Paul Bond Boots
*As a company, we are in pursuit of grassy people and grassy stories. The Silent heroes of this world. Below is the story of Paul Bond Boots and its devoted employees.
You could argue that the most prized possession of a true cowboy and/or cowgirl is their boots. It says a lot about the person, so when I was introduced to the story of Paul Bond Boots I became very intrigued. What was told to me was that the best and most historic cowboy boots were hand crafted in Arizona. In Nogales on the US Mexico border to be more specific. Names like John Wayne and Elvis Presley bought their cowboy boots at this very store. Now why in the world would John Wayne or Elvis Presley take the time to purchase boots from a store based in Nogales? Well after touring through the facility and meeting the employees, I came to understand why.
The story of Paul Bond Boots began in the year 1915. Paul Bond was born in Carlsbad, New Mexico where he grew up on the family ranch riding horses and working cattle. In his teenage years he found work with a local bootmaker and would even break in horses for the U.S. Cavalry. These experiences led him to join the rodeo as a bronc trick rider. While committed to the Rodeo, Bond continued to make boots on the side. As his rodeo prowess continued to grow, so did the quality of his boots. Bond’s part-time bootmaking was designed to supplement his income from the Rodeo, but in the late 1940’s he walked away from the sport and opened up a boot shop on the US Mexico border in Nogales, Arizona.
With Bond’s connections not only in the Rodeo but with stunt riders in Western Movies, his boots became world class. Names like John Wayne and Elvis Presley bought boots from him in their era and today names like Tom Cruise and Gwen Stefani purchase boots from the very same Nogales shop.
Within the folk lore of Paul Bond Boots, one thing gets forgotten. Paul’s Nogales based employees that have been building boots from scratch at the same boot shop off of Paul Bond Road in Nogales, Arizona. Their six current boot makers have all been working at the shop for over 40 years.
When I was toured through the facility by the store manager, I felt like I was walking through someone's home. The relationships between the employees was eerily similar to the way 6 brothers would interact. The store manager would whisper under his breath to me that so and so was in a bad mood today because he had to do a job he typically didn't have to do. I got the feeling that Paul Bond Boots operated much like a close knit family which makes sense given the fact the six bootmakers have all been working there for 40+ years. These weren't your ordinary boots and these weren't your ordinary employees. The store manager would say as we passed station to station "he's the best in the business at what he does". I came to realize I was looking at the Dream Team of bootmaking which helped me make sense of people like Elvis Presely buying boots from them.
The operation is about as old school as it gets and to be honest it gave me goosebumps. They record all sales and customer information by hand and keep the records organized in a private office. If you'd like to know all the details about Tom Cruise and his cowboy boots, well they're on file in the corresponding box. No computer database. No icloud connection. Just old school pen and paper. The way a cowboy would do it.
What I felt while touring through the Paul Bond facility is something you don't feel very often. The commitment and selflessness of the employees is something you rarely find in today's business world and it's reflected in the quality of their boots. The store manager said to me that all the employees could find higher paying jobs in town, but instead choose to work here. For them it’s not about the money, it’s about the craft. It’s about their loyalty to Paul Bond who passed away in 2012. When I spoke to the store manager, he said “it was a real tough year around here when we lost Paul, but we had to get back to work”.