Spotlight: Chacon Belts and Buckles - The Product Is the Inspiration

Spotlight: Chacon Belts and Buckles - The Product Is the Inspiration

Bruce Erickson is the visionary behind the creation of Chacon Belts and Buckles, a brand of handcrafted leather and silver work that began more than half a century ago. Together with his wife Mae Erickson, Bruce laid the foundation for the company's achievements, which today are a family legacy. His trademark embraces traditional values and practices, unique designs, and top-notch leather products.

It was the early seventies when Bruce moved from Michigan to settle in Chacon, New Mexico. Captivated by the rural lifestyle and passionate about leatherwork, he decided to start his business, Dynamite Leather. The appeal of owning and riding horses, as well as relying on firewood for warmth, provided him with a refreshing change of pace and inspiration for his new endeavor.

Initially, in 1972, the company focused on making wide belts, an inch and ¾ in width, reflecting the popular style of that time. These belts were meticulously crafted using hand stamping, tooling, and dyeing techniques. Bruce was determined to sell his high-quality products with a straightforward strategy: seeking out leather stores and western boutiques listed in the phonebook and making cold calls. Sometimes, they even walked into the stores asking to speak to the buyers, securing opportunities to showcase their belts. Working that way into the 1980s, Bruce remembers it was challenging to establish a business. The inaugural sale was made in Santa Fe, and the second one was in Taos. Erickson began traveling to Colorado and Texas, where he opened new accounts, solidifying the label's presence in the region.

Adapting to the shifting preferences of the fashion landscape, in the early 80s, they added narrow belts to their collections. The label also introduced two-piece belts incorporating a lining and a top layer crafted from premium leathers like calf skin or American bison, which evolved from the simplicity of single-piece cowhide belts. In the mid-80s, Bruce Erickson decided to expand and add a new dimension to their product line by designing sterling silver buckles. This move marked a significant milestone for the business. Alongside these innovations, in 1986, Dynamite Leather became Chacon Belts and Buckles; this rebranding aligned with its roots and signaled a new chapter of growth and accomplishments.

Chacon's big break took place that same year at the Denver Merchandise Mart, Colorado's prestigious wholesale event for western wear, outdoor apparel, and gift souvenirs. Participating in the trade show provided invaluable exposure that enhanced the brand's credibility and served as a catalyst for sale opportunities among retail partners.

One of those successful partnerships was twenty years ago with Pinto Ranch. After a meeting in Denver, the luxury western retail store ordered Chacon products for the Pinto Ranch store in Houston. This collaboration set the stage for a long-lasting business relationship. With the increased visibility and growth in the market, Chacon developed a product line with every kind of exotic skin, like alligator, lizard, and ostrich, that rapidly gained traction. The label’s commitment to excellence and Pinto Ranch's strategic community engagement have contributed to their enduring connection. Since then, Pinto Ranch has carried a wide variety of Chacon's exotic leathers, establishing its presence and reputation in the industry.

Erickson's creative process philosophy is simple yet profound: the product itself is the inspiration. From visualizing the design himself to sourcing the materials, each step is deeply personal for him; he mentions his artistic flow starts with ideas and shapes forming in his mind, ingrained in the inspiration that comes from a divine source. For him, the finished product is not just about creating something visually appealing, but when it comes to crafting belts and buckles, he will deliver a piece that shows distinctiveness and durability.

Today Bruce's children are an integral part of the business. Their involvement from an early age ensured the continuity to the company’s values. His promise of excellence has been passed down to his daughter Lucia and his son, Mark, who has become the driving force behind the business. Mark shares his father's dedication and attention to detail, making sure that every product meets the highest standard.

"I think one of the most rewarding things is the people," said Erickson when asked about the most satisfying part of creating his business. "What could be better than being in business and your customers are your friends, and your vendors are your friends, and your employees are your friends?" he added. For him, the joy lies not only in working with family but in cultivating a sense of camaraderie and pride among the entire team. He prioritizes a harmonious, healthy work environment and recognizes that it starts with the immediate family setting the tone. Embracing laughter and acknowledging mistakes with a sense of humor creates an atmosphere where everyone feels respected and motivated to do their best. In his view, if you're not having fun, then what's the point?

Back to Pinto Post