New Somerset 'boutique' has a wild, Western flair

Rick Shrum
Observer Reporter

A sign, slightly above eye level, captures the essence of Ron and Lorie Shinsky’s new shop.

“Every family has a story ... welcome to ours.”

First-time visitors to Wild Buffalo Trading Co. will see arrays of purses, jewelry, leather goods, knives and other items.

There are even cigar box purses.

All items have been handcrafted, most by the hands of the Eighty Four couple and their 22-year-old son, Corbin. A family story, indeed.

“We’ve turned our hobby into a business,” Lorie said, laughing. “We’ve gone from the kitchen table to a store. We have something for everyone.”

Wild Buffalo Trading Co. will mark its first “month-iversary” Monday. The shop, a compact but neatly arranged space, opened for business March 1 a few steps from the Carlton Diner in Somerset Township. Although the Shinskys are awaiting outdoor signs, their store – all 520 square feet of it – is highly visible from Interstate 70, just off the Kammerer exit.

“I call it a boutique,” Lorie said in the middle of the shop, which is tidy despite a bounty of merchandise. “We’re trying to not make it look cluttered, but full.”

The company’s mission, according to its Facebook page, is to “offer products that are only found out West in Wyoming, Montana, etc. Custom design services for holsters, sheaths, purses and other leather items. Handmade knives are in the shop and can also be designed in person with Corbin.”

This is the couple’s initial foray into business – Lorie is a real estate agent, Ron a retired military veteran. But it is not the family’s first retail venture. For the past two years, their son has been marketing his wares through Knives by Corbin.

“He started making knives and giving them away at Christmastime,” Ron said. “I started to make sheaths.”

Leather is Ron’s specialty, at a time that, he says, “no one does leatherwork anymore.” He fills orders for belts, scabbards and purses.

“Ron can do just about anything with custom leatherwork,” said Lorie, who makes jewelry and other items.

They and Corbin – an active member in the 171st Air National Guard base in Moon Township – are the primary artisans in Wild Buffalo. But not the only ones. Among the others are two local residents: Megan Leech, who makes jewelry, and Carol Startare, a retired Trinity School District art teacher who specializes in beadwork.

Formulating a business plan was not a long, meticulous process. “I had one in the back of my mind, but didn’t tell anybody,” Lorie said. Then in February, after finding out there was an available space near the restaurant, the Shinskys decided to proceed with a store there.

Apparently, that business plan is working. “We’ve had a phenomenal first month,” Lorie said last week. “We’ve gotten so many orders already.” The couple also has gotten a decent amount of foot traffic for a recent startup.

The shop, for now, has limited hours: noon to 7 p.m. Friday, and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. That, of course, is subject to change. But the Shinskys pledge to not have limited merchandise.

“We’re trying to put something new in here every week,” Lorie said. “People say we have unique items. We love to hear that.”

The Western theme within is largely influenced by Lorie, who said she loves to travel to Wyoming, Utah and other locales in or near the Rockies. “Ron doesn’t like to do that,” she added, nodding toward him with a grin. “It can get really cold out there, though.”

Working together isn’t an issue for these spouses, who have been together for three decades. “We specialize in not stepping on each other’s toes,” Lorie said.

They were high school sweethearts – even though they attended different schools. Ron graduated from Canon-McMillan, Lorie from South Fayette. They have two adult sons, including Ryan, 21, another military figure. He is a Marine stationed in North Carolina.

In the meantime, the Shinskys will continue to operate their newly minted business, continue to look for neat stuff, continue to ramp up their image. Exterior signs may be imminent, and they plan to have a ceremonial grand opening on a Saturday and Sunday in April – dates to be determined.

Every family has a story, and this is the latest from the Shinskys.