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When the blustery winter winds slice right through you and bring that chill called Farm Show weather, there is a warm oasis not far from Strausstown.
Inside the Lukoil gas station, just past I 78, there’s sheepskin and lots of it.
Pat Garrett may have closed his namesake country music amphitheater, but his shearling business at the foot of the Blue Mountains lives on. At the Pat Garrett Sheepskin Outlet, you can find shearling coats, boots, vests, hats, slippers and just about any accessory imaginable.
Sheepskin has a country past (think of the Marlboro Man’s coat, rugged enough for the ranch, or the denim shearling jackets from “Brokeback Mountain.”) But for the past few seasons, top designers have used shearling to make cozy coats, totes, boots and hats.
From the $1,499.99 Spanish merino shearling coat to the $19.99 bag of shearling scraps (popular with crafters), there are a lot of choices at Pat Garrett’s Upper Tulpehocken Township sheepskin outlet.
Garrett wears many hats: former teacher, country music performer, promoter and entrepreneur. He started a small gas station outside of Strausstown in 1966.
Garrett bought his first three sheepskins from a pushy local salesman who wouldn’t have it otherwise, he said.
Soon, there was a tremendous snowstorm, and two women stopped at the station with a flat tire.
By the time Garrett had changed the tire, the women bought all three sheepskins he had left inside.
“Last time I’ve been without inventory for 40 years,” he said.
So Garrett started selling sheepskins, and one day, he made himself a vest. His customers asked for vests and then coats.
“People kept asking for stuff and I kept making it,” Garrett said.
Eventually, he realized the sheepskin business was better than changing tires.
The manufacturing side, Sickafus Sheepskin,
is now a family affair.
(Garrett was born Pat Sickafus, taking Garrett as a stage name.)
Garrett’s wife, Suzy Dalton, models for the website and advertisements.
His son, Dan Sickafus, runs Village Shop in Oley Township, which sells the Sickafus Sheepskin line.
Another son, Jeff Sickafus, works in shipping. Sickafus runs a cutting machine and works in packaging; granddaughter Jessica Sickafus takes orders and helps with the website; and cousin John Zimmerman is in charge of shipping.
The manufacturing crew makes slippers, hats, coats, vests and seat covers on site.
The business is a labyrinth of sheepskin: piles of sheepskins separated by color, rooms with boxes of merchandise ready to ship.
Downstairs, Harry Sopak cuts the pattern pieces from each sheepskin. June Balthaser and June Lesher sew woolie wompers, a moccasin slipper.
Upstairs, the store is packed with sheepskin.
Garrett’s products are often less expensive than his competitors because his company manufactures the products it sells, he said.
“We try to offer quality at a fair price,” Garrett said.
Ugg’s classic tall boots are $180, while similar style boots at the outlet are less than half that price.
In the store, shearling hats hang from the ceiling: wilderness hats, storm trooper hats, Yukon hats (with and without horns), bright orange hats for hunters and even a cowboy hat make of sheepskin.
There are racks of coats, from jackets to full length. There are Marlboro man coats, gentlemen’s coats, rancher coats and coats with fuzzy trim.
Garrett has made coats for country music stars such as Loretta Lynn, Conway Twitty and Charlie Daniels.