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Gator Dynasty

Born on the Bayou


It’s before dawn, somewhere along the Texas/Louisiana border, deep in bayou country, during the month of September.

 

As dawn breaks, Mike Kuykendahl sets his baited hooks on line in the murky bayou water and waits.

 

Waits for a nice seven- to eight-foot alligator to shoot up out of the water and grab the bait.

 

“I grew up here,” says the native Texan, “I started hunting alligators as a teenager and I know where to find them.”

 

What started as a young boy’s sport is now a dynasty. Kuykendahl, whose Tejas Custom Boots has been a feature along Westheimer Road since 1984, is an alligator hunter who fills his quota every fall and uses the skins to make exquisite custom cowboy boots.

 

The American alligator was, for a time, a protected species, but was taken off the list in 1978. Today hunters can harvest them during the state’s season, usually 30 days in September, according to limits and restricted areas that are set by Texas and Louisiana. Kuykendahl hunts alligators every year for his custom boot business, trying to get enough skins for his business.

 

“With the right size alligator I can get two pair of custom boots,” says Kuykendahl. “You can use remainder of the skin for belts and accessories.”

 

After the kill, Kuykendahl brings the alligator back to the dock, skins them and prepares to send the skins off to a tannery where they will be tanned and dyed, ready to be made into handmade boots. Kuykendahl donates the meat to orphanages and charities.

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The hunting is a labor of love, one that is fast disappearing in this age of factory made boots from skins bought from around the world. Kuykendahl says young people today just aren’t interested in going into the custom boot business. “It’s hard work,” he admits. And few of the custom boot makers in Texas actually hunt their own animals for the exotic skins used in the boots. Kuykendahl is one of a dying breed.

 

Tejas Custom Boots began in a small store on Westheimer, but last April moved into a larger store at 415 Westheimer Road, where he still offers handcrafted boots for cowboys and cowgirls, as well as wallets, belts, shoes and purses. He does use other exotic skins, such as ostrich, shark, lizard as well as cowhide, that he buys, to make his one-of-a-kind creations, but his real love is the alligator skins he hunts himself.

 

His shop turns out everything from the Houston Police Department motorcycle boots to stingray humidors for Snoop Dog.

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Why a Custom Boot?


Proper Fit - Most people have a difficult time finding ready-made boots that fit well. To accommodate a high arch, flat feet, very wide or narrow feet or slender heels, custom boots offer a solution.

Quality of Materials and Construction - Tejas uses only prime leather, metal shanks and wooden pegs and takes time to hand produce the highest quality. There is care and attention to detail such as the individual patterning and skiving (feathering the layers at the edges of the hides), manually.

Individualized Appeal - Custom boots are created with years of experience in creating individualized footwear not only for size, but also color, style, height, toe and heel design, including patterns of stitching or inlays of personal initials, brands or logos.

Customer satisfaction - After wearing a custom boot, most customers agree that no shelf boot fits them as well as a custom made boot. Tejas offers customers excellent service for repairs, resole and reheel all with the same quality as the original boot.

 

 

Tejas Custom Boots, born on the bayou

415 Westheimer Rd.

713-524-9860

www.tejascustomboots.com