Western & English Today

FALL 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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38 Western & English Today FALL 2014 "Making boots is a team effort," Dvorak says. "Each worker — from the hide inspector to the finishing team that packs boots for shipment — checks each piece to make sure all previous tasks were done right. That quality control from colleagues maintains excellence. No one wants to get his or her work sent back for a tear-down to get it fixed." With 140 employees, the companies rank among the largest employers in Mercedes. On average, employees have worked for Rios for 18 years. Like the company's owners and managers, many staffers are kin. Dvorak offers several examples: "Francisco, the production manager for Anderson Bean — his uncle runs the shipping department; his father makes heels and soles at Rios. And Arturo — he started here 33 years ago sweeping floors and moved up to be our line foreman. Now his daughter works in accounts payable." O n the factory floor, each craftsperson performs a specialty. A Rios employee for 33 years, Ismael (nick- named Smiley for his habit of working with a handful of metal tacks stuffed in his mouth) is the laster, shap- ing the leather. Lionel is an expert in channel welting, and Lupita sews the "ears" (boot pulls). A separate four-person division handles recrafting (repairing worn or damaged boots). Over the years, the department has encountered its share of cases of unusual wear. "One day, a pair of black quill ostrich boots came back all white, salt-crusted and torn up," Trainor says. "I called up the guy and asked, 'What did you do to them?' Turns out, he was a shrimp fisherman who wore them all the time." While preserving tradition, the companies also pursue innovations. Says Dvorak: "Guys who work construction and on oil rigs were calling to say, 'Why are you chasing me out of my A-Bs? I want a boot I can wear to work.' So Anderson Bean just launched an upscale work-boot line with a steel toe — they're really boss." "Style trends are so much shorter than they were 30 years ago," Moody says. "We're seeing more bright colors; even purple or red boots in size 16EE. Younger customers have a broader taste in color for the tops, although vamps will still be brown or black." Trainor mentions another trend. "We're currently seeing interest in the distressed look. For that, we make the boots and then throw them in what we call 'the hamster wheel' with lava rocks to scruff them up." Celebrating its Made-in- the-USA tradition, Rios has a new promotional T-shirt that reads, "There are no cowboys in China." Says Trainor: "There's something about making something as good as you can make it … and it's made in Texas. That's as big a deal for me as closing a deal on Wall Street." Rios of Mercedes (800) 717-1853; riosofmercedes.com Anderson Bean/Macie Bean/Horse Power (800) 903-9999; andersonbean.com Olathe (800) 255-6126; olatheboots.com Seattle-based writer/photographer Risa Wyatt took a side trip to Mercedes while attending the Outdoor Writers of America Association's annual conference in McAllen. She contributes to Wine Enthusiast, SKI, Forbes Life, RV Life, the Chicago Tribune, the Boston Globe and the Philadelphia Inquirer, among other pub- lications. Visit her website at RisaWyatt.com. WALKING THE WALK: Top: The Macie Bean line for women ofers jaunty insets and embroidery. Bottom: Pat Moody and Trainor Evans kick back with their library of vintage boots that dates back more than 50 years.

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