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.....Joan Lutz

Hello World

Now In: In Memory Of

The Industry Loses a Friend
By Daniel DeWeese (Editor at Large)
Equestrian Retailer Magazine (January 2003 Issue)

Joan Lutz, 1932 -2002, a founding member of
WERA and market attendee for close to 30
 years, was an advocate for small retailers.

The western apparel and equestrian industries lost an ardent advocate and true original when Joan Lutz passed away in mid-November after a brief illness.  She died a week after her 70th birthday.

     Joan Lutz, owner/operator of The Rodeo Shop Western Wear and Trailer Sales, in Eaton, Ohio, worked hard to promote riding and the western lifestyle.  Her credo was, "I've never seen a good horse with a bad color or breed, same goes for people." With Joan, you had to work at being disagreeable.  She put a premium on honest and fairness and made customer service the platform on which she built her business.

     Joan launched The Rodeo Shop in June 1959, with an investment of $400 left over from a loan she and her husband, Don took out to start a hog raising business.  Joan sold western clothes from her rural store in western Ohio for 43 years.  She and Don were both avid horse people; he roped calves and she broke and trained horses, barrel-raced and jockeyed at bush-track races.  She actively promoted horses and riding in western Ohio by helping launch a local 4-H club and the Ohio Girls Barrel Racing Association.  Joan also helped organize and support local horse shows, rodeos and other competitions, including roping and other events held for years at the arena next to her store.  In 1995, she was named Woman of the Year by the Pebble County Business and Professional Women's Association.

     Joan was a dedicated advocate for the independent retailer in the western and equestrian industries.  She was a founding member of the first retailers' organization (Western & English Retails Association) and served as a director.  She began attending the Denver market when the trade show was held downtown at the Albany Hotel in the mid 1960's.  In 1982, she was the first woman to conduct a seminar for retailers at that market, which by then had moved to the Merchandise Mart.  According to her friend and Rodeo Shop manager, Kathy Hicks, Joan missed only one or two Denver January shows in all those years.  She already had her airline ticket to attend the January 2003 WESA market when she died.

     Joan was not one to mince words and when she thought something wasn't right, she would set out to fix it.  As such, she was a feisty business women and a scrapper who could be a burr under a manufacturer's saddle.  If she caught a vendor selling direct or getting to cozy with chain stores and discounters, she would let them know about it.  She wanted - and expected - a level playing field on which to compete with other dealers.

     Underneath her sometimes crusty demeanor, Joan was a person who felt things deeply.  When you became her friend, you became her friend for life.  Shortly after her death, I received a tribute from a Rodeo Shop customer in California who became her friend even though they never met face to face.  Rick Pescosolido and Joan were e-pen pals and occasionally talked on the telephone.  In his note to me, he wrote, "Joan Lutz was one fine human being and a friend to all that would like her to be their friend.  She was a wife, mother, horsewoman, businesswoman and friend to many fine folks.  I call her my friend and I miss her very much.  I hope we meet on the other side."

     Joan is survived by her husband, two children, two grandchildren, and the friends in the industry she worked so hard to preserver.  She had asked that there be no memorials or services after she died.  Her family and friends plan to celebrate her life in conjunction with the Rodeo Shop's 44th anniversary in June.  

She will be missed.

Daniel DeWeese has written about
English and western industries and
market for 20 years.