Running Desert Saddlery for 28 years gives couple a good life on 10 acres

Tom Droske, Darlene Droske
Tom and Darlene Droske have been married 47 years and in business 28 years, a testament, Tom says, to Darlene’s ability to put up with him. (Tom Blodgett/Community Impact Newspaper)

Tom and Darlene Droske have been married 47 years and in business 28 years, a testament, Tom says, to Darlene’s ability to put up with him. (Tom Blodgett/Community Impact Newspaper)

Tom Droske’s life is a series of things that have worked out.

His family moved from North Dakota to Arizona when he was a teen, which he called the “best move ever.”

He met his wife, Darlene, when she came from Oklahoma to attend Arizona State University, which he calls the “best thing that happened to me.”

In 1985, the couple sold their Tempe home to move into a 10-acre horse property in Gilbert and eventually used a lump-sum payment from that home sale to buy a tack store and make it their own: Desert Saddlery.

“Life is good,” he said.


So good that at age 73 and after 28 years in business, Droske still looks forward to coming in to work and serving his customers. The Droskes have no plans to stop at this point.

They gave up their jobs, Darlene at a title company and Droske in real estate. Darlene only had one concern.

“I just wanted to make sure that Tom was going to be committed to staying and working here instead of doing something else,” she said.

The store had a modest start with just 13 saddles at a time when Gilbert and Ray roads, the store’s location, were both two-lane roads. But Darlene said they have continually reinvested in the store, and now it is 1,500 square feet packed to rafters, not just with Western or English saddles, but bits, blankets, bridles and any other accessory a rider might need.

They credit customer service for their growth. Droske said they have customers come in not to buy, just to chat. He loves to give them a hard time, just in fun.

“This is a recreation sport, for God’s sake,” he said. “Let’s have some fun with this.”

The result is a loyal base. He marvels at the number of people who cross the Valley from Buckeye or Wickenburg to shop at his store rather than something closer to them. He even recently had some customers come in from San Antonio to shop at the store.

Of the two, Darlene is more the horse rider, dating from her youth in Oklahoma. She keeps three horses at home. Droske said he knew all along he would have to ride horses to get her.

“I wasn’t about to miss her,” he said. “And I got 10 acres of land to go along with it, so that ain’t all bad. That’s a good catch.”

Collectibles help business

In addition to all the horse riding inventory, the Droskes stock Breyer horses, collectible equestrian models that have been popular since the 1950s—with some becoming quite valuable. Tom estimates that as much as 10% of the store’s sales come from the model horses.

Desert Saddlery

1605 S. Gilbert Road, Ste. 101, Gilbert

480-899-7521

www.desertsaddlery.com

Hours: Mon.-Fri. 9 a.m.- 5 p.m. Sat. 9 a.m.-4 p.m., closed Sun.

By Tom Blodgett

Editor, Gilbert

Raised in Arizona, Tom Blodgett has spent more than 30 years in journalism in Arizona and joined Community Impact Newspaper in July 2018 to launch the Gilbert edition. He is a graduate of Arizona State University, where he served as an instructional professional in the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication from 2005-19 and remains editorial adviser to The State Press, the university's independent student media outlet.



MOST RECENT

Surf City Sandwich, Pork Belly Banh Mi
Surf City Sandwich owner combines passions of surfing, cooking

Paul Figliomeni said he has two passions in life: cooking and surfing

Now open
Three new places for medical care in Gilbert

Here are three new places for medical care in Gilbert

Cactus Yards, kickball
National organization recognizes Cactus Yards as nation’s top facility

The United States Specialty Sports Association named Cactus Yards its National Complex of the Year at the 2021 USSSA National Convention in Orlando

Gilbert mural
Gilbert looking to fill new Community Engagement Task Force positions

The Community Engagement Task Force will provide a forum where matters of social welfare and community concern may be presented, discussed, and collaborated upon to address concerns within the town of Gilbert 

By the Bucket is preparing for a soft opening that it is seeking to have Dec. 1. (Tom Blodgett/Community Impact Newspaper)
By the Bucket heading toward soft opening in Gilbert; Atomic Comics reborn at SanTan Village in Gilbert and more top Phoenix-area news

Read the most popular business and community news from the past week from the Phoenix area.

Make a Movie class
Six Pixels Studios East Valley/Phoenix owner's love of film blossoms into new career path

Six Pixels offers classes from filmmaking, stop motion, photography, YouTube and more

Gila River Hotels & Casinos plans to open Santan Mountain Casino in the next 18-24 months, company officials said. Future plans for the area include a hotel. (Rendering courtesy Gila River Hotels & Casinos)
New casino coming to Gilbert area; Duck Donuts marks 2 years in Chandler and more top area business news

Read the top business news from the past week from the Gilbert and Chandler areas.

Krista Cox
Gilbert Public Schools governing board approves course description books, fees

Krista Cox, GPS secondary school curriculum, instruction and assessment director, summarized the changes for the board as being done to improve the user friendliness of the book through its structure and format

Gavel, law books
Gilbert moves to dismiss lawsuit asking courts to throw out bond election results

The town of Gilbert asked Maricopa County Superior Court on Nov. 29 to dismiss a lawsuit that challenged the town’s $515 million streets, transportation and infrastructure bond election.

By the Bucket exterior
By the Bucket heading toward soft opening Dec. 1

The Italian restaurant serves hot spaghetti to go in a bucket and meatball sandwiches.

Atomic Comics
Atomic Comics reborn at SanTan Village in Gilbert

It marks the return of a popular comic book store chain in the Phoenix area that opened in 1988 but closed its four stores in 2011 in bankruptcy

Western Canal
Town narrows Western Canal pipeline solutions to 4

Some residents said after the Nov. 15 meeting they believe the town will just decide to use its original preferred solution of using eminent domain to claim the town’s easements on their property,