Born and reared in southwest Kansas, Alfredo Sanchez never knew a day when his father wasn’t wearing boots. “My dad worked in agriculture, and I was the typical kid, always trying his boots on. He wore round-toed, big-spur boots with polyester pants and pressed, snap-button shirts,” he remembered.
After high school, Alfredo met Carlos Cruz who introduced him to the bootmaking business. He worked with Carlos for many years, and when Carlos retired, Alfredo decided to go out on his own. In 1998, his business Chaparral Boots was born.
Why the name Chaparral? Alfredo simply liked it – it reminded him of a store from his childhood. “Chaparral was just stuck in my mind,” he said. Chaparral is the name of a shrub from Chile.
Business started slow but that didn’t stop Alfredo. “When I first started out in 1998, going door to door, it didn’t go so well. Nobody bought from me at first. But I continued persevering, day in and day out,” he said.
Now living in Richardson, Alfredo does not have a permanent storefront or showroom, as there are no premade boots. Instead, he brings the entire bootmaking process, from start to finish, to the customer – a mobile boot concierge of sorts.
When a customer orders a custom boot, the process begins with a one-on-one meeting followed by a selection of the types of skins and colors desired, and then precise measurements of each foot. Alfredo cuts everything himself, doing all the prep work locally, then brings the pieces back to his shop in El Paso to be finished by the rest of his team. There is a six- to eight-week wait time for completed custom boots.
Alfredo sources his materials through vendors that he’s found by word of mouth. El Paso is a hot spot for bootmaking, so finding the hides for his boots was never a challenge. In recent years, vendors have reached out to Chaparral Boots on social media, offering their hides. The materials used include skins of rattlesnakes, a wild Amazonian fish, alligator and ostrich, among others.
The Chaparral Boots team in El Paso has been working together since the beginning, so it functions like a well-oiled machine. The staff there is made up of individuals who all have a background in boot production, and the art of bootmaking runs deep in each of their family histories.
“Every person that works with us cares about what we do. We have that passion in each of us. We have a great team,” Alfredo said.
Each boot is made primarily by hand, but machines are used to do the sanding and finishing on the soles and heels. “We stretch and pull the hide by hand, then hammer and nail it in place,” he added.
“I want to make sure each customer gets a boot that they won’t just let sit in their closet.”
Longtime customer and owner of Swing City Auction Company Phillip Pierceall swears by Alfredo’s boots. “Alfredo has an eye for the fit, feel and finish of a boot and how it should wear on the foot. His attention to detail, customer service and work ethic are absolutely amazing. Chaparral is the only boot I wear.”
Business has been booming for Chaparral Boots since the 2000s, and Alfredo credits some of that to the power of social media. “It gives us little guys the opportunity to show the product we’re making,” he said. Alfredo’s two sons helped him create an account on Instagram. Shortly after, his barber gave him the nickname “The Boot Man,” which ended up becoming a hashtag he commonly uses.
Alfredo cares deeply about delivering the perfect boot to each of his customers, and he does so by developing a genuine friendship with each patron.
“I’m actually about to send out boots to a customer who was one of my first customers. Now, I’m building boots for his son who is about 13 years old,” he said. “Hopefully I’ll do this for generations to come.”Chaparral Boots >