Thursday, October 28, 2010

Dick Reid: One of the Last Traveling Horseshoe Salesmen Has Died

Dick Reid, left, shown with Dan Burke of Farrier Product Distribution, right, sold Diamond Horseshoes for more than 30 years. He was a familiar face and phone voice in the US farrier industry.
There are professions that have sort of faded away. There aren't too many milkmen. No one delivers telegrams. And the age of the traveling salesman seems to have been taken over by online shopping carts and email confirmations. If you own a store and you want to see what's out there to buy, you have to go to a trade show if you want to see it, touch it, smell it and throw it against the wall to see if it sticks.

But it wasn't always that way. Companies had salesmen who came around to stores and businesses and showed their clients new products, took orders, and acted as informal business advisers about what should be in the store, how and where it should be displayed, and what color a shop owner should paint the barn. They'd figure out a name for a puppy or help you decide which cash register to get.

There was an intimacy between these salesmen and their customers--if the salesmen were any good, that is. They made themselves indispensable.

For most of the second half of the 20th century, it was the Diamond horseshoe salesmen who knit the farrier industry together.  Diamond, headquartered in Duluth, Minnesota, was the leading brand, and Dick Reid was one of their leading sales experts. 

The Diamond Tool and Horseshoe Company headquarters in Duluth, Minnesota once employed 800 people.
Diamond was sold to the Triangle Corporation in 1981, and plans were made to gradually phase out the Minnesota factory and move the company to South Carolina. Dick Reid retired from Diamond soon after that. He started a regional sales rep firm with his wife, Ruth, in 1986. They called it Farrier Products Marketing and represented then-independent Cooper nails, Russell Breckenridge Company, Bellota Rasps (Kentucky Farrier Supply) and GE Tools in ten midwestern and northern states.

But Dick's heart condition didn't like the idea of not being retired, and after a few years Dick left the farrier scene, only to return for special visits.

Dick died on Saturday, October 22nd. He lived in Urbana, Ohio and was 89 years old. I guess he must have known an awful lot about horseshoes but I know he knew even more about people.

The vast network of farrier supply stores, warehouses, internet shops and trade shows that farriers enjoy today grew out of a few lonely outposts scattered around the country until the farrier industry boom in the 1980s. What exists now was built on the shoulders and hard work and dreams and good will of generous people like Dick Reid.

A monument has been erected in Duluth to the memory of the employees of Diamond Tool and Horseshoe Company. The buildings have been razed.

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