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15222 FM 2920, Suite J, Tomball, Texas 77375
Phone: 281-290-8661 Fax: 281-255-8611

Healing Soles For Over 40 Years
Taken from
Country Style Texas Magazine, Feb/Mar 2005
Article and Photos by Mike Baxter
   If 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.
   "One 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 the challenge."
   Though 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.
Ryan Salman, the newest addition to the JM Boot staff, practices his lasting.
   Much 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."
   Performers 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."
   There 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."
   "People 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 not cheap."
   The price 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.
   For most 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."
   Even with 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.
   JM 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 lifetime."
   "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."
JM Boot owners Jim and Marlene McGill have created boots for celebrities Reba McIntire and Gladys Knight.
   And, 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