Henry Camargo opened Camargo’s Western Boots, in Mercedes, in 1980.
In 1973 I started working for the bootmaker Rios of Mercedes, a big company in a small town. We were doing alligator, ostrich, lizard, anteater—
anteater was very popular, but we can’t get it anymore—in a cowboy boot style. I started my own shop in 1980. Urban Cowboy was booming, and there was a lot of money down here; you had drug lords hitting the Valley. Guys came in here buying $2,000, $3,000 pairs of boots.
As the years went by, a lot of boots were imported from Mexico, and some companies started making them in China. So the price that folks wanted to pay dropped. But if they order custom-made boots, they’ll find out the difference.
Now more and more of my customers are from up north. The guys that pay me really good money? They’re from Dallas, Houston, Austin. My boots are $500, $800, $1,000, $1,500.
People don’t make money down here, and the kids these days want to wear tennies, not boots. I want to put together a school for bootmakers, like a college, but I couldn’t get a loan. The art of bootmaking is dying.
This article originally appeared in the February 2023 issue of Texas Monthly with the headline “The Last of the Great Bootmakers?” Subscribe today.