I have something to confess. Last June in 2012, Don was nice enough to take time out of his busy schedule to answer my ten questions for Custom Boot Makers. For some odd reason, the email he sent back to me with his responses, slipped through the cracks and were never published. I’m totally embarrassed. No hard feelings Don…8-) Anyhow, without further ado, I present to all you boot maker fans out there, Don Roundy.
When did you start making boots and how did you get into the craft?
Long answer. (I’m cutting and pasting here. Everyone asks me this question so I have it on my computer.) For the last nearly forty years I have been practicing excellence in leather work. I do not advertise. I am a one man shop and the money I save on advertising and rent, I pass on to you. I kind of stay under the radar, so to speak, because I don’t go to shows and rely totally on word of mouth advertising.
Everyday someone asks me where I learned my trade? The quick answer is; “My grandfather was a harness maker.” This is both true and misleading. I never met my grandfather. He died before I was born. Here is a little history to more accurately answer the question. I started as a young man in 1974 working and learning from a shoe repairman by the name of Joseph Milton Smith. After a couple of years with him, I opened my own shop. I loved working with my hands but wanted to do more with my life than be a shoe repairman. I had the opportunity to learn saddle making from Brad McClellan in Vernal Utah. Perhaps I had a little head start having grown up in a ranching community and already doing leather work. I don’t know if it made a difference but I have saddle and harness makers on both sides of my family back from when horses and buggies were the means of transportation. However, they also died before I was born.
After Brad gave me instructions for several weekends, my first dozen customers got a good price if not a good deal. Somehow, however, there were no complaints and no returns. Still being young and more driven with ambition than business sense I went to a Dennis Rowley to get help learning boot making. At the time he was in Orem Utah. He was most kind and helpful. Years of practice on hundreds of pairs, all the while learning lessons from my mistakes, along with reading every book I could find on the subject, this in addition to being blessed with good hired help, I honed my craft. On the subject of having good help, I am indebted, to Vicente Caranza and George Ofano. Vincente was a master boot maker and George helped me learn the geometric techniques of pattern making and shoemaking design.
I had close association for a few months with Gary Mekan who introduced me into hiking boot making, sandal making, and the repairing and manufacturing of climbing shoes. I now possess the patterns, dies and equipment that he used.
I learned about making custom corrective footwear and general orthopedic shoe technology from working as a technician with Ed Marcroft, orthotist at Jenco Medical. There I studied intently for the National Pedorthic examination. The books I read and re-read during that time, as well as the direct practice with patients, helped me to understand about foot anomalies and techniques on how to correct them bio-mechanically. Each day I learn more by practicing excellence with every repair and every custom order I am blessed with.
I am ‘hidden’ out behind my house in my own little shop but I do my best in serving anyone who can find me. Feel free to visit my website at Roundyboots.com. Come by the shop at 4826 S 2200 W. in Taylorsville Utah. Find me just one light east and 200 yards south of exit 15 off of I 215 in the Salt Lake valley. Buy my book Horse Sense $10.00 Now available in paperback.
What do you enjoy best about boot making?
Sometimes I am surprised how good they look after I am done in spite of myself. I like it most when customers notice this too. I currently teach a class on shoe and boot making at Salt Lake Community College. I enjoy most seeing the interest and progress of the students as they learn. I feel good about seeing that the trade skills are preserved.
How would you describe your boots in three words?
Preserving traditional quality.
Who has been the biggest influence on your boot making?
What lessons did that person teach you?
Dennis was kind and patient, in spite of the fact that I was a neighbor and potential competition. He helped me make several pair and answered questions on the phone up until the day of his tragic death. In fact, I believe he spoke to me lasts on the phone right before his accident.
Do you consider boot making an art form?
The problem with the art of boot making is that it’s a business. The problem with the business of boot making is that it’s an art.
What lessons of life has boot making taught you?
You know, if you get the pattern right everything else falls into place. Life lesson I think.
Have you made boots for any celebrities?
Do you have any favorite stories about making boots or a particular client?
I made a pair of boots for Merrill Osmond about 20 years ago. When I approached him about writing the forward to my book he included in it that those boots were the best pair he had ever owned. When he is in town he is coming in for another pair. Okay, I can cut and paste again. Here is Merrill Osmonds exact words.
“I met Don Roundy several years ago when he made me the best pair of custom boots that I had ever owned. When he contacted me to read his Book “Horse Sense” I was very intrigued to see what he had to say. First I must say that I am a firm believer that you get back in life what you give out to the world. This book was the perfect tale of “What goes around comes around”.I enjoyed the story so much for the ability to connect to the characters as an adult who has had life experiences. It was also relative to young people in understanding ones role in life in being responsible to oneself, family and other people that God puts in our path. Horse Sense is a tale of an adventure with a lot of “Horse Sense” to tell a story of true loyalty and believing in what is just and staying true to who you are.“Horse Sense” relates to all emotions of laughter, love, sadness, anger of injustice and finally the triumph of a sensational ending which I must say was unexpected. It was fun, suspenseful and pulled at your very heart strings. You cannot read this book without having every emotion imaginable. I would highly recommend this as a great read for adults as well as young people.”
Do you have any words of wisdom for the next generation of boot makers?
Stick to the traditional quality. Dennis used to say that boot making is brinkmanship laden with heartache.’ Learning it is a challenge but victory is it’s own sweet reward.
Visit Don at his website: http://www.RoundyBoots.com