Stitching a link to the history of the West
RIFLE – For more than 20 years, Larry Dombrowski has owned Rifle Boot & Saddle repair and has provided his services to Hollywood movie sets and locals alike.In a worn denim apron, his blue eyes twinkle as he sits at his large “patch” sewing machine in a tiny garage off his house on West Fourth Street. Saddles, boots and leather dyes fill the room. His 6-year-old poodle mix, “Black Jack” hangs out with him while he works.”I started this in 1986 on Third Street,” he said. “Then I was in Remington Plaza and two years ago, we moved it here.”Dombrowski, 62, runs the business with his wife of 31 years, Rose, 68, and the majority of their business is done through word of mouth.
Whether it be boots, purses, gun holsters, harnesses, shoes or saddles, Dombrowski can fix it or make it.On this particular morning, Skip McMurray of Rifle, who has known Dombrowski for 15 years, stops in to pick up a pair of cowboy boots.”You can’t go dancin’ without your boots,” McMurray said with a laugh. “And he’s the best.”Dombrowski and his wife moved to Rifle in 1985 from Longmont, where he worked in electronics. He was born and raised in Kansas and worked there as a painter.
“Then I decided to move on,” he said. “I’m pretty good with stuff. It’s something that comes easy for me. And I like it that I can be creative. They say this is a dying trade.”When the 1995 Disney movie “Tall Tale” (featuring Patrick Swayze and Nick Stahl) was being shot in Glenwood Springs, Dombrowski did leatherwork for them and made Paul Bunyon’s saddle and gun holster.He also did work for the 2004 movie “The Alamo,” starring Dennis Quaid and Billy Bob Thornton.But mostly he works locally, although his customers range from Baggs, Wyo. to Vail.
When he isn’t working, Dombrowski likes to participate in cowboy shooting reenactments, such as the Wild Horse Days in DeBeque.”We rob the bank and I play ‘Grizz’ – a good ol’ boy,” Dombrowski said with a smile. “I just like to have fun. There are too many people that don’t have nothin’ to do anymore – they think. I also help friends farm and ride horses. I don’t like to sit around.”And he has no plans to retire anytime soon.”I’m too young to retire,” he explained. “I don’t know what I’d do.”Rifle Boot & Saddle Repair is located at 200 W. Fourth Street. Hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday. Drop in or call 625-4816.
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