The craft of custom handmade leatherworks is a dying art, but those who work and use these products still seek out the craftsmen that makes them. Here in New Albany, we have such a craftsman.
Olen Clark III has been a rancher and a cowboy his entire life and understands what quality is. Quality saddles are the difference in comfort on a long trail ride or an entire day spent in the saddle on the farm/ranch. Clark has been in the business for over 38 years and the family has been in business for over 50 years.
The Clarks were originally from Tunica and later moved to Strayhorn, just west of Senatobia. They ran a small farm with 300 to 600 head of cattle and also hired out to gather stray as well as wild cattle for other farmers.
Clark tells us that he has been riding a horse as long as he can remember and still rides nearly every day. He has received many awards riding in horse show competition as evident from the prize buckles and trophies displayed in his shop. Clark lives the life of a cowboy and it gives him great insight into the needs of other cowboys and cowgirls.
Seeing a need for quality saddles and tack, Olen Clark, Jr. began working with leather and making custom tack for himself and others. Olen Clark III took an immediate interest and discovered that he was a natural.
In 1997 the Clark family moved to New Albany and bought the Sale Barn on old 78 Highway and opened a Custom Tack Shop. Clark makes every piece by hand from cutting the leather to stitching to hand-stamping the decorative design. Any accessories that he needs from stainless steel, he buys from Mississippi craftsmen as well.
From the moment you walk in the showroom, the smell of new leather surrounds you. Clark laughed and said, “I have been doing this so long that I can’t smell that new smell anymore.”
They make saddles, bridles, and anything else that a horse or mule might need for work or play. They also make custom gun holsters and knife scabbards for all types of weaponry for the horseback hunter. They make belts, dog collars, cell phone cases, and many other items. There are some 175 items in their online catalogue for sale. If you are a fan of some of the old westerns and want a belt and holster like the ones they had in days of old, just bring in your pistol, shotgun, or rifle and they will custom-make you one. Not a cowboy? Never fear. Clark also makes custom scabbards for those chefs to keep their knives in while in the kitchen or using the grille.
Clark says the internet has really helped business and says that most of their products are sold to wholesalers nationwide and internationally.
O.C. Leatherworks is now one of the largest custom leather crafters around. Clark laughed and said that “you can tell when you see some of the saddles and tack out there are imported and were made by workers that had never seen a real horse much less ridden one. Some of the parts would even be mounted on the wrong end of the saddle.” Clark says “custom products are more expensive, but folks that really care for their horses will spend the extra money for a quality product.” Clark said that even the smallest flaw, even if he was the only one that would ever know it, meant that he couldn’t sell it except on a “second rack.” Look for the branding on all their products.
To see a complete line of all their products, you can visit their website at www.olenclarkcustomsaddlery.com You can visit their showroom 219 Carter Avenue here in New Albany or give them a call at 662-534-2221.