Beginnings... an apprenticeship in Excellence
Price wears out. Quality wears on… and on.
In this ‘fast’, ‘instant’, mass-produced in China age, how does a man wind up becoming such a sought-after creator of world-class, hand-crafted leather goods?
Where, in this ‘self-serve’, ‘cheaper is better for business’ crazy world does someone rise above the noise of current day ‘business sense’?
Where can he become a man whose skills, quality and relentless determination to treat other hard-working people the way he wants to be treated?
How does he create life-long customers… all over the nation?
Well, it’s a “simple” story, one that’s still being lived and repeated throughout this great nation. For master saddler, Bryan Wildt, it starts like this -
In the early 60s, when Jack Wildt took a job at the local J.C. Penny’s store to feed his young family, he could have never imagined that his own honest, determined hard work in that shoe department would serve as the genesis for his own transformation into a business owner. And with his quiet, retiring manner, he would have chuckled at the very notion that his simple and deep commitment to unfailing honesty, integrity, and a relentless determination to put quality into every cut, every stitch of every shoe and boot entrusted to him by the hard-working folks he called neighbors and friends would so deeply impact his young son, Bryan.
As mentioned earlier, Jack Wildt went from salesman to shop owner in just a few hard years. The shoe/boot repair shop was taken on with a lot of faith, and a tiny budget in ’72. By the time Bryan reached his early teens, business was good, and Bryan went to work on weekends and evenings to help make it even better. In the interview for this piece, he never mentioned liking having to sweep or take out the trash (the things that most youngsters are ‘entrusted’ with when they start work with their dads)… but his eyes still light up as he discusses the feel and smell and texture of good leather. He even grins a bit as he describes the never-ending satisfaction when all the pattern work, cutting, shaping, stitching, edging and staining comes together in a perfect fit item that the customer nods and smiles at, every time they lay hands on it.
It was while working in his father’s shop that Bryan began his trek to becoming a master saddler. Southern Illinois may not conjure up the same imagery of cowboy life as someplace like Wyoming, but the men who worked cattle and rodeo’d from that area worked just as hard at it. And when their saddles needed attention, they trusted young Bryan WIldt with the work. He was good at it, but wanted more out of himself and his skills.
So, he went to saddle-making school, and worked his way through the apprenticeship. By this time, he had his own young family to take care of, and worked double-hard to do just that while pursuing his goal of being a master saddler.
When he had learned all he could from the first school, he went to a second, to pick up some advanced skill training. And by 2000, Bryan Wildt could hold his head up and eyes level with most anyone in the business. His work wasn’t always the fanciest, but the fit and quality of every component and piece, made for a rapidly growing family of very satisfied customers.
In the mid-90s Bryan helped his father open a retail leather shop in the beautiful “Country Village”, just outside of Star City, Arkansas. The gorgeous country surroundings and the special appeal of The Village were a perfect fit for the WILDT Leather way of business. And while the market for custom saddles was getting smaller and smaller, the demand for WILDT Leather quality and service was, thankfully, growing. Bryan, like his father, put the same attention to detail and quality into every single custom piece, from belts to knife sheaths, and from holsters to scabbards. And his growing customer base LOVED IT!
You will too.
Order your very own WILDT Leather custom leather belt, sheath, holster, etc., etc. TODAY! Years from now, when those items are put on for yet another day’s service, you’ll nod and smile as one of Bryan’s favorite quotes comes to mind… “Price wears out. Quality, wears on… and on.”