Dorothy Denny comes and goes as she pleases. Her son, Mark Denny, looks after the shop now.
Her job — one she’s taken great joy in over the past 35 years — involves helping balance books and all of the things that come with it at Cariboo Saddlery, a business her late husband Tom Denny started in Williams Lake in 1977.
Dorothy, now 81 years old, still spends much of her time at the store, located on Oliver Street.
“I’m only here part time now. I’m here when I want to be, or when Mark needs me. I’m retired!” she says with a smile.
Cariboo Saddlery’s roots go back to the 1950s, when Dorothy moved to Williams Lake as a school teacher.
“I came here in 1954,” she says. “I came up here as a school teacher and ended up staying, got married and raised a family. That’s when my husband got started in the [saddle] business.”
Upon arriving in Williams Lake Dorothy taught at the high school, located where Marie Sharpe elementary now stands.
“I taught for two years there, then got married, and I did some substitute teaching,” she says.
“In about 1972 when Mark was in Grade 8 I went back to 150 Mile House to teach for five years, and then we opened the store.”
Tom worked for Tony’s Leather Goods for a number of years, Dorothy recalls, on Oliver Street (where Sight & Sound is now) prior to opening the business.
“We were down on First Avenue at that point, where Sandtronic is now, and we moved up here to Oliver Street in 1990 to this location — we bought the building and moved up here,” she says.
Tom and Dorothy had two sons, Mark and Norm, and one daughter, Donna McCully, who now lives in Medicine Hat.
Norm owns Norm’s Repairs in 150 Mile House, while Mark and Dorothy look after the shop.
Mark says, originally, his dad didn’t build saddles — he did repairs and all sorts of custom work.
“Mark went to school here, and then went to Calgary and spent two years learning to make saddles and worked part time for us,” Dorothy says.
“And then when we could afford it we hired him full time.
“He became a partner in the business and when my husband passed away in 1995 he took over.”
Dorothy recalls they were the only saddle shop in the Williams Lake area when they opened.
“There were a lot of ranch businesses out here, cowboys and so on,” she says. “But there wasn’t a saddle shop.”
When not at the shop Dorothy says she enjoys spending time gardening, reading, knitting and volunteering for the Anglican Church.
Mark says growing up working for the family business was a fun experience.
“There was just the three of us,” he says.
“It’s neat, it’s different and it’s fun.”
In all her years at Cariboo Saddlery Dorothy says she never even attempted to help make a saddle — and that’s just the way she likes it.
“Heaven’s no! I’m the bookkeeper,” she says, with a chuckle.