Larry Siker loves to share his one-horse open sleighs
JANESVILLE If you've ever gone dashing through the snow in a one-horse open sleigh, you know the magical feeling it can create.
That's why Larry Siker, president of Siker Furniture and Bedding, began buying antique sleighs two years ago. He now has one of the largest collections of restored Portland cutters in the Midwest on display in the showroom of his Milton Avenue store.
"When you look at sleighs like jingle bells and the song, there's a romantic vision one has. And when you see it, it just captures your heart. It's enchanting," he said.
Siker invites the public to view his collection and have pictures taken in them. He also talks of plans to offer rides to seniors at local nursing homes so they can relive fond memories.
Elderly customers who have seen the sleighs have told Siker "they've never had anything in their lives match the joy of taking a ride in a one-horse open sleigh," he said.
He even envisions using the sleighs to help the Rock County Historical Society raise funds to restore its carriage barn on the grounds of the historic Lincoln-Tallman House.
Meanwhile, Siker enjoys buying and researching antique sleighs.
His favorite in his collection is a Portland Cutter made in Janesville by the Wisconsin Carriage Co. in the 1800s. It has an ogee—S-curved molding—back panel.
"It has some of the finest craftsmanship of all the sleighs," he said.
His most unique piece is a bobsled with separate runners, Siker said.
Siker has found the sleighs "in less than poor condition" in barns in the Kickapoo Valley to the Waupun prison.
Other antique vehicles in Siker's collection are a buckboard of museum quality and a rare John Deere carriage in a design similar to the earliest automobile.
Siker's employees help restore the sleighs.
Kevin McLaughlin had never upholstered anything but furniture before Siker bought the sleighs.
"It's a great opportunity to do something new. In 35 years, I had never done a sleigh," he said.
McLaughlin has done beautiful leather-bonded diamond tufting and channel back upholstery.
The work presented new challenges of deciding how to make the seat and back frame attach to the sleigh securely but attractively.
"It's nice to have the ability to extend your usefulness in the workplace," he said.
Siker's employees take the sleighs to Greg Rea at Excel Auto Body on South Pine Street, where with his help they are able to prime the sleighs with automotive primer and finish, Siker said.
"We also do the detailing there," he said.