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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18 Western & English Today SUMMER 2014 M illigan b k rand nits (505) 470-5486 cbmilligan@zianet.com milliganbrandknits.com "Before you know it, I was successful at it." Chacón Belts started out in the village of Chacón about 13 miles north of Mora. In 2005, Erickson moved the business to a gas station in Rociada. T ey even sold gas until about 2008. "T e former owners wanted to keep the gas station," Erickson says with a smile. "But we had this area up front reserved for retail, and I'll tell you probably 25 percent of every gas customer bought a belt. We made more money selling belts by far than they did sell- ing gas to gas customers." Maybe because of the quality of those belts. T at's one thing that has not changed since 1972. "I've just kind of stuck to the basic fun- damentals," Erickson says. "Building and making a good product, making it with good material. T at's the cornerstone of our business. It's not always the most prof table way. You can make more money and have appearance of good material and charge the same price or close to the same price. Or do large volume. I just don't have the where- withal for that." These days, Chacón is producing roughly 300 belts a week, with the compa- ny's trademark black edge. "Our business is a lot better now," Erick- son says. "T at's because it's grown in a nat- ural fashion. We are limited to who our cus- tomers are. We have the potential to have a lot more customers, but in order to reach them, I'd have to reach out to them instead of making belts." And making belts is what fuels Erick- son's passion. His day typically begins around 7:45 a.m. He builds a f re in the winter (or May, if it's 29 degrees and snowing), checks and answers emails, processes orders and goes to work. "I'm trying to facilitate what the crew is doing," he says. "I f ll in where I'm needed to make things run smoother because they're making the belts." To illustrate this, he walks over to where Ernie Lujan is securing a hornback alligator skin onto the belt's backing. No stitching. T is is done with glue, hammer and anvil. And when Lujan is f nished, Erickson says, "T at belt's not coming apart." He points to the other workers – f ve on this morning – and says, "I was pretty good at leatherwork at one time, but I'm not as good as I once was and I was never as good as they are now." But he is good as he ever was at design- ing a buckle. Erickson uses the lost-wax method of casting. He doesn't use machines. In fact, like his belt-making operation, everything is pretty much a handmade operation. "I'm still perfectly capable of designing things," says Erickson, 64. "I can come up with a buckle design and make it a reality. Fortunately, I have a very good idea for a product that will sell." T e inspiration, he says, "comes from God. I'm one of those people who gives God all the credit." Buckle inspiration also comes from those silvermaking pioneers of the 1960s and '70s like Douglas Magnus, David Dear, Dale Harris, James Reed and Michael Rogers. "I look to them as the guys who inspired me really more than anybody else," Erickson says. "I admired what they were doing in terms of popularity of styles. It was that combination of that Native American jewelry look and that Western cowboy look, that Ranger-set look." Says Magnus of Santa Fe-based Magnus Studios: "Bruce and I have been friends and colleagues since about 1980, when his original belt company 'Dynamite Leather' used and promoted my buckles. T e qual- 0714 Profile ChaconBeltsjml.indd 18 6/18/14 12:24 PM

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