Card holders, wine and boot racks, welcome signs and life-size horse heads, dogs and eagles — all made out of horseshoes or farm equipment. For Frank Schwegel, it all began three years ago.
That was when he and his company, Ranch Horseshoe Art, rented a small stand on the second floor of Rushmore Civic Center for the Black Hills Stock Show & Rodeo. Schwegel, a fourth-generation logger who retired after 40 years in the business, had just started trying to sell his handcrafted wares, and the remarkable quality, craftsmanship and beauty of the pieces attracted attention quickly.
Fast forward to last year, when Schwegel had a stand on the main floor, and all that attention meant business was good ... perhaps too good. In the middle of the show, with only a few pieces left, Schwegel was forced to have his wife work the stand while he returned to his ranch and workshop in Meade County to work frantically from 5 a.m. to midnight, building more pieces.
This year, Schwegel hopes to avoid such drastic measures, though he knows it's a good problem to have.
“This year I just built as hard as I could,” he said with a glimmer of passion in his eye. "The big thing I’m trying to do is to come up with something new for every show. I’m trying to sell a piece that everyone can afford.”
Although it has neither a storefront nor an online shop, Ranch Horseshoe Art is doing just fine. Last year, Schwegel earned five times the figure he had set as a goal. This year, with a new and larger inventory of wares ranging in price from $20 for card holders to more than $1,000 for larger creations such as horses, Schwegel — who also travels to expos in Minnesota, Montana, Wyoming, Nebraska and Wisconsin — is just excited to get started. He arrived two days early because, he says, "it calms me down" before the show.
Besides his stand in the civic center, Schwegel is showcasing a 3/4-scale replica of a stagecoach that took him two years to build. It's currently on exhibit at the east end of Kjerstad Event Center at the Central State Fairgrounds.