By Wrangler Network contributor Chuck Coon
Victor Borg is steward of Stewart Boot Company Incorporated. His previous careers have included managing a radar department while in the service and working as an engineer/inventor in the aerospace industry. At age 30 in 1970 Borg, much to the chagrin of his mother, was so angered by corporate arrogance and incompetence he chucked it all to buy a boot building company in South Tucson, Arizona. Stewart Boots is in a tough neighborhood less than an hour north of the border to Mexico.
I should mention Victor packs a revolver and says he had to resort to its deployment in ridding the company of the foreman on board when Borg took over. “He was a bad man, a criminal, who literally beat employees into submission and woefully underpaid those he didn’t like,” said Borg. The Mexican boss overseeing a Mexican workforce stood his ground and expected to stay on despite Victor insisting the opposite. Strong words to the contrary and a pointed gun finally altered the foreman’s stance.
Victor then went about the business of learning to speak Spanish, the craft of building handmade western boots and assisting in the citizenship naturalization of his workers. He was taught by the master on staff from Leon, Mexico which Borg calls the center of the boot making universe in the Western Hemisphere. Victor already had a knack for spitting tacks learned at the side of his upholstery installer father. That was a plus for boot nailing. But first on the difficulty chart of handmade boot making is the “last” – a foot form upon which a boot is built.
Should Victor match a pair of stocked boots to a customer’s liking the cost runs $350. Custom-made will take several weeks to finish and run $450 as a rule. More than a few customers have continued sliding on the same pair for two or three decades.
At the Stewart shop you learn most of the sales are to customers who have previous problem fits into mass-produced boots or foot problems that make western boots unwearable. That is until Victor Borg directs his engineering savvy toward solving a problem.
Stewart Boots have been fitted for a number of celebrities – Clint Eastwood, Kevin Costner, Robert Wagner and Eric Roberts to name a few. Victor Borg says his family and staff would have starved making custom boots just for the famous. “Most of my customers are infamous. There are a lot more of them,” he laughs.
Victor Borg clearly appreciates quality and durability. He wears Wrangler Jeans. You might expect his building to present in the form of a nearly spotless engineering lab but alas that is not the case. Borg’s time in the military erased all tendencies toward tidiness.