Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated in the United States each year from September 15th through October 15th to recognize the culture, history, contributions, and accomplishments of Americans of Hispanic descent.
Leatherworking and the Hispanic culture are indisputably intertwined. In the following stories, you will meet Makers and Tandy Employees of Hispanic descent who make a difference in the world of leathercraft every day. Some grew up in leatherworking families, while others discovered it somewhere else along their life's journey. Many turned their passion for leatherwork into businesses, careers, or outreach missions, while others create simply for the love of leather.
Meet our featured Hispanic Heritage Month Makers and Tandy Employees:
Meet Axel Gaona
Senior Graphic Designer
Meet Axel, who has fond memories of his uncle hand-stitching hundreds of shoes for Texas-based shoe company, SAS, in their living room in Mexico. Two needles, thread, and pre-cut leather pieces were sewn and stuffed inside boxes to send to the factory after finishing. Later, his uncle made customized wallets for family and friends that were so sturdy, lasting through years of wear and tear. Unaware at the time, these events ignited his interest in handcraft and creative design. Axel’s parents emigrated from Mexico to the US in the late 90s in search of opportunities and a better life for Axel, only seven at the time. Today Axel is a loving father, husband, and our Senior Graphic Designer at Tandy Leather. When Axel isn’t contemplating his next creative project, he can be found spending time with his family, learning new skills, mentoring other graphic designers, and practicing one of his new favorite hobbies, leathercrafting.
Meet William Brown
Owner of William James Custom Leather
I'm the owner of William James Custom Leather. We're located in Waelder, Texas, with my shop dogs Flaco and Buddie. I was introduced to leatherworking six years ago at a ranch in Colorado, where evening hangouts in their shop turned into a deep passion that has stayed with me ever since. My mission is to provide first-class products that convey a love for Western Heritage, from my hands to yours.
Being Hispanic in the leather trade is nothing new. The Hispanic culture embodies a strong work ethic, love for vibrant colors, ornate detailing, and passion for success, which has made quite an impact on my work. I'm proud to be from a long line of Hispanic business owners, from an East Austin neighborhood grocery store to a car dealership in South Texas and many other businesses.
Follow William James Custom Leather on social media @williamjamesleather
Entrepreneurship is in my blood and culture and is something that I'm very proud of.
Meet Abby Tamez
Marketing Content Specialist
Meet Tandy marketing team member, Abby Tamez! She is a 2nd generation American, with her grandparents having immigrated to the US from Mexico in the 1950s. Abby was introduced to leatherworking as a child when she would visit Tandy with her dad to get supplies to make tack and knife sheaths, and little did she know she would grow up to make a career there. When Abby isn't creating content for Tandy's social media channels, she can usually be found making unique leather creations (like turning reclaimed designer purses into unique bags), enjoying a great true crime story, or hanging out with her pride and joy, Brighton.
Owner of Teotan Artistry Leatherworks &
Team Member at our Fremont, CA Location
My name is Yvette, but some of you may know me as Vetty. I'm a Bay Area native with roots in Jalisco, Mexico. I love my culture and try to embrace it through what I do. Leatherwork has been in the Mexican culture for centuries. Still, more specifically, it has been a hobby dominated by men, and I love to see that more women are leatherworkers in these modern times. My dream is to keep leatherwork alive and teach it to future generations. Follow Yvette on social media @teotanartistry.
Owner of TJ Leather
Hi, I’m Richard Trujillo! I came to the US from Colombia in the fall of 2000 as a young kid, having left with my parents because of the violence that has plagued the country for decades.
I work full-time as a firefighter in Maryland, which is how I got my start in leatherwork about seven years ago. Other firefighters were making custom helmet shields, so I figured that seemed like a cool little hobby to pass the time on my off days. I bought a kit from Tandy, started making prototypes (and making A LOT of mistakes), and things just snowballed from there. Shields led to radio straps, which led to other fire department items and eventually to everyday items that carry the same ruggedness found in the fire service. There’s a certain level of pride and a sense of humility when I look around a scene and see firefighters rocking my gear. Plus, their stories of how they put my items through some really tough conditions at fires and rescues are amazing.
These days I’m assigned to the busiest station in my department. It’s a great place to run call after call after call, putting our skills to the test while seeing and doing some wild stuff. I’m also part of the Special Operations team, tasked with technical rescues and hazmat incidents within our department and beyond. I’ve had the opportunity to deploy out of state after natural disasters and help mitigate some of the biggest incidents our county has seen.
But not everything is about work. On my time off, I enjoy playing guitar, reading, traveling, and finding the next shiny thing/project/adventure to devote insane amounts of time to. My lovely girlfriend calls them side quests, a painfully accurate description. She and I have eight ducks as pets, and we had a wonderful Indian Ringneck parrot named Tweety, whom we lost a few months back. Oh yeah, I also do CrossFit, and I’m obligated to tell everyone about it because them’s the rules.
My parents have always been extremely supportive of my leatherwork endeavors. It turns out my mom used to make leather goods herself years ago, so she gets the excitement behind the craft.
I’m pumped to share my story with you guys. Hit me up, and I’ll talk your ear off about ducks or leather or firefighting. You might even introduce me to my next side quest.
Follow Richard on social media @tj_leather!
Manger of Tandy Leather Miami
I love what I do! Being able to share my knowledge with the community while helping them discover new skills is extremely rewarding. Being Bilingual in the Miami area has allowed me to make an even greater impact in the Hispanic community by introducing and exposing people to the world of leathercrafting. Many Spanish-speaking customers feel much more welcome and understood with my presence, and I take great pride in representing my community.
Moreso, I love the culture and atmosphere that Tandy provides for its employees and customers. Without a doubt, I can say that working for this company and with my fellow employees is a genuine delight. The moment that I am most proud of during my time at Tandy would be when I helped a customer begin and complete a personal project. This customer was having difficulty starting his project, so I educated him on the steps, materials, and tools he would need before starting. He was a little overwhelmed with all the information, so I sat with him to teach him the proper technique to tool and work his leather. Ultimately, after a few hours, we finished his product, and he left inspired and encouraged to keep learning. It is moments like this that inspire me to keep progressing and moving forward with the company and community.
Meet Denise Leites
Owner of Stitchless Leather Products
In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, meet Denise Leites from Stitchless Leather Products! "I am a first-generation American, and my entire family is from South America (Uruguay). I found my love for leather during the pandemic and haven't stopped buying leather from Tandy! All my products are stitchless/stitch-free, and I am currently working on a stitched product line."
Meet Bill Rayfield
Manager of Tandy Leather Lithia Springs
Hi, I’m Bill Rayfield, Manager of Tandy Leather in Lithia Springs. Something that inspires me is the creativity and passion that goes into each project. To work in a Tandy store is to join a larger community of people who inspire each other to pursue their dreams through the age-old tradition. I began my career at Tand 5 years ago, and I find inspiration from every customer I work with, whether just starting their craft, aspiring to improve their work, or even starting their own business. Anyone who comes to my store looking to learn and get inspired through the art of leathercraft becomes a part of our Tandy family, so let’s #LeatherTogether!
Meet Elia DeLeòn
Owner of Elia Deleòn Vintage & Handmade
I’m Elia DeLeòn, designer and leather smith. I come from generations of dressmakers, which inspired me to pursue a degree in fashion design. After a few years of studying the trade, I debuted my first collection in NYFW. When I realized that accessories were my strong point, I shifted my focus to leather goods.
Nowadays, you can find me in my Dallas studio, which doubles as a storefront. At Elia DeLeòn Vintage & Handmade, you can expect to see all of our leather creations, original designs, repurposed clothing, and cool vintage. Follow Elia on social media @by_eliadeleon.
Nominate yourself or another Maker by tagging @tandyleather and using #leathertogether in your photos on Facebook or Instagram for a chance to be featured.