‘D Magazine’ once described me in a featured article some years ago as a “Quintessential Texan”. I’m not sure I can even spell ‘quintessential’ correctly, much less define it appropriately… but I know it’s not all bad with the word, ‘Texan’ on the end.
I was born in Austin; however, I grew up in Houston. As a ‘Spring Branch Bear’ 1975 graduate and avid football and baseball player, I had the tremendous fortune to continue to play baseball at the University of Houston. There’s many a story I could tell about being a Cougar Baseball player, but perhaps I’ll leave those for another time.
After my studies at U of H, it was 1980 and time to get a job. The summer of 1980 was hot, even by Texas’ standards, so I was grateful to be working inside with air conditioning at Don’s Western Wear in Houston. But, in hindsight, it was truly a blessing to be working with the smell of leather. The unique fragrant of pristine leather was intoxicating for me; and, to be honest, my life-long love affair for an all leather boot became a reality for me on the floor of Don’s.
At Don’s Western Wear my job beginnings were simple. I started by helping customers find the perfect fit and style of a western boot. And western boots had become very popular, and somewhat overnight. You see, Don’s Western Wear was a stone’s throw away to Gilley’s – the wildly successful and soon to be famous honky-tonk. Not a bad place to be during the time of the newest theater hit, ‘Urban Cowboy’. And now every person regardless of their background, upbringing, job, lifestyle, age, gender, etc., wanted a pair of western boots.
My time with customers on the sales floor quickly gave me the experience for Don’s to promote me to store manager. In that role, I began to order boots for the retail store and that meant trips to attend ‘market’. It was there I was able to develop lifelong memories and relationships with people like Tony Lama, Jr.; Ms. Enid Justin of Nocona Boots; Sam Lucchese and his masters, Gilbert and Jessie Garcia; and last, but not least, Mr. John Justin, Jr.
Though these introductions and treasured relationships are highlights of my days at Don’s Western Wear, my most-cherished and certainly most important introduction though, is meeting a Houston girl by the name Vicki, and celebrating our nuptials in 1982.
There were many great personalities and boot makers in those days – Sandy Sanders, Trainer Evans, Ben Miller, Rod Patrick, Garner Moss, Rodney Ammons, Terry Stanley, and perhaps the world’s greatest boot maker, Charles Schuler of Justin Boots. One of the things that separated Charles from the others, is he could look at a boot, walk straight to one single machine out of a hundred and know what screw to adjust.
These boot brands had REAL people with a REAL, genuine passion for the art of boot making back then. This passion, and the attention to detail, is something that has become almost neglected in today’s boot business. Along with these tremendous boot makers were incredible sales divisions with decades of experience and insight. Those sales teams, coupled with the great retailers, taught me so much…and, it’s that insight I still use each and every day.
I thank the Lord I have had the honor to meet and work beside the greatest boot makers, sales teams and retailers in the industry.
I pray that I can pull the best aspects from each experience and create the genuine article at a tremendous value. These incredible relationships – boot makers, sales teams, retailers, etc. – have taught me, and instilled in me, to work hard, create a keepsake and approach every day with a servant’s heart.
God bless this journey…