This being a horse magazine, you might think there's a typo in the headline "Steed Fine Hoarding & Tack." Surely, it should read "Steed Fine Boarding & Tack." But visit this funky little shop in Napa Valley's St. Helena and you'll understand immediately that "hoarding" is exactly the right word because that's most customers' first instinct upon crossing the threshold.
Dione Carston is a designer, artist and horsewoman, just to name a few of her passions. Her shop, appropriately housed in an old, authentic barn, is crammed full of creatively-displayed great stuff: vintage clothing, rustic and quirky furniture and home décor items, and, as of last year, used tack and new supplies of everyday horse-keeping staples.
The only common theme in what Dione carries is that she likes it. "I don't really buy anything because I think somebody else will like it," she says. "I buy things that I want for my own home." Whether the items are meant for equestrian purposes or not, they must be well designed and well made of good quality materials. In short, things that could withstand the rigors of a life with horses.
Under its original name, Dione Herself Fine Hoarding, the shop was a hot spot for interior designers, fashionistas and general artistic types from San Francisco and surrounding areas for the last four years. The tack got added after Dione posted a dressage saddle for sale on the vintage furniture and antiques website called 1st DIBS. She received three calls right away, along with the question "Are you selling tack now?" As of about 18 months ago, the answer was "yes" and she changed the business' name to Steed Fine Hoarding & Tack. In addition to consignment tack, Dione added her favorite lines of everyday horse care items: fly sprays, brushes, worming meds, wound care supplies. She has access to ordering just about any horse care product on next-day delivery, which is a nice convenience for local owners because there are not many true tack stores in Napa County, she says.
Early on, Dione knew she was onto something when a gaggle of young pony riders and an elderly ranching couple were perusing the shop at the same time. "The girls were giddy and screeching with excitement over their finds," Dione recalls. Meanwhile, the cowboy and his wife cruised the store quietly for a long while. Dione expected a dismissive response of some sort. "He came over to me, rocked back on his heels and stuck his thumbs through his belt loops," she remembers. "I thought, 'OK, here it comes…'" Instead, she got the ultimate cowboy compliment: "This place is friggin' cool!"
Dione describes the store's inventory as a "curated" collection. "There's something for everybody, but no junk." On any given day, equestrians can find saddles, bridles, bits, halters, vintage riding apparel and other gear suited for english, western, endurance, polo and many other disciplines. At the moment, she had no equipment from the vaulting world on the floor, but that could change any minute. "Most of the stuff that comes in leaves the same day," she reports. And the flow of incoming consignment items increases as word of this unique store spreads.
With very little advertising, equestrians have found Steed Fine Hoarding & Tack even though it's tucked away in an industrial area off the tourist track. One of the oldest buildings in the area, the former barn has a corrugated tin roof, 100-year-old redwood siding and concrete floors, all of which Dione left pretty much as is.
The space is a great showcase for her intriguing, often-whimsical, always-appealing displays of merchandise. On the day we spoke, hot items included a pair of woolies from the 1800s, chairs with seats and backs made of stirrup leathers, driftwood sculptures of horses and other ranch animals and Tibetan rugs. Riders, she reports, usually leave with whatever they came in for. But antique hunters and fashion finders often go ga-ga over the equestrian items. Riding apparel is an especially big hit among these components of her store's constituency.
Dione's professional background is as diverse and eclectic as Steed's inventory. An artist's perspective and an eye for quality and style are common threads in her resume and that has served her well in running the store.
As a horse person, Dione came to ownership later in life and describes herself now as "living my childhood fantasy." Her Tennessee Walker and a Dutch Warmblood live at her home stable not far from the shop. She rides for fun rather than competitive reasons and enjoys going back and forth between dressage and the Tennessee Walker's gaited work.
Steed Fine Hoarding & Tack is open Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and by easily-arranged appointment. For more information, visit www.thesteed.com or call Dione Carston at 707-738-6969.