Region home — once again — for Haley MooreWORTHINGTON — Most weekdays find Haley Moore in the basement of a historic building on Worthington’s 10th Street, where she fashions bison hides into fine leather goods.
By: Beth Rickers, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — Most weekdays find Haley Moore in the basement of a historic building on Worthington’s 10th Street, where she fashions bison hides into fine leather goods.
But when she leaves her day job at the Cows’ Outside/Buffalo Billfold Co., her day is far from over. Haley may be headed for a number of other endeavors, as she is also a massage therapist, a Tae Kwon Do black belt, a holistic health practitioner student, avid bicyclist and former rodeo queen.
By the time she landed in southwest Minnesota, Haley had already resided in Texas, Oklahoma and Colorado.
“I was born in Round Rock, Texas, a suburb of Austin,” explained Haley, who can summon a southern drawl when the occasion calls for it. “My dad (Jay) was originally from there, and my mom (Rhonda) from Colorado. They met in Colorado on a ranch.”
The Moores moved to Ada, Okla., where her father taught environmental science and coached football at East Central University. His career also took the family to College Station, Texas, Felt, Okla., and Holyoke, Colo., where Haley started high school after previously being home schooled.
It was in Colorado where Haley achieved the title of rodeo queen.
“I had grown up around horses. We always had a horse or two,” Haley explained. “Well, I was working at our church stand at the fair, and a friend came up and asked, ‘Do you want to run for rodeo queen?’ Basically, the rodeo queen was a spokesman for the city, had to make appearances…. I had to give a speech, do a riding pattern. It was a lot of work, and then I ended up getting it.
“My parents were thrilled,” said Haley sarcastically. “Every weekend there was a rodeo someplace that they had to cart me around to. And then the next year I got it again. But it was a lot of fun, and I learned a lot. That was my sophomore and junior year of high school. I had the option to run for Miss Rodeo Colorado, but that wasn’t happening.”
Haley still has some mementoes of her reign, including a tooled leather sash, fancy belt buckles and a crown.
“I only break those out at Halloween,” she said with a laugh.
She might also sport a few scars from those rodeo experiences.
“I’ve been bucked off, thrown, kicked,” she related. “At every event, all the queens would do a grand entry, sprint around with all the queens ending up in a line. Well, at this one, there were sheep at the other end for the kids’ mutton busting event, and my horse had never seen a sheep before. We got to the sheep, my horses planted its feet, and I went right over its head.”
Colorado to Minnesota
Haley and her siblings — she’s the second oldest of seven — were once again uprooted for a final move to southwest Minnesota, where her dad had accepted a position with New Fashion Pork. Haley finished out the final year of her high school career there, graduating in 2004.
After a short stint at North Central University in Minneapolis, Haley headed back to Colorado for a year, as she contemplated what she wanted to do with her life. She eventually settled on a career in massage therapy and enrolled at the Body Definition School of Massage Therapy in rural Estherville, Iowa.
“I started doing massage therapy and wanted to look into doing more in the health field,” Haley explained. “I moved over to Worthington and began working as a CNA (certified nursing assistant) at a nursing home.”
When a friend opened a restaurant in Jackson, she began commuting back to work there, reluctant to leave Worthington, where she’d just signed a lease on an apartment. But the restaurant gig was short-lived, and Haley found herself temporarily unemployed. Her landlord, Bill Keitel, heard about her plight and said, ‘Why don’t you come work for me?”
Bison and billfolds
The job was at the Cows’ Outside/Buffalo Billfold Co., the enterprise that Bill and wife Lauri operate in downtown Worthington. It’s a combination gift shop and small factory, where the Keitels and their employees turn out fine leather goods that are sold around the country.
“When I started, I was really nervous,” said Haley about working with the bison leather that can easily show flaws in construction. “Once a hole is there, you can’t reverse it. The first thing I did was inventory, then Bill showed me how to make a magnetic money clip.”
Shortly thereafter, the Keitels left on a marketing trip, leaving Haley in charge for six weeks.
“When they came back, they taught me more,” she said. “Now I know how to run all the machines, and a lot of the products I can take from start to finish.”
While they still make the namesake money-carriers, the Buffalo Billfold Co. has expanded over the years to encompass all kinds of leather goods, including purses, portfolios, pager holders, briefcases, saddlebags and rifle scabbards.
“My favorite thing to make is probably the trim-style purse,” Haley noted. “I like the way you have to fold it, curve the corners. It’s very simple — just a purse with a flap — but we have to create different fronts for it, and it’s always fun to see what else we can try.
“My least favorite thing to make is probably the little coin things — the Annie Oakleys,” she said, citing the name given to a small zippered pouch. “You have to put the zippers in just right. I don’t like sewing zippers, and I’ve sewn a few in backward.”
Last year, Haley made her first foray into marketing for Buffalo Billfold Co., attending a trade show in Seattle, Wash., while the Keitels were occupied with other events.
“I had to totally figure it out on my own, but I can go places on my own and had fun discovering things there when I had time,” Haley said. “The only problem was my flight got delayed. I was supposed to be there a day early and get set up. But instead, I got there at 2 in the morning and had to go in and set up at 6 because the show opened at 8. It was really crazy.”
Haley spent five days from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. manning the Buffalo Billfold Co. booth and fitting in some Seattle sightseeing on the side. She secured some new sales outlets for the company’s products and even managed to sell a large bison skull so it didn’t have to be shipped back. She followed up that marketing venture with another at the Minnesota Horse Expo, an event that she will return to again this year along with the Midwest Horse Fair in Madison, Wis.
She might have fallen into a career in making and marketing leather goods, but it’s something that Haley enjoys doing, especially the creativity of designing new products. One of the most recent design collaborations in a “conceal-and-carry purse” that has a pouch sized to house a handgun that buttons to the inside.
“It’s like putting together a puzzle,” said Haley about fashioning the various leather goods. “It’s very meticulous and time-consuming, but not monotonous. And I’m always trying to think, what can I create that will sell?”
The Keitels have become both mentors and friends to Haley.
“Bill and Lauri are so supportive. I couldn’t ask for better bosses,” she credited. “And working here has given me a greater appreciation for Worthington, because Bill and Lauri are so open and have so many people from different cultures over to their house. They just love people. ”
When she started working at the Cows’ Outside, Haley didn’t give up her massage therapy practice. She continues to offer massage services through Fulda Family Chiropractic.
And Haley hasn’t given up her dream of delving more deeply into the health care field. She is currently pursuing a holistic health practitioner degree through the Natural Healers online program.
“I’ll be able to test people for vitamin deficiencies, do aromatherapy, herbalist stuff, share about cleanses people can do every day,” she detailed. “If someone comes to me for a massage, I’ll be able to tell them, ‘This is why your pain is here.’ I’ll feel like I can do more. There’s so much that can be cured just through diet and exercise and a lot of preventative things, so many natural things that people can do. I believe in the science of it all.”
Tae Kwon Do has developed into another serious interest for Haley. She recently earned her black belt and teaches classes two nights a week.
“I love the kicks. I like sparring,” she said. “I actually compete. … The last two tournaments I’ve been to, I’ve won. It’s exciting — and very good cardio.”
If she doesn’t get enough exercise while sparring, Haley hops on her bicycle — riding around the lake and the backroads around Worthington during the warm weather months and on a stationary model during the winter.
“I bike for TRAM (The Ride Across Minnesota), the ride to fight MS, a fundraiser,” explained Haley. “A good friend of mine, his aunt died with it, and there are some other people I know who have been affected by it.”
TRAM participants pedal 320 miles in five days. Haley’s team is called Team Wings.
“This year will be my fourth one,” she said. “The route changes every year. This year it starts in Bemidji and ends in Alexandria. It’s a wonderful cause to get involved in. There are people with stories that’ll rip your heart out. Anyone can do it. You just have to get your butt conditioned for the seat. It’s totally a mental toughness thing.”
With all that she’s got going on in her life, Haley also finds time to read a few books, attend the occasional movie and serve on the music committee for the Worthington Windsurfing Regatta and Unvarnished Music Festival. And she may take a moment to pause from her bicycle training to stare at Lake Okabena and appreciate the city that she has come to love.