Made in the Highland Lakes: Adam Garcia of AG Leather works from the feet up

Adam Garcia of AG Leather in Kingsland

Adam Garcia’s business has moved a handful of times but always kept the same name, AG Leather, since he started working in leather 30 years ago. Staff photo by David Bean

Adam Garcia is a big, mustachioed man with large hands. He’s a warm, friendly fellow who smiles a lot. It’s hard for him to sit still, especially in his crowded workshop where he has a lot to show off: a pair of shoes he’s custom fitting for a diabetic woman whose feet swell, a 100-year-old saddle he’s restoring, a tooled leather portrait of his father.

The Kingsland craftsman thumbs through a bulging photo album filled with pictures of every leather item he’s ever made: billfolds, belts, saddles, boots, boots with round toes, boots with square toes, cadet boots, senior boots, boots with the Virgin Mary emblazoned on them complete with yellow halo and blue garment. Custom, unique, amazing boots.

All told, Garcia has been working leather for more than 30 years, beginning when his stepfather was the foreman at a cattle ranch and he was just 13 years old.

“There, we started to do saddle repairs,” he said. “We had a lot of old-fashioned cowboys. They showed me how to do a lot of braiding, hitching, cords, and stuff.”

At the age of 16, he had a tax number for his first saddle shop in South Texas, AG Leather. When he went to college, he relocated and kept the name, still creating leather goods but also working with a chiropractor to make orthopedic braces. All of this added to his specialization in shoe making, although he never stopped working on other types of leather goods.

“Throughout the years, people ask me, ‘What do you do?’ I say, ‘What don’t I do?'” he said. “If it’s leather, I make it. If you want it out of leather, we do it. From luggage, briefcases, saddles, custom tack — everything and anything you can imagine — we can make it.”

AG Leather in Kingsland
Boots, shoes, billfolds and more — Garcia’s shop is crowded with examples of his skilled craftsmanship. Staff photo by David Bean

The apprentice tradition in leather making continues at Garcia’s shop. Chris Martinez, a tall, young man eager to learn, sat at a bench dissembling boots with large pliers. Martinez first went to work for Garcia in construction, the craftsman’s other business. When that slowed down for the year, Garcia made him another offer.

“I asked him, ‘Do you want to do boots?’” Garcia said with a chuckle. “He was all excited.”

As Garcia and Martinez worked in the shop, a steady flow of customers came through the door, one after the other. One woman was fitted for new shoes, a Christmas gift, with a bright floral pattern. A man wanted minor alterations to a belt, which Garcia said he could knock out by the weekend.

“I was closed for about six months, and I was worried,” he said. “I was telling Chris I don’t know how slow it’s going to be, but as soon as we came in and turned on the open sign, it was like that. Boom, one after the other. Drive by, make a U-turn, drive by, make a U-turn.”

Another man, Russell Haydon, sporting a cowboy hat and large mustache, stopped in to talk. Garcia makes Texas A&M University Corps of Cadets senior boots for Haydon’s sons. Haydon also has custom boots and a billfold by Garcia.

“He does a lot of different things to help with the community, to help with 4-H, and help with the cost of stuff,” Haydon said. “He’s a real asset to the community.”

AG Leather is located at 2705 RR 1431 West in Kingsland. To learn more or view some of his work, visit agleather.com or call 325-248-3955.

alex@thepicayune.com

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