Amy Pieh carries on a family tradition with Pieh Tool Company
Amy Pieh carries on a family tradition with Pieh Tool Company.
By Becky Antioco
Photos by Shannon Fisher
Amy Pieh is living proof that there’s no such thing as an overnight success, even when you have a 40-year history in your favor. Her business, Pieh Tool Company, is an overnight success 15 years in the making, the result of circumstance, know-how, and hard work. Her two locations sell blacksmith and farrier tools, offer knife-making and blacksmithing clinics, and carry on a family tradition that goes back to 1960.
Pieh’s story begins in Wisconsin where her parents, Bill and Bonnie, started a blacksmith company called Centaur Forge, Ltd. She grew up in the business, watching her parents care for their customers like family, striving to provide them with essential, quality products. While she loved the business, as kids are wont to do, she ventured away from home to make her own way in the world.
“I was always very proud of my father’s business. But I never thought I’d do it. I joined the military to get out of Wisconsin,” she says. “If my parents came to California––where I was living at the time––for a trade show, I’d go and help, but I thought that’s where it would stay.”
Pieh was in the United States Air Force, stationed in Sacramento, Calif., doing aircraft inspections. Eventually, she came to specialize in nuclear inspections. “It was really fascinating, but I was getting burnt out from all the travel,” she says.
It was around this time, in 2000, that her father passed away. She moved home to help her mother run Centaur Forge, which had been flagging during her father’s illness. About a year later, Pieh became vice president of the company, which had begun to turn a profit again. Sadly, her mother passed away in 2001. By now, Pieh had fallen in love with the business, but her siblings were ready to move on.
On her own, she couldn’t afford to buy Centaur Forge, so she got involved with an organization called SCORE, a volunteer network of business mentors, to put together a business plan to open in a new location.
“I wanted to be away from my father’s old company, somewhere where there wasn’t a lot of competition, and also somewhere that I wanted to live,” she explains.
While looking for this ideal location, she fell back on her experience with nuclear power, contracting at Palo Verde. On a day off, she decided to visit Sedona, a trip that would put her on the path to opening two successful locations in Arizona. Pieh Tool Company opened in Camp Verde in 2003.
Pieh says, “I picked the location based on research and a gut feeling. I looked into how many blacksmiths and horseshoers were out that way, and found there were quite a few. Phoenix was saturated with farrier suppliers at the time, but there was really nobody up there.”
“I didn’t know a soul in the area, “ she recalls. “But, I became good friends with a blacksmith named Gordon Williams. The stored opened in May, and by December we started a blacksmithing school there too.”
But, Pieh remembers, “The first year was tough. The Department of Transportation closed the road in front of my store for seven months. And I was seven months pregnant. Being a single mom, I had to keep it going.”
She was determined to succeed, selling feed, putting in a coffee shop, stocking Western wear––anything to pique curiosity and drive walk-in business.
“Carrying on the family tradition was what motivated me to keep going when it was really tough. My father was so respected in the industry––all over the world. And I took that very seriously. When finances got tight, there was no way I wasn’t going to make things right with my father’s suppliers. A lot of them trusted me because of our family, and honoring my parents was a huge driving force for me.”
In late 2012, with the business going well, Pieh started receiving calls from the Valley telling her that a farrier business in Cave Creek had closed up shop and moved to Scottsdale. They begged her fill the void. For three months they kept calling, and in January 2013, two of them drove up to introduce themselves and plead their case in person.
Hesitant to take the risk, Pieh nonetheless jumped in and opened a store at Tatum and Dynamite in March 2013. It was a decision she didn’t take lightly.
“I was terrified. I remember crying before I signed the lease. I had just turned the corner with the original location, and wasn’t struggling anymore. I thought ‘What am I doing?’”
As it turns out, this store was a game changer. She remembers, “Within the first month of being open, our monthly sales were what it took me six years to get to in the other location. And I didn’t even have a sign up yet. Within a year, I bought a house in Anthem.”
In May, Pieh Tool Company will move to a new location at Cave Creek Road and Tatum Boulevard. The new store will be 1,000 square feet larger, so Pieh will have the space for customer appreciation events, knife-making and blacksmithing clinics and demonstrations, and, of course, blacksmith and farrier supplies for her loyal customers.
Seeing the fruits of her success, people often say, “Oh you must have had all this money to start.” Pieh says, no. “I’m not one to sit back and say, I’m this or I’m that, so I can’t. It’s about having confidence and wanting to step forward and do it. I want people, especially women, to know that you can do anything if you put your heart into it. But you have to be willing to work hard.”
Pieh Tool 1
661 E. Howards Rd., Suite J, Camp Verde
Pieh Tool 2
28255 N. Tatum Blvd., Suite 1, Cave Creek
In May, Pieh Tool’s Cave Creek location will be moving to:
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