The iconic Tenterfield Saddler premises and associated brand name and merchandise could become an asset of Tenterfield Shire Council, should a strong business case be forthcoming and a purchase deal reached with the current owner.
The irregular opening hours of the volunteer-operated tourist hotspot have long been lamented by locals and visitors alike, despite the building epitomising Tenterfield’s claim to fame nationally and internationally.
Mayor Peter Petty said council would be letting down the community if it didn’t at least explore the potential for the saddlery to become a business asset, with flow-on effects of increased tourism a significant bonus.
The business and its brand, however, would have to stand on its own two feet as a worthy investment. Cr Petty said it may need some support in the first couple of years to become established, but that this would be reflected in the business plan for due consideration.
“We want a full report on all the positives and negatives of going forward,” he said.
“Council needs to look long and hard at the possibility of purchasing it and running it as a business, otherwise we’re letting the community down.
“Then we’ll debate what council should do, either make an offer, or do nothing.”
Consideration of whether council should proceed to make a market-price offer on the property is expected to be made at the February council meeting when a report on the project prepared by council staff is due to be presented.
Cr Petty sees several avenues where the project could meet a range of council aims. He said he has already had two fruitful discussions with representatives of Challenge Community Services on the possibility of operating a sheltered workshop in a facility to be constructed at the rear of the Saddlery, to despatch mail orders.
He is confident that grant money would be forthcoming to fund such as venture, and said Challenge was keen on the prospect.
He can also envisage Tenterfield Saddler trade stands at agricultural shows, field days and other outlets promoting the brand but inevitably selling the district as a tourist destination.
The business currently has no manufacturing capability, instead sourcing items from manufacturers that meet its specifications for a high-end product fitting the theme.
Cr Petty can see potential for the range to expand, potentially involving nearby leather goods manufacturers like Kent Saddlery in Stanthorpe. He would like to see the building itself unaltered but perhaps turned into a museum, open seven days a week.
Suggestions that came up during the Tenterfield True marketing workshops included a photo stand where tourists could dress in period costume and be photographed outside the saddlery, or a statue of original saddler Henry Woolnough sitting on his verandah, making his saddles as the famous Peter Allen song goes.
Cr Petty feels that should the project progress, it ticks a lot of boxes for council such as demonstrating that it’s proactive, including the community, promoting the district and supporting less-abled residents.
“As mayor I cannot leave it alone until we discuss it all full length and examine all avenues, and you have our commitment on that,” he said.