Chris Apedaile, owner of Boots and Things Saddlery and Boot Repair located at 775 S. 100 E. in Richmond, has been in business for 15 years. If it’s made of leather, there isn’t much she can’t fix, remake or repair.
When talking to Apedaile, you may learn a few new terms. For instance, cordwainer is a person that makes new shoes from new leather. Bespoke refers to being ordered before it is made, and custom made means made to the specifications of a particular person.
“Years ago, I became interested in braiding leather reins,” Apedaile said. “Not long after I learned that craft, my husband’s 31-year-old horse died. I gathered the tail hair and learned to braid horsehair so we could have a keepsake of our old friend.”
The horse hair experience sparked a 15 year career of all things leather.
Her most common projects include belts, chinks, chaps, spur straps, dog collars, knife sheaths, and western holsters. She is also skilled at making horse tack, including breast collars, headstalls and bridles, billets, and rear cinches or flank straps.
Apedaile recently worked on some custom saddlebags for a disabled veteran from out of state who helps fellow impaired soldiers learn to ride horses. The design had special meaning to the soldier. Her neighbor, Joshua Lind, made the artwork and she carved the design with care.
Her custom boots get the same careful attention. She has different sizes of shoe molds for stretching the leather over for the correct fit.
“When you buy a pair of custom made boots, they cost more up front, but they should last 20 to 30 years,” she said. “They will last a lot longer than store bought boots. You save money in the long run because you won’t have to replace them as often.”
She built her shop, located in Richmond, 10 years ago, incorporating large windows to take advantage of the natural light. Her husband, John, works in maintenance, but still partners with her in the shop. Chris said she’s quite handy, and can generally fix all of the aging equipment so it will last.
“I take pride in my work and love providing customers with exactly what they want,” she said. “It is my customers who keep me challenged and fascinated with this work.”
Every day brings a new challenge; she never knows what comes through the door on any given day. Sometimes a customer brings in an unusual project. Her response is, “I wonder if I can do that?”
“It was that self-challenge that finally led me to venture into saddle-making,” Apedaile said. “I made a couple of saddles and found that I really enjoyed it.”
She took a saddle-making class to hone her skills. Apedaile studied with some of the best local artists she could find to learn the trade and nail down her skills.
“I love what I do, the work is fun,” she said. “When I have to turn on the computer and do my books, now that’s work.”