Western & English Today

SUM 2014

W&E Today provides retailers and manufacturers with education and ideas that provoke innovation in the Western and English markets.

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16 Western & English Today SUMMER 2014 DESIGNER profile Chacón Leatherheads Bruce Erickson and family create handcrafted belts and buckles — with an emphasis on enduring quality, family values and fun. I t's May, but the first thing Bruce Erickson does this morning when he gets to work at Chacón Belts and Buckles is build a f re. T at's because it's snowing in the mountains around Rociada, New Mex- ico. Outside, it's 29 degrees, quiet and smells of a wet spring morning. Inside, it's toasty, noisy and smells of leather. Pretty soon, however, it will smell of tacos, because Gilbert Cruz has moved from his belt-making station to start cooking lunch. Before moving into leatherwork, Cruz ran a restaurant in Mora for years. "He keeps us well fed," Erickson says with a smile. Chacón Belts and Buckles isn't your typical belt-making factory. It's more like a family. In fact, it is a family. Erickson's wife, Mae, would be here helping out, but she's in Hawaii helping their daughter Ursula get set- tled in for a new job. Ursula, of course, used to work for Chacón before graduating from New Mexico State University. Two other daughters, Lucia and Marissa (who of en appear in Chacón's advertisements), will be working in the factory as soon as classes are over at New Mexico State. Erickson's son Mark is still at his station – because Cruz hasn't f nished those tacos yet. Mark, now 28, has been with Chacón for 13 years. "His knowledge of leather and his knowledge of how to make things work far surpasses mine," Bruce Erickson says. "I go to him and ask him for help." T e other employees are treated like family. "It's a family function, and that's really rare and beloved," says Jason Maida, who has carried Chacón products at his Houston, Texas-based store, Maida's Belts & Buckles, since the early 1990s. "I love that. He gives you consistent quality, and he'll tell you, 'T is is the best belt I can give you.' T at says something about his character." Erickson got his start in that hippie era, when leath- erwork boomed across the Southwest. "T ere were a lot of leather stores everywhere," he recalls. "You could go anywhere and there was someone to sell it. A lot of. Belts. Jackets. Bags. Everything." Af er he "accidentally stumbled into leather" — the silver buckles didn't start until 1986 – Erickson was doing everything, from belts to saddle repair, but when it came to starting a real business, making belts seemed af ordable and feasible. "I wanted to work for myself, I wanted to work my own hours and I wanted to do my own thing," he says. by Johnny D. Boggs ABOVE: The staf of Chacón Belts and Buckles outside their facility in Rociada, N.M., from left: Bruce Erickson, Gilbert Cruz, Mark Erickson, Marissa Erickson, Isaac Vasquez, Ernie Lujan and Ryan Yoder-Soliz. RIGHT: Isaac Vasquez edge- stitches a belt. 0714 Profile ChaconBeltsjml.indd 16 6/18/14 12:23 PM

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