“Our emphasis is on customer service and quality,” says Hill. “We like to have nice, fresh designs built in the cowboy tradition, and we stand behind the quality of materials and our workmanship.” Indeed, some of the boots making their rounds from craftsman to craftsman in the warehouse are “vintage” J.B. Hills, sent back to be rebuilt, resized, and refurbished — basically they are given a new lease on life.
Because these boots are meant to be worn for years to come, the design process is not taken lightly. The company makes it a point to find out how the boots will be worn and to learn what the customer wants. “We don’t put boots on the shelf, we put boots on the customer’s feet and take care of their footwear needs,” Hill says.
While he may have come into this business as an investor, it’s clear by the way Hill runs the company that he has found a passion. “I guess it’s in my DNA,” he says as he surveys each of the stations in the workroom, giving his thoughts on a design that has been commissioned by an agricultural group. Hill’s clients range from real working cowboys to high-society types, and include a number of celebrities, though the mild-mannered Hill isn’t one to drop names. One name he will drop, though: Seattle Slew, the legendary Triple Crown-winning racehorse from the late 1970s which he co-owned.
J.B. Hill is a long way from the genteel world of horseracing. And while Hill may insist that his interest was purely fiscal, it’s not such a stretch, really, for a horse lover to find his passion in crafting some of the finest footwear ever to grace a stirrup.
Alfredo Ortiz is one of the last craftsmen to work on the boots. He builds the heels, grinds and shapes the soles, then dyes the leather and waxes the bottom of the boots.