On the far left is my father, Charles Hardtke, 1935-2014. The picture is from a leather fair in the early ‘60s. He started work in the leather industry as a commission salesman in Milwaukee for various side leather and sole leather tanners working with customers such as Red Wing, Weinbrenner, Florsheim, etc. He flourished and prospered through hard work, there was business but you had to earn it and he was on the road constantly. The family moved south in 1976 when the tannery that was his main source of income closed, and he reinvented his business catering to the needs of the western boot makers. Opening a warehouse in El Paso Texas in 1982 (?). He was importing and distributing leather from all over the world as cowboy boot production was huge right up until NAFTA. He had a 10,000 sq ft warehouse filled with almost every leather any one would need to make boots or shoes, there was a demand and business was good. As factories packed up for the wholesale exodus in search of bigger margins and cheaper labor, we looked to Mexico and had 3 offices there for 10 years. It was a long and successful career. I used to kid him that he never needed business cards as everyone in the industry knew him, or knew of him.
Manuel Mas, Charles Hardtke & Aram Sarkissian sometime in the late 70s, I believe for the Paris leather fair. We have the pleasure to have worked with the same suppliers for generations. We worked many years and enjoyed very good business with Mr Mas who was always a gentleman and retired around 2000. His tannery in Valencia Spain made top quality lizard, python and cowhide, shrunken leather in particular. Aram Sarkissian was a leather trader and buying agent who had a warehouse and distribution in Paris. Aram introduced my father to many European suppliers including Mr. Mas, who we always referred to as Manolo.
Summer of 1986 I worked in a cowhide & reptile tannery, Manuel Mas SA / Tenería Industrial Valenciana SA. Fun filled summer of measuring cowhide & sorting tejus lizards. A few summers later I worked in tanneries in Upstate New York in the Johnstown Gloversville area.
For over 30 years, I have had the pleasure to call on and visit customers all across the USA and Mexico, from saddle shops in Yoakum Texas, to fashion houses in New York City and boot factories in Leon, Mexico. I have visited tanneries on five continents from the most modern state of the art to the most rustic, bare boned operations there are. I am not a tanner, a chemist or a maker or a manufacturer, but I will be glad to help you find the very best leather for your requirements. Leather has been an adventure, and I am here to help and assist as best I can.