Western & English Today

MAR 2015

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 EARLY SPRING 2015 Hondo Boots turns 50 the late 1960s. "Everybody knew the name Hondo," Guijarro says. They still do. Dress boots and work boots are Hondo's mainstays – for farmers, cowboys, cattlemen, ranchers. As Guijarro's son, Fil, says: "There's not a single fad person wearing our boots. They're really for the ranchers, and always have been." At Atomic 79, a cowboy boot shop in Dillon, Montana, co-owner John Cieslowski praises Hondo. "They're great boots, well-built boots, built for great value," he says. "They haven't cut corners in how they construct them, and they are a stellar boot, especially for the money." Consumers and store owners often praise how easy it is to repair a Hondo boot. "Another reason we appreciate Hondo is their repairability," Cieslowski says. "Hondos are the go-to boot for every customer." Which reminds Guijarro of one of the testimonals a loyal Hondo boot wearer sent him. "Ths man had bought a pair of Hondo boots in Kansas in 1972," he says. "About two years ago somebody broke into his pickup truck and stole the boots. He said, 'I cried.'" During the Urban Cowboy craze of the 1980s, Hondo was producing roughly 500 pairs a day. Then came the crash. "Many companies sold out or went out of business," Guijarro says. "We went down too, but 10 years ago we started to slowly gain. We're not doubling our growth from year to year, but we're gaining steadily." Part of that growth is attributed to Hondo's leathers — those leathers that Guijarro knew nothing about in 1965. "I feel we've been making one of the best boots around," Guijarro says, "because of our leather. Sometimes leather can be fve times more expensive, but I know how to fnd the leather." Surviving 50 years, he says, is unbelievable. "I've been around so long, I knew everybody that is no longer around. Enid Justin. Tony Lama. Sam Lucchese. I knew them all. I'm seeing these brands changing owners, changing quality. We're doing the very same thing we've been doing. I'm not going to change. I don't have time to change." And 50 years from now? "It'll be my daughter and my sister's daughter running the business," Fil Guijarro says. "It'll go to the women." But don't think Filberto Guijarro is about ready to retire. He still loves his job, and loves making — and selling — boots. "I'll be around as long as I can walk," he says. I n 1965, Filbert Guijarro took of across Texas to see if he could sell cowboy boots made by two of his brothers. Guijarro came from a big family — he had 14 siblings (his mother lived to be 99) — but was living in California. While visiting his family in El Paso, Texas, over Christmas 1964, two of his brothers had suggested that he try to sell the boots they were making in a little shop in Juarez, Mexico, to U.S. retail stores. After all, the Western retail business was growing, so Guijarro took a 30-day leave of absence from the jet company where he worked and hit the road. But there was one catch: "I didn't know [anything] about boots, leathers, nothing," Guijarro recalls. "But people were so generous in the stores selling cowboy boots, they'd tell me what I needed to do, what the boots needed to have. A lot of people in the United States helped me learn about boots." Heeding their suggestions, he started selling boots to stores across the country, and never looked back. Fifty years later, Guijarro knows a lot about boots, leathers and the bootmaking business. And while much of the industry has changed, that company — Hondo Boots — still makes boots the Hondo way, the Guijarro way. "Every single Hondo boot is handmade," Guijarro says. "We have not changed a bit. We're stubborn enough not to put synthetics and plastics in our boots." Instead, from its base in El Paso, Hondo ships orders — as small as 10 pairs to as large as 100 pairs — to stores from Texas to Montana, to the Pacifc Northwest, and even into Canada. The boots are still handcrafted with all-leather Goodyear welts in various smooth and exotic leathers. Walk into the factory, Guijarro says, and "you'll see a worker doing it by hand, maybe with a mouthful of nails. We have very, very good workers that are proud of what they're doing." In Juarez, Guijarro's brothers had called their business Rio Hondo. But Guijarro shortened that to Hondo, taking the name from a 1953 hit Western movie starring John Wayne that had been adapted into a best-selling novel by Louis L'Amour and became the basis of a short-lived TV series in By Johnny D. Boggs h i t i C h i t 1 9 6 4 t f h i

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