Henry Camargo opened the Camargo Western Boots store at Mercedes in 1980.
In 1973, I started working for Rios, a shoemaker from Mercedes, a big company in a small town. We made an alligator, an ostrich, a lizard, an anteater…
the anteater was very popular, but we can’t get it anymore – in the style of cowboy boots. In 1980 I opened my own shop. urban cowboy prospered, and there was a lot of money; you had drug lords attacking the Valley. The guys came here buying $2000, $3000 pairs of shoes.
As the years went by, many boots were imported from Mexico and some companies began to manufacture them in China. So the price people were willing to pay went down. But if they order custom boots, they’ll know the difference.
Now more and more of my clients are from the north. Guys who pay me really good money? They’re from Dallas, Houston, Austin. My shoes cost $500, $800, $1000, $1500.
People don’t make money here, and kids these days want to wear T-shirts, not boots. I want to start a cobbler’s school, like a college, but I can’t get a loan. Shoemaking is dying.
This article first appeared in the February 2023 issue of the journal. Texas Monthly with the title “The Last of the Great Shoemakers?” Subscribe today.