BOOTS FOR THE WELL-HEELED

Despite the decline of Texas chic, orders for handmade boots from the Ponder Boot Co., owned by Paul McCoy in Ponder, Texas, are on the increase. McCoy credits his increased business to the fact that true Western boot lovers know that boots should be made to last 15 years or more and that longevity doesn’t come from synthetic linings, glued seams or inferior-quality leathers. That’s why McCoy’s customers are willing to pay $800 on the average and up to $3,500 for boots made especially for their temperamental feet.

For that princely sum, most customers get a fine leather (such as French calf, alligator, anteater or ostrich), their initials single-needle-stitched into the top half of the boot, a kangaroo leather lining, a custom fit and design, and years of wear.

Although the company has been in business for only five years, the reputation of Ponder boots has grown quickly. McCoy says it’s not uncommon for him to take boot orders from Texas politicians, local millionaires and celebrities. (A pair of custom boots for Gov. Mark White was on display at the store in April.) At least once a month, McCoy gets a call from someone who has landed in a Lear jet at the nearby Denton airstrip. McCoy picks them up and takes them to the shop for a fitting.

McCoy also helps customers design belts and vests. He shows a leather vest a lawyer special-ordered. It sports two rattlesnake heads dangling from the shoulders. “He said he wanted it for shock value.”

McCoy says he’s sure that if he moved to Dallas, he could quadruple the amount of business he does, but, for now, he’s content to spend most of his time in Ponder, working with customers and watching his seven bootmakers turn out eight to 12 pairs of boots a week. (It takes about 12 weeks to complete one pair, but much of that time depends on the intricacy of the stitching.) McCoy says that without his bootmakers’ 78 years of combined experience, he wouldn’t have a business worth mentioning.

Even if you don’t want to buy, it’s an experience just to drive to Ponder and visit the boot company, which is about six miles west on FM Road 2449, just off Interstate 35W. The boot company is in an old, red brick bank building that’s believed to be the first bank robbed by gangsters Bonnie and Clyde. A movie of their lives was filmed in Ponder, and McCoy likes to retain the historic lore of the place.

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