Dogs not included

Arden Creek Designs in Loon Lake, N.Y., offers various lines of custom-built rustic furniture and décor, and specializes in traditional custom-built dog sleds. The business started in the late 1990s, when owner Steve Gothard felt he needed to teach his home-schooled teenagers about general business principles.

“We were always interested in the craftsmen of the Adirondacks, so we thought we would work with them on putting together a publication and market their products. As we got into it, we thought it might be a better move to actually do the work ourselves.”

Gothard, along with his wife Sandy, son Stephen and daughter Christina, studied what consumers were looking for in handmade and selected dog sleds.

To his advantage, Gothard had a neighbor in the Loon Lake area who ran dog sleds, and who was gracious enough to teach Gothard the craft of making sleds. The family sold the sleds almost as fast as they made them at upscale decorating shops in the Lake George and Adirondack Park areas of New York. Though original clients were mainly tourists, Gothard’s clientele expanded greatly after he developed his Web site in 1999, and he now ships to clients throughout the country.

The sled designs are traditional, made with templates based on the authentic freighter and musher sled designs used in northern regions during the last 150 years. Modifications can be made if the client wants additional slats or a bigger bed.

The material primarily used for building the sleds is ash. “It bends with relative ease, but it’s a sturdy wood that sustains the tear and abuse that goes into it with the dogs pulling it, the turns and so forth,” says Gothard.

The pieces are hand-planed to fit, joined with mortises and tenons, then lashed together with nylon. Gothard once used rawhide, but it was prone to snap from the stress of quick turns and the force of the dogs pulling the sled. The nylon loosens over time allowing the sled to become more agile.

Gothard produces about 15 sleds a year, and also builds sleds for decorative purposes. He sells mainly to restaurants and homes. He also gets requests for coffee table sleds, which are quite a conversation piece. The sled prices range from $600 to $2,500.

“[The business] has turned out well and it’s allowed my children not only to visualize a product, but to make it and take it out and sell it. That was our intent.”

Contact: Arden Creek Designs, 2433 County 60 Road, Loon Lake, NY 12989. Tel: 518-891-4518. www.ardencreek.com

This article originally appeared in the June 2009 issue.