Darcy and Paul Ellarby were scouring the internet for curling items when they came across a holy grail – a collection of corn brooms, the original sweeping tool of the ancient Roaring Game. They swooped in and bought the collection from its Canadian owner.
Within 24 hours of unveiling the brooms on their Dakota Curling Supplies online store, half of their precious treasure was sold.
“We spent all day packing orders,” laughed Darcy, from her Minnesota headquarters.
“Of the first 22 we sold, one went to Australia, two to Canada, and the rest were purchased right here in the United States.
“Americans don’t have a lot of easy access to this stuff. Shipping from Canada can be difficult for some, but that’s our business, we import every day.”
Virtually no one, in fact, has any access to corn brooms. They’ve been out of vogue – and off assembly lines – for decades. The only glimpses of corn today’s curling fans will see on television come from the few curlers who still use a tattered and often reinforced corn broom in their slide delivery.
In fact, the term “curling broom” is now antiquated, and should probably be fully replaced by “curling brush.” Thanks to 2015’s epic “Broomgate” equipment scandal, hair brushes – made of horse and hog hair – are banned from top-level competition and are also hard to find.
Virtually all of today’s modern brushes feature fabric pads, with high-performance curling competitions demanding strict adherence to fabric protocols.
Only one of the Dakota brooms is new, with the original price tag still attached. The remainder are used, and the Ellarbys spent quality time evaluating and listing each one according to its present condition.
Paul Ellarby knew there would be a market for these relics.
“We’ve been asked, time and again, if we have any old brooms,” said Paul. “We have a mobile shop, in an RV trailer, and my old corn broom is displayed in there. It’s a Little Beaver. And I swear, every time we’re out somewhere someone asks ‘Can I buy that?’. I get that at least once a day.
“So I was excited by this. I was confident we were going to sell these very quickly.”
The old brand names, long gone from today’s high-tech curling world, still resonate for many. Challenger. Cat. Magnum. Curlmaster. Avenger.
The stash also included an original Rink Rat, believed to be among the first brooms to feature a fabric head affixed to the traditional wood handle. It sold quickly.
“Some of them are clearly super-unique items,” said Darcy. “The very first one we sold went to a collector who is originally from Quebec. She chose one that had all kinds of really cool stickers on it, from events like the Quebec Winter Games. All decorated up and down the handle.
“Another one was a Tiger, and the original owner had painted tiger stripes all up the handle.
“There really aren’t any comparisons. These are totally unique.”