Made in the Northwest: Nick’s Handmade Boots

Nicks Handmade Boots
Nick's Handmade Boots was founded in Spokane in 1964.

SPOKANE VALLEY, Wash. – Nick’s Handmade Boots moved into its new building on E. Sprague Ave., just off of I-90, a few years ago. But the company still hand makes its boots the same way it has since it was founded in 1964.

“The boots we make are great not because we have some incredible secret process. It’s because it’s really hard work and the materials are top notch,” explained CEO Shuyler Mowe. “(We) really pride ourselves on the quality of our workmanship.”

Nick’s makes three main lines of boots: Works boots for almost any profession, fire boots for wildland firefighters and, more recently, heritage boots for casual wear.

“It’s almost like a fashion business in some ways, right? We’ve got our stuff we’ve been doing for 60 years, but also there are new trends that happen that we’ve got to stay on top of,” said Mowe.

But there’s nothing fashionable about the way the boots are made. Each pair starts with thick pieces of leather that are cut into smaller pieces with a hydraulic press.

Those smaller pieces are then sewed together. And because modern sewing machines aren’t designed to go through layers of leather, Mowe says Nick’s relies on some classics.

“We have boneyards of 40 year old sewing machines to make that possible.”

In the lasting process, the leather is molded to the shape of the foot and nails are hammered in one at a time, all by hand, with no machines.

“The thickness of the leather that we use makes it really difficult to impossible to work with those machines,” said Mowe. “And so, that’s why you need that handmade approach.”

Then after several more steps, you end up with a sturdy, handmade product.

These days, Mowe says Nick’s is selling a lot of vegetable tanned leather boots.

“It ages a little differently. It ages a little more interestingly. It gets kind of scuffed up in kind of a cool way.”

It also recently started making belts, using leather that’s even thicker than what it uses for its boots.

“That lets us make a belt that I think is really going to surprise people when they get it, just with how hefty it is. But it’s a great work belt,” said Mowe.

Nick’s is now taking its marketing online, finding a niche on YouTube, where it has over 60,000 subscribers with millions of views.

“We’ve gotten a really great response,” declared Mowe. “So I’m really excited to see that continue to grow.”

Nick’s would also like to continue growing the business, while using the same handmade boot making processes it’s been using for the last 60 years.

“No plans to make things differently, you know, just to make more of them.”

And you can bet your boots they will.