Let's Go Rodeo 2012
Preserving the Past

King Ranch makes a royal Texas entrance at the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo

King Ranch makes a royal Texas entrance at the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo

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King Ranch recreated a saddle shop in the middle of Reliant Center to show off its line of leather goods and Western wear. Photo by Heather Staible
News_Heather_RodeoHouston_King Ranch shop_March 2012
King Ranch introduced three new colors-marroon, orange and red, just in honor of the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo. Photo by Heather Staible
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King Rance saddles are still handmade by leather artisans. Photo by Heather Staible
News_Heather_RodeoHouston_King Ranch shop_March 2012
News_Heather_RodeoHouston_King Ranch shop_March 2012
News_Heather_RodeoHouston_King Ranch shop_March 2012

It’s not particularly easy to pick up an iconic building, transport it hundreds of miles and deposit it in the middle of the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo, so King Ranch did the next best thing. The legendary leather crafts company recreated the saddle shop that sits on their South Texas property, paying attention to the smallest detail. The result is an expansive store that carries the rich scent of leather and a history spanning two centuries.

Surprisingly, 2012 marks King Ranch’s first time at the HLS&R and the two are a perfect fit. In addition to the exquisite leather work, King Ranch is an active farm and ranch, harvesting cotton, milo and sod in Texas and sod, citrus and sugar cane in Florida. Add Young Pecans, one of the largest pecan shellers in the world and King Ranch is an active agricultural company.

 “We wanted to do something as different and unique as the ranch is,” Rosa Morales says. “This is exactly what I wanted-for people to walk in and smell the leather and feel like they were on the ranch.”

 Under the roof of the 2,100-square-foot space, King Ranch puts the past and present in place, telling the company’s story while showcasing the leather artistry it’s known for. Luggage, cowboy boot and hat cases, handbags, iPad cases, travel kits and purses are among the luxurious leather goods King Ranch brought to Houston.

To celebrate its inaugural appearance at the rodeo, King Ranch released items in new colors of red, maroon and orange. Rose Morales, general manager of the King Ranch Saddle Shop, says the new hues have been a big hit, especially with Texas A&M fans and the company is always looking for new ways to connect with customers. That’s one reason why building a replica saddle shop was the ideal way to introduce King Ranch to those who may not know about the company.

“We wanted to do something as different and unique as the ranch is,” Morales says. “This is exactly what I wanted-for people to walk in and smell the leather and feel like they were on the ranch.”

Two days to build

It took the King Ranch staff two days to construct the building and two days to stock it. The store layout mimics the Spanish and Meditteranean-influenced building in Kingsville, right down to the outdoor living space in the back of the store. The handmade saddles are a delight and a rare treat for city slickers who otherwise wouldn’t see on close-up.

Although heavy, the leather saddles are made with creature comforts in mind, like padding in the seat and branding hidden in specific places in the saddle. These are serious works of art that can run as much as $7,000 for a custom creation.

 Even if you aren’t into ranching and farming, King Ranch in Kingsville is a bird watchers paradise. 

 “It’s a dying art. It’s so hard to find people who will still make leather goods like this,” Morales says. King Ranch spreads its message of preserving the past through an annual Leather Fiesta in Kingsville, holding community events and hands-on classes about the leather craft industry.

Even if you aren’t into ranching and farming, King Ranch in Kingsville is a bird watchers paradise. Named as a site on the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail and as a Globally Important Bird Area by the American Bird Conservancy, the ranch boasts a bird list of 356 species. The 825,000 acres of land draws birdwatchers as far Sweden and Australia for a chance to see the rare and wonderful.

“We have people who fly in, see the bird they came to see and then they leave,” Morales says. “Others will stay because we have so many species.”

Those who appreciate species of a fashionable kind will appreciate the universally popular leather Going Out bag, $94 and the Henrietta bag $298, a roomy and functional bag named for Mrs. King. Anyone who invested in boots will appreciate the leather boot bags, $356, with space for both kickers. King Ranch is also selling cute inexpensive canvas bags with the King Ranch logo throughout the rodeo.

The King Ranch store is in Reliant Center through Sunday