Soresaddle Holster & Saddle Co. is a Step Back in Time

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The shop is located behind the Dexter Mill just off Third Street. Photo: Doug Marrin.

By Doug Marrin, STN Reporter

Stepping into Soresaddle Holster & Saddle Co. in Dexter is like taking a step back in time, into the old west, to be exact.

The shop is located in one of the outbuildings of the Dexter Mill, just off Third Street. Owner Angelo Pecora is well-known among the horse community for his saddle work. For non-equestrians, his shop is a glimpse into the old-world craft of handmade belts, wallets, money clips, jewelry, and other western accouterments. The saddles, the holsters, the unfinished wood walls and floor, and of course Angelo himself dressed in western working garb could be a scene right out of Gunsmoke or The Hateful Eight. But despite the shop's humble appearance, it is gaining popularity.

Angelo and Gus specialize in customized leather products. Photo: Gus Duguay.

“I’ve experienced quite an increase in business,” says Angelo. “It’s been mostly by word of mouth.”

Angelo points to what he calls the “disarray” of the shop as the result of the increased business, including two saddles, one of which he just recently finished. Angelo works with the leather, and partner Gus Duguay focuses primarily on jewelry.

“I get a lot of business from people I know that want to order belts and things like that,” says Gus. “I have had orders come through Facebook for bracelets, too.”

Her jewelry bracelets and other jewelry can be found at the Dexter Mill, Proven Kitchen & Bath, and Howell Western Wear.

If customization isn't important, their products can be found at the Dexter Mill and two other locations. Photo: Gus Duguay.

“I started here in 1997 right here in this shop,” says Angelo. “This was my saddle shop until I left in 2010 for Montana.”

In Montana, Angelo lived the cowboy way, playing banjo and singing, writing and reciting cowboy poetry, and honing his artistry with leather. But eventually, the call of home got the better of him. He packed up his tools and caught the nearest wagon train back to Michigan, setting up shop once again in his old place at the Dexter Mill.

“The building was still empty when I had left in 2010,” explains Angelo. “Gus helped me get all my stuff back in here. She helped me move all these heavy benches in here. She’s stronger than she looks.”

You will find Gus Duguay working alongside Angelo in the shop at her bench, where she fashions earrings, bracelets, belts, knife sheaths, wallets, money clips, and other bejeweled goods. It was one Hell of a meeting when Beth and Angelo first met, literally.

You are welcome to pop in and see how the leather crafters ply their skills. Photo: Gus Duguay.

“I owned a party store in Hell, and he ran the Hell Creek Ranch,” explains Gus. “He would come in for bad coffee a few times a week, and we spent lots of time just talking and listening to one another. After being friends for five years, Angelo moved out to Montana and invited me out for a visit.”

Gus made several trips to Montana to visit Angelo and his wife, where she too was drawn into the way of the west, which would eventually lead her into an interest in working with leather.

Of course, with any cowboy, you immediately think of six-shooters and a puff of gun smoke. Angelo has been involved in that too. “It’s called ‘cowboy action shooting,’” he says. “This is where I got started in leatherworks.”

“It’s not trick shooting,” Angelo is quick to explain. “It’s reenacting where you dress up in the 1880s and use period-correct weapons. You shoot at steel targets. It’s a competition. I didn’t have a good holster, so I wanted to make a holster. I got some leather and ruined the kitchen table in the process, but I did it.

Angelo Pecora and Gus Duguay. Photo: Gus Duguay.

“It was pretty crude, but I fell in love with it,” continues Angelo. “As I progressed, all I wanted to build were saddles. To me, that’s the epitome of leatherwork. If you can build a saddle, you can do anything you want.”

Angelo’s connection to the Dexter Mill goes back to the 1980s when the current owner, Keri Bushaw, was still in grade school. Angelo and Keri’s father both worked at the Mill and were good friends.

“My dad and Angelo were friends,” explains Keri. “We would go over to their house and hang out with his kids, but when I really got to know Angelo was when I started working here at the Mill. He managed the store. Angelo hired me to work on Saturdays. He always looked like a cowboy from a hundred years ago. As a teenager, I must have driven him crazy. But after my dad passed away, he helped guide me.”

Angelo uses all American leather in his shop, cowhide, no alligator, snake, or other exotic skins sometimes found in cowboy boots. He and Gus specialize in custom leather goods. One-of-a-kind accessories made to your liking.

Angelo and Gus are in the shop Tuesdays and Saturdays, 10:30 am to 3:00 pm. Due to some unforeseen circumstances, Tuesdays are hit and miss right now, but they always encourage folks to pop in for a look or to say “hi.” You can always give Angelo a call at 734 945 1744.

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