Wednesday, December 6, 2017

PMM Western Wear

 P M M Western Wear and Boots used to be at 7740 East Colfax Avenue. This article is from the New York Times, February 2, 1986, Section 10, Page 6.

Many Denver shops offer the traditional Western items - a silver belt buckle or a string tie or a 10-gallon hat - but for many shoppers the ultimate purchase is a pair of exotic leather cowboy boots. In design, workmanship, durability and price, these are a giant stride away from ordinary hand-tooled cowhide boots.

The boots, made of lizard, snake, alligator or ostrich hide, are so tough, owners say, you can ''go out and kick rocks in 'em'' without marring the luster on the toe.

Prices start at $250 for lizard but go as high as $10,000 for a custom-made pair in an exotic leather with 14-karat gold trim. A one-ounce jar of 14-karat liquid gold polish helps the trim keep its glitter. The price: $800 a jar. Fine boots are popular with oilmen and ranch owners - and working cowboys too.

Styles vary from the traditional narrow toe to a more rounded shape that mimics the look of a man's dress shoe. At first glance, the men in Denver's City Hall and its banks and boardrooms and real estate offices appear to be in dress shoes, but many are wearing exotic leather boots under their well-tailored pants. A man who is proud of his $700 chocolate python or tan buffalo or burgundy goat boots will manage to sit or stand in such a way that the intricate design of the tops will be visible. It's part of his image.

At one of Denver's busiest outlets for exotic boots, P M M Western Wear and Boots, the salesmen say the typical customer owns five or six pairs of boots. Some have 50 or 60 pairs.

''Once they wear exotic leather boots, they like the comfort and the durability and they get hooked on them,'' the store's owner, Lou Bilker, says.

Mr. Bilker, a polio victim who found it difficult to get a comfortable fit in ordinary shoes, started wearing boots, himself, on the advice of a doctor.

The store stocks 6,000 pairs of cowboy boots, about half of them in exotic leathers, in sizes ranging in lengths from 5 to 19 and in widths from AAA to EEE.

Men are the most enthusiastic customers, but P M M also carries a full line of exotic boots for women, offering styles and colors similar to the men's but also lavender lizard and pink ostrich. Women's boots tend to be taller and narrower, designed to go with skirts as well as slacks. Exotic leather boots are also available, by special order, in children's sizes, but they cost the same as those for adults.

About one-third of P M M customers are from out of state and some people order boots by telephone, although the store does not put out a catalogue.

Those who visit the store find a classic Western atmosphere, with racks of plaid shirts and calico skirts and red bandannas, jeans, cowboy hats and hand-tooled leather belts as well as boots. The store's interior looks like Main Street in a Western movie, with sections built to resemble the front of a blacksmith shop, a general store, an apothecary and a livery stable.

Mr. Bilker, now 66 years old, said he started in 1958 with a general family clothing store and discount house, with products as varied as auto supplies and pots and pans. Whitey Hanson, a salesman who joined the staff in 1968, urged him to specialize in Western clothing and boots and eventually got his way.

The store carries the major brands, including Tony Lama, Larry Mahan and Justin (which range in price from $130 to $225 for ordinary cowhide or goatskin boots and which make only a limited selection of boots in unusual leathers), but most of its boots are made by Lucchese of San Antonio. These boots stand out for their finely detailed designs and well-finished interiors and the rich glow of their leather.

A number of years ago, said Mr. Bilker, recounting how P M M came to add Lucchese to its suppliers, a customer wandered into the store wearing a handsome pair of boots that caught the eye of the salesmen. Upon inquiry, the customer said they were made by Lucchese. The store located the company in San Antonio and started placing orders. The company makes the boots to fit the colors, leathers and design combinations that Mr. Hanson chooses.

''People like something different in boots,'' he says. ''If you just paid $300 for a pair of boots, you don't want to see yourself walking down the street.''

Marc Bilker, the store's manager and son of the owner, feels that anyone who spends the money on good boots ought to spend the time to take good care of them. He advises that reptile skins need more moisture than other leathers and recommends the use of a lanolin-base cream polish, applied in many layers with much rubbing. Mud that adheres to the boots should be washed off as soon as possible and the boots allowed to dry naturally, away from any source of heat, then cleaned with a wet washcloth and leather oil soap and dried again before applying the cream polish.

1 comment:

  1. What a great history of this very unique store. I used to work there in my early 20’s and everyone was treated like family. Being from NY, I was always kidded about my accent and there was a bet going for how long it would take me to buy boots. Larry Mahon came to visit the store and he was so damn cute, I just had to have his boots. Many fond memories of PMM. I just remembered I was modelling boots in their Super Bowl TV Ad in the early 70’s!
    Mr Bilker and his family were very fine people and I honoured for having known them… Helen Bentonv