thompson and Lily searched for a moment, then Lily spotted a pink pair of boots. She tried them on, but soon experienced adult agony, the boots didn't come in her size.
"I've never been here. So far, I like it," said Thompson, of Macon.
Hert said she and her friend had the same shopping destination in mind.
"We had breakfast at Denny's, and she [Thompson] said, 'Let's go to Horse Town,'" said Hert.
Hert said she makes the trip to Horse Town every six months, and added that the store carries footwear and apparel other westerns stores do not.
"My husband, [Jerry] wears [his] boots for work, but this is the only place we can find them," said Hert, of Jackson. "I've got to look for boots for my boys [Allen and Triston] for Christmas."
Another clothing item Hert looks for at Horse Town is "brush popper" shirts, made of an extra thick material. "My husband can't find them anywhere but here," she continued.
Elsewhere in the store, Bud Schubnell, of Locust Grove, enlisted the help of Tom Kerlin, one of the store's managers, to find the right western-style belt.
"The inch-and-a-half black leather belts are kind of hard to find," Schubnell said after his find. "A western store like this carries large diameter belts in heavy leather." He said he also is drawn to the store for another staple of western wear, Wrangler pants and jeans.
"They carry a good supply of Wrangler pants, too, jeans [that are] boot cut, and tapered pants and things like that, which I wear a lot. I come in for those, too," he added.
Horse Town has been housed just off exit 212 from Interstate 75, for 11 years, said Karen Pollard, one of the store's owners.
Despite the challenges store owners face in the tough economy, Pollard said business is good. The reason, she said, is the store's location, and its advertising strategy.
"We get tons of interstate business, because we have billboards all the way down to the Florida state line," said Pollard. "If you're horse-oriented, you're going to stop [here.]"
She said sales pick up at certain times, such as when the Georgia Quarter Horse Association holds an event in Conyers, or when horse shows are held in Perry, Ga.
Some of the items found at Horse Town include Western and English riding apparel and boots, Western and English saddles, horse blankets, halters, bridles, bits, equine dietary supplements, western belts, buckles, and jewelry, accessories, gift items, and toys.
Some stores have riding equipment, but no clothing, while other stores have clothing and riding apparel, but no horse feed, said Pollard.
Customers come to Horse Town, she added, because the store stocks a wide range of merchandise.
"It's a one-stop shop," said Pollard. "We have it all."