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    This article originally appeared in the December 2015 issue of Louisville Magazine. 
    To subscribe to Louisville Magazine, please click here.

    Photo by Mickie Winters

    Luckett’s Tack Shop shares a squat, square, one-story brick building with Churchill Vet Supply and a hookah bar, all just across the road from Churchill Downs’ Gate 5. Owner Kenny Luckett, who moved his store here 28 years ago after a seven-year stint in “a garage-type building” nearby, says, “This is the best spot in America for this business.”

    “This business” is mostly the creation and repair of leather equestrian equipment. Luckett sits behind an antique-looking sewing machine and guides a worn exercise saddle under the needle. “We don’t do too many saddles,” he says, an almost-undetectable twang in his voice lilting through the sewing machine’s rattle. The walls confirm this assertion. Bridles, belts, bits and blinders hang from hooks, overfill shelves, crowd the racks of horse medicine. One lonely fleece-lined saddle droops atop a stack of white buckets. Luckett’s sold between 300 and 400 halters last year, 34 of which you might have seen during the Oaks or Derby. “American Pharoah? We made a lot of stuff for him,” Luckett says. “When he first got here, we made him a new halter. After the race, we made 15 with his name on it. They’d put one on him for just a few minutes at things like charity events.” 

    When Luckett was 21, he got a job at a leatherworking division of Wagner’s Pharmacy, learning the craft. He left the industry for nine years, working as a truck driver, and then returned to Wagner’s when he was 32. Not long after, he bought his own sewing machine and saw the potential in his hands. Now he has a longstanding business that employs four people, not including him and his wife Dee Dee. When I ask Luckett why he struck out on his own, he simply says, “I saw an opportunity and took it.”

    Now, 66-year-old Luckett’s decades of experience attract customers like Calvin Borel. One loyal client sent damaged reins in from Florida, trusting only Luckett’s to repair them. But when it comes to day-to-day sales, Luckett says, “It’s mostly supplies.” He nods at a rack of metal clips and that wall of horse-healing chemicals. Dee Dee, who says she became a seamstress and leatherworker “from being around Kenny,” mentions some of Luckett’s custom work: engraved belts, dog leashes, even a couple diaper bags. When I ask Luckett how much time and effort he put into those, he adjusts his purple Breeders’ Cup cap, too bashful to brag. “Oh, no time at all,” he says. Leatherworker Jerry McGeorge, who wears a black “Redneck Division” T-shirt with cutoff sleeves, long gray hair and a dangling beard, says he once made a leather attachment for a prosthetic arm, and produces the cell phone pic to prove it. Once, someone from the Connection nightclub came in talking about halters for male dancers.

    For now, Luckett focuses on the exercise saddle, McGeorge hammers at something, Dee Dee rifles through a cabinet full of files. From just outside the door, the racket sounds like far-off hoofbeats.

    This article originally appeared in the December 2015 issue of Louisville Magazine. 
    To subscribe to Louisville Magazine, please click here.

    Dylon Jones's picture

    About Dylon Jones

    Staff writer Dylon Jones first contributed to the magazine in 2014 and joined the staff in 2015. He's written profiles, features, essays, criticism and reportage about a wide variety of topics and won awards for feature writing and profile writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is particularly interested in narrative journalism, the arts and LGBTQ experience. Jones is an award-winning poet with work published in Tinderbox Poetry Journal and The Collagist.

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