Danny Durham is flipping through his stack of faded VIP ledgers, one personage per page, the neat entries made in brown ink because "we liked everything leather-colored."
Dean Acheson, John Archbold, Hugh Auchincloss, Paul Mellon, Jackie Kennedy: The Green Book-and-barn set all had charge accounts with W.H. Stombock & Son when the saddlery did business on M Street in Georgetown. Then there was Chief Justice Felix Frankfurter.
"Now he ran some big accounts," said Durham, who was hired by "Old Man" Stombock as a sweeper in 1940 and inherited the store from Stombock's son in 1960. "In April 1953, he charged one dollar. Then in May, he charged $2.50. We used to take care of his old briefcase . . . . "
And there was Gen. George S. Patton, then a mere major, who advanced on the store wearing his sidearms, jumped on the counter and ordered a new gunbelt by commanding, "Stombock, wrap some leather around these things!"
Durham swears by the story and says the old gunbelt is still in the proud possession of Charley Kerns, the leather machinist who made the replacement.
But that was history.
The present, which began to intrude when rising Georgetown rents forced Durham to move the store to Potomac in 1970, ended yesterday, when the third and final incarnation of Stombock's went out of business in Gaithersburg.
"It so sad in here," sighed customer Mary Miller, surveying the blank walls and barren shelves Tuesday morning as she wrote a check for her last Stombock's riding jacket.
Miller, 34, has been buying equestrian supplies from Stombock's since she was a child in Potomac, but never saw the original store that opened in Georgetown in 1895.
"We used to be at the hub," Durham told a reporter for the now-defunct Washington Star as he prepared for the first move.
"These days the shape of the hub has changed. The bearings are getting a little crunched and all the business is on the other end of the spoke -- in the suburbs."
Now the suburbs have turned on him, too. The Potomac store fell to make way for an office building in 1977.
The Gaithersburg store, an unprepossessing 1,500 square feet in a strip shopping center on Shady Grove Road, will be taken over by some small business that caters to whizzers-by on the six-lane highway. There were two lanes, through horse territory, when Durham arrived.
"Rent," he harrumphed Tuesday as he contemplated the closing. "We came in here at $7 a square foot. Now they want something like $22. Right now we're paying $11.25. This isn't a big business, it's just an old business. People think you make a lot of money. You don't. You make a living."
Unlike the deli on one side of Stombock's (everyone has to eat) and the mattress shop on the other (everyone has to sleep), "we deal with .0001 percent of the population, but we pay 100 percent of the rent that everyone else pays."
After 50 years of selling "Everything for the Horse and Rider" -- and repairing almost everything the horse and rider can break except bones -- Durham is not going out to pasture as his going-out-of-business flier proclaims. He will move his tools to his home workshop in Potomac and spend his mornings at the Laurel racetrack, where he runs a horse.
"You'll be at the barn bugging me," groaned his trainer, Joe Devereux, who dropped by Tuesday to eye the remaining merchandise and drink a noontime beer with Durham in the back room. When that room is emptied, the phone numbers for race results at Laurel, Pimlico and Charles Town will still be scrawled on the wall above the phone.
Durham, born and raised in Georgetown, found his calling at age 7, when he rode a friend's pony. He spent his adolescence haunting the Riverside Riding Academy in Foggy Bottom -- mucking stalls for his rides, exercising the horses of the high and mighty -- and went to work for William Stombock at 14.
Among Durham's colleagues as he learned the leather trade was Stombock's son, Earl, better known as Bud, 10 years Durham's senior and all but a brother to him.
When Bud died childless at 45, he left the store to Durham, who still takes flowers to Bud's grave once a year.
While he ran the business, Durham rode steeplechase races and helped found the Washington Polo Club, creating a market for a new line of Stombock's stock.
"We had all the polo equipment you could want, top of the line," he said. "Then the cheapies got in and started bringing in the cheap stuff so we got out of polo."
Only his VIPs, he said, "wanted the good stuff. Rolls-Royce only sells Rolls-Royce. Well, Stombock's sells only the cream. We never changed."
Nor did Old Georgetown, the life-sized black ceramic horse that stood sentry at all three Stombock's stores after a customer became enamored of its predecessor -- a real stuffed horse -- and bought it. Having been sold "for an undisclosed sum," Durham said, Old Georgetown will be stabled henceforth at the new Clyde's restaurant in Reston, wearing Durham's old polo saddle.
Doreen Durham, who has kept her husband's books these many years, says she may travel some while he hangs out at the track. "Emotionally, it was much more difficult for him to close the door on the old store in Georgetown," she said.
"This was just a place to do business," he confirmed. "Georgetown was home."