How many businesses can boast the Queen of England as a customer?
Okay, let’s rephrase the question: How many businesses in Nashville, Michigan, population 1,700, can boast the Queen of England as a customer?
Ah, that would have to be Justin Carriage Works, purveyor of fine custom-built horse-drawn carriages.
And it’s not just the Queen who has a thing for these buggies. Other famous clients include Donald Trump and Cinderella. (You know, the silly-looking cartoon character that cruises around Disneyland and takes abuse from eight-year-olds. Poor Donald.)
The business was founded by Herb Andler nearly thirty years ago. At that time he was working on the assembly line at General Motors and selling equestrian show horses on the side.
“I saw a 100-year-old doctor’s buggy parked on a neighbor’s lawn,” says Andler. “I bought it, fixed it up, and drove it around our small town. A few weeks later a customer dropped by to look at a mare and said, ‘I’ll buy the horse if you sell me that buggy.’”
Three years later he was pedaling enough buggies to quit his job at GM and focus on the business full-time.
Justin Carriage Works now designs and sells more than 20 types of horse-drawn vehicles. The company is profitable, with $400,000 in annual revenue. Buggy prices range from $2,350 for a two-seater to $18,500 for a quail-hunting wagon.
About 70 percent of customers use the carriages commercially for city tours, funerals, and weddings. The other 30 percent? They mostly use them as lawn decoration.
Does this mean the Queen is going to ditch her garden gnomes and pink flamingos? Buckingham Palace will never be the same.