|Healing Soles For Over 40 Years
Country Style Texas Magazine, Feb/Mar 2005
Article and Photos by Mike Baxter
you didn't already know that it was there, you'd probably just drive
right on by without giving it a second thought. But, what goes on
inside the little shop on FM 2920 in Tomball continues to touch
the "soles" of so many, as it has for over 40 years.
of the great things about owning a shop like this is that someone
always comes with a request for something they can't find anywhere
else," said Marlene McGill of JM Boot & Saddlery. "That's
always the challenge, and my husband, Jim, and I love accepting
only in Tomball since 1999, Jim McGill can trace his leather working
lineage back to the early 1900s. "My mother used to tell me
how her and her brothers, Vernon and Harris, grew up 60 miles from
town along the Missouri River in North Dakota. Being that far from
town it was usually easier to fix a saddle than go without."
That tradition is what has kept Jim working with leather for most
of his life.
Salman, the newest addition to the JM Boot staff, practices his
of the McGill's day-to-day business is repairing old, worn-out boots
and saddles. But it is creating custom western footwear that is
the most fun for the couple. "We make all kinds of boots from
calf skins to bull hides, all the way to ostrich, elk, alligator
and even frog skin," Jim said with a laugh. "Frog skin
is not very durable, but it does make a pretty boot. We made some
for Ronnie Milsap back about 1985."
Reba McIntire and Gladys Knight, and businessman Stewart Morris
of Stewart Title Company are just a few of the luminaries to slide
a pair of western boots made by Jim and Marlene McGill. "Roger
Staubach, the former quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys, will be
coming in early 2005 to be fitted for a pair of custom boots with
an American flag on the front and a Texas flag on the back,"
said Marlene. "He was quite excited and said that he would
wear them with pride."
is a world of difference between a custom boot and mass produced
chip-kicker. "Almost all the boots on the market today, for
example Tony Lama, Justin, Nocona, are made by the same company
in China," Marlene said. "These products are just thrown
together to make the sale and get the buyer out the door."
don't understand why we can't sell boots for $49 when they can buy
a pair with cardboard insets and injection molded soles at Walmart
for that price," she said. "Our boots are individually
made for the person who will be wearing them. The bottom line is
we've been in this for a long time, and we certainly know what we're
doing. We're not the most expensive boot you can get, but we're
range for JM brand custom boots varies according to the hide and
additional work such as decorative stiching, inlays, and logos.
"We start at $595 for a domestic, leather work boot made of
calf skin, cow or bull hide," said Jim. "then you move
up to a goat skin or Spanish calf at around $720. Next would be
full quill ostrich at $1,175, and then alligator runs anywhere from
$1,600 to $3,000 or more depending on wether the customer wants
full gator or gator only on the bottoms.
of their careers, Jim and Marlene have been a staff of two. But,
recently a third member was added to their team. "A few months
ago we were fortunate to have Ryan Slaqman join us," said Marlene.
"Ryan was taught boot repair by his grandfather, Sam Ricca
who had a boot and shoe repair here in Tomball for many, many years.
I have to say, he taught his grandson well."
Ryan now on staff, production time for a personalized pair of boots
can be lengthly. "Depending on the order and the time of year,
it can take around 60 days to make a custom pair of boots,"
Jim said. "But, after the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo
each year, it's usually an eight-month wait due to the large number
of orders we take and getting the hided needed to produce them."
The McGills have a booth at the show where they take custom orders.
Boot & Saddlery used to make saddles once upon a time, but today
they are content to just repair them. "The market for saddles
in Houston is deplorable," Jim said. "You can buy a low
quality Mexican saddle at about $250, when a good American made
work saddle should run anywhere from $2,000 to $3,600 and last a
lot of people have moved out into this area, bought a couple of
acres and bought their child a horse," Marlene said. "They
will spend a lot of money on the horse and the training, but then
forget that what their child rides on is important, too. When something
goes wrong with a cheap saddle they will bring it into our shop
in a box and we'll put it back together as best we can."
Boot owners Jim and Marlene McGill have created boots for celebrities
Reba McIntire and Gladys Knight.
what do the McGills plan to do next? "Just keep on cruisin'
along and maybe slowing down a bit," said Jim. "I plan
to keep on making a few pairs of boots then retiring." But,
Jim has to laugh at the prospect of retirement based on old age
given that his mother is now 96 and his dad is now 92. Looks like
the McGiulls are good stock, and as strong and comfortable as western
boots made with pride, one pair at a time. CSTX