EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — An old brick fur-trappers warehouse nestled in downtown El Paso radiates unique southwest charm, rock and roll — and even a little bit of romance.
Rocketbuster Boot Company creates hand-made custom boots that are definitely made for walking, and are also livable works of art that have been featured in the glossy pages of Vogue. Clientele includes Willie Nelson, Taylor Swift, Julia Roberts, and more.
“El Paso is the boot-making capital of the world,” Nevena Christi, owner and “Boss Lady” of Rocketbuster Boots.
“Everything we do in this building is done the way it was done back in the day.”
Each pair of bespoke boots is designed, stitched, and assembled by a rough-and-tumble crew that includes Christi — a former Manhattan fashionista — leather workers, and artists who tell stories one “sole” at a time.
Christi first came to El Paso in 1994 in search of the perfect pair of Chinese-inspired,18-inch cowboy boots for Nicole Miller’s Fall collection. From there, it didn’t take long for Chrisi to fall for the bespoke leather footwear — and the company’s adventurous owner, Marty Snortum.
One night at a bar in Louisiana, loquacious Snortum got into a conversation with an Italian-born German entrepreneur who had just begun a small boot business. The two kept talking, and faster than the quickest gun in the West, Snortum had traded his 1953 Cadillac for the boot company.
“He wanted to make boots like the one Roy Rogers wore in the movies!” laughs Christi.
After their initial meeting in early 1994, the pair worked tirelessly to oversee the construction of the boots to be featured in Nicole Miller’s fashion show, and tend to their blossoming affections for each other.
It wasn’t long until the duo found any excuse to see each other. Snortum couldn’t resist traveling to New York to photograph the boots at the show, and thus began a series of cross-country trysts. He was a runner of marathons, and she was in it – whatever it was – for the long haul.
Rocketbuster Boot Company has thrived since Christi took the reins. Each pair ranges from $850 to $5000 dollars and the price tag includes customized designs on some of the world’s finest leather.
Christi says the company uses calf leather that starts off from American cattle that is then sent to be tanned in places like Italy and France in order to ensure the softest leather.
“We’re a custom boot shop and we concentrate on giving the customer exactly what they want,” she tells KTSM 9 News.
“We use only the best stuff and we really want them to last.”
The interior of the Rocketbuster Boots warehouse, decorated by Christi, is more carnivalesque than conventional. Glistening original hardwood floors are a stark contrast to the exposed brick of the warehouse as the buttery scent of popcorn mixes with the pungent scent of the animal hide while a dedicated crew wearing face masks delicately stretch, paint, and stitch.
Christi says the team welcomes challenges and their wild-child appeal has drawn the interest of some big names.
“We had Arnold Schwarzeneggar out here, Ethan Hake came out and we made him a few pair of boots, Yo-Yo Ma, Sharon Stone and Julia Roberts,” says Christi pointing to the company’s wall of fame celebrating their “Rocketbustars.”
While visits to the warehouse are an incentive, Christi says the company is able to work with clients virtually and practices social distancing.
In an age where we’re limited to sensory experiences due to the pandemic, the feel of supple leather as it glides between the fingers, the clink of the hammer as it collides with what will soon be a boot, and the scent of the grainy scent of sawdust are intoxicating.
Whatever your experience, Christi and her crew invite people to explore their footwear that serves both function and fashion.