When John DeBord married his sweetheart Nancy Tucker, daughter of Leland Tucker, one of the legendary founders of Circle Y Saddles, he never imagined he would have his own familial empire just a bit down the dusty road.
Before John even graduated college, his father-in-law had begun grooming him for success, schooling him in the tools of the saddle-making trade. With Leland’s unexpected passing two years into the apprenticeship, John’s decision to stay on with Circle Y for the next seventeen years served him well. In that formative time, John was instrumental in growing the company into one that built 500 saddles a week. In 1991, armed with ample expertise and the solid confidence that comes with two decades of experience, DeBord decided to venture out on his own. He and a group of investors took over the Circle Y board, eventually selling the company.
Then DeBord followed his intuition and did what he knew best, and Double J Saddlery in Yoakum, Texas was born. Yoakum just happens to be the “Leather Capital of the Southwest” if not the world, as could be persuasively argued. This remarkable 4.6 square mile town of 5,815 people boasts a dozen leather related companies and ranked just behind Milan and Barcelona in a 2007 issue of Continental Airline’s in-flight magazine as the best place to buy leather. “There’s no better place to score a pelt than these hide hot-spots.” In DeBord’s own words, “We’ve got a really strong commitment to quality products right here in Yoakum. We’re trying to carry on the traditional leather-making talent and history and combine it with our love of the new and innovative.”
I didn’t really have any great plans with starting Double J. After I left Circle Y, a series of things happened, and one day, I’m back in the saddle business again.”
Double J was initially named for DeBord’s two sons Jesse and Joshua, though he had two budding cowgirls as well. The boys, who were seven or eight at the time, had a constant and unrelenting refrain: “Dad, we’re going to help you build saddles one of these days.” “Josh” as he is called, is in sales, and Jesse overseas factory operations. While both sons have stepped up into integral roles; DeBord did not anticipate the pivotal roles his cowgirls would play. Spouse Nancy and two beautiful daughters have become a formidable feminine force and catalyst in Double J’s continuing success. Nancy’s artistic eye and self- taught techie smarts allowed her to design and maintain the Double J website for many years.
Oldest daughter Chaedrea helped launch the accessories division when she wanted a beautifully made, hand-crafted purse, (up until then missing in the Double J line). Need–being the indisputable mother of invention, Chaedra turned her laser focus to the vision, and with some fine tuning and a trip to the wholesale markets, a well-received accessory line was soon launched. Until Chaedrea began to set her attention on creating the fourth generation of family artisans, her primary role was in sales and marketing. (She still helps coordinate advertising; all the DeBord’s have a say in the design and branding of the company). Youngest daughter Kristyn, fresh out of Texas State with degrees in fashion and business contributed a tornado of energy, a mega-watt smile and style and design savvy to spare. The core family team was complete.
“We do not underestimate the value of looking good while we’re competing!”
Today, thanks in large part to the DeBord daughters, quality-crafted leather accessories account for fifty percent of the company’s annual revenue. Among Double J’s impressive diversity of leather goods one finds: a long respected and coveted collection of saddles and tack, handbags and wallets, business and travel accessories, belts, boot bags and organizers. But diversity in products has not compromised quality. Across the board, superb craftsmanship, gorgeous tooling and attention to detail remain the foundation of this true family-run business, whose strength also lies in the fact that they themselves use what they make.
In designing and producing the saddles and tack, the family’s skilled horsemanship comes into play. Daily riders and accomplished competitive team ropers, (rodeo riders are a primary customer for Double J) the family’s expertise comes from personal experience in the saddle and authentic knowledge of what works and what doesn’t. This personal commitment to product research and development–and to using the best raw materials possible–is an integral part of the DeBord work ethic and philosophy. Saddle trees, for example, are custom designed to rigid specifications along with the in-house designed stainless steel hardware. The use of Herman skirting leather, “whose tannage carves and stamps superbly and accepts oils and dyes evenly” allows for deep rich leather colors, as pleasing to the eye as they are functional. “We do not underestimate the value of looking good while we’re competing!”
Today, along with a 25,000 square foot building that encompasses 5,000 square feet of showroom and 20,000 square feet of manufacturing space, Double J Saddlery is in the process of building a new arena behind the facility, with big plans for roping and rodeo events. Customers will also have a place to try out a saddle or have their horse fi tted for a saddle tree. Always on the forefront of style and innovation while staying true to the needs of real cowboys and cowgirls, the DeBord clan is “constantly exploring ways to grow and improve our product!”