December 10, 2016


Madi manages the mercantile leather shop.

Leather shop manager, Madi Hester, writes about the vision and development of the Chico Basin Leather Shop.

On this sunny December day, three women are bustling about the Chico Basin Leather Shop feeding a fire, developing skills, and making unique and important leather goods.

Why is this notable? So many shops are employing loads of people, using advanced machines, and cranking out hundreds of products a week (rather than a year). Our little shop in the heart of headquarters, heated with a potbelly wood fired stove, adorned with photos of past interns and a collection of found pasture treasures, home to sweaty saddle pads and the occasional barn swallow is special- it stands for something bigger than a bag.

Four years ago Duke invited me to be part of his vision. He wanted a leather shop that did more than produce bags and fix tack. He envisioned a place where the ranch crew could learn the craft of leather, laugh, develop skills to improve self reliance and efficiency, produce things that show the outside world a piece of history- one which started out of necessity but also nurtures creativity and art. He came to the Chico with only a small bag of tools.

Through passion and patience, what he imagined is now reality. Perhaps not in every respect, but growth takes time and is continuous. Duke has had to remind me that things with Ranchlands grow organically, slowly. With the shop, it has been especially true. Being at a point of expansion, finally, has been wonderful. I take great pride in growing the business and empowering two other young women by teaching the art of leather. Teaching expands the impact of our shop and my personal purpose.  The people is what makes our shop special.

Between meetings yesterday, Duke came into the shop. Seeing Duke’s smile as he had to weave through three busy bees hammering, cutting, and burnishing, filled me to the brim with joy. Among the diverse branches of Ranchlands is the leather shop, brought to life by the community that has now grown beyond the little bag of tools.

1 reply to “Busy Bees

  1. Tony Dowling

    You make some beautiful leather pieces in the little shop. My family and i are enjoying four of them everyday. Beautiful and useful. I remember Duke sitting there repairing saddle parts a few years back. He must be very gratified at the work you are doing. Stay warm with that stove cranking out the heat. Happy Holidays

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