By Carolee Anita Boyles
Rachel Kirkpatrick (left) and Liz LeCea, Kirkpatrick Leather customer service rep. LeCea is holding Kirkpatrick
Leather’s RSH-Rifle Shell Holders. The model RSH is made to hold five rifle or six pistol cartridges on the outside
of the buttstock. It can be fitted for a variety of makes and models.
Rachel Kirkpatrick grew up in the early years of the Kirkpatrick Leather Company. Although she had a thriving career in the insurance industry as a young adult, her hometown of Laredo, Texas, continued to call to her. Eventually, she moved back to Laredo to work in her family’s business. Now in her early 40s, she serves as the VP of Kirkpatrick Leather Company.
Rachel’s father, Joe Kirkpatrick, founded the company in 1950.
“My dad fought in WWII, and when he came back there was a program for servicemen to find jobs,” she shared. “It led to a job with Tandy Leather Company and he learned to work leather.”
When Joe Kirkpatrick decided to go to work for himself, he took advantage of the skills he had learned at Tandy Leather Company to start the Kirkpatrick Leather Company. He began by having boots made just across the border in Mexico, and during that time he met his wife and started a family. Over time, he turned his attention to holsters and the company started taking on the characteristics it retains to this day.
From an early age, Rachel helped out where she could. “I would do things like stuff catalogs and sort labels for mailers,” she said.
After she graduated from high school, Rachel went off to college at the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio. She liked the San Antonio area so much she stayed for 12 years and worked for an insurance company. Then about 10 years ago, Rachel decided to move back to Laredo.
“My parents were getting older, and I never saw my nieces and nephews,” Rachel said. “I decided to move back and rejoin the family business.”
At about the same time, Rachel’s mother was having to make decisions about her own, separate, business — a western wear retail store.
“My mother wanted to focus on the store — so she left Kirkpatrick Leather,” Rachel recalled. “I kind of took over her role in the company. I started out doing customer service, and I helped a lot of people with product questions.”
The Kirkpatricks started working together to eventually transition management of the company into to the hands of Rachel and her two brothers, Mike and Jason. Rachel gradually started taking more responsibility within the business, dividing her time between different aspects of the company. By the time her parents passed away — her father in 2013 and her mother in 2016 — Rachel and her brothers had assumed complete ownership over Kirkpatrick Leather.
“We Wear About Five Different Hats”
In her role as vice president, Rachel oversees the day-to-day operations of Kirkpatrick Leather Company.
“I deal with advertising, accounts payable and receivable, I oversee customer service and I do a little bit of everything else,” she said. “My brother Mike is president. He’s the one who has always designed the holsters. He’s designed all our competitive rigs. We opted to keep him as president because what he does is one of the most important parts of this company.” Rachel’s other brother Jason oversees the shop and the actual manufacturing of the holsters.
Even though Kirkpatrick Leather has been in operation since 1950, it’s still a small family business.
“We all wear about five different hats,” she revealed. “Here in the office, it’s just two girls and I who help with customer service, and I have Carlos who works on social media and our IT stuff. One of the girls is splitting her time between the office and helping Mike in the retail gun store connected to Kirkpatrick Leather. He got a contract with the city to do all the police department uniforms, which is about 400 guys. So, he needed someone who wouldn’t be doing sales and would be focused on getting the correct information when an officer calls.”
The company also has seven employees in the shop who are doing the actual manufacturing of Kirkpatrick Leather products. “It’s a pretty small company,” Rachel said. “I still take orders and handle customer service.”
Arena Gun Club Connection
The retail gun store and range Rachel referred to earlier is very closely related to the manufacturing company.
“Five years ago, my brother Mike and two of his friends opened an indoor shooting range called the Arena Gun Club,” Rachel stated.
The retail side of the range grew and this past January, Kirkpatrick Leather Company moved its manufacturing operations to a building shared with the retail store and range (each has its own separate entrance).
“Now customers can come and buy guns from our gun store, and then come to the back and buy holsters,” she informed. “Ninety-five percent of our business is mail order, either online or through a paper ad the customer sends. The rest of the business is local guys who come in.” Those local customers all appreciate the fact Kirkpatrick Leather can make a custom leather holster for any firearm they bring in, even odd and older guns.
“The Arena Gun Club also has a restaurant with burgers and pizzas,” Rachel lends. “When you come in the front door, the first thing you see is the gun store. As you walk through the store, the shooting bays for the range are to one side. There are 10 regular shooting lanes, and four lanes dedicated to the Titanium Club — which is a higher rate and is limited to 100 members. They have their own little room with sofas and a big-screen TV.”
Rachel noted the western wear store her mother owned is not a part of the Arena Gun Club; she and her brothers closed the store in June 2017.
Leather Making A Comeback?
Over the next few years, Rachel shared she’d like to work with more retailers to get Kirkpatrick Leather holsters onto their shelves.
“Years ago, we used to have a lot of dealers, but over the years that part of the business kind of fell away because some of the stores we were in started to close,” she said. “I think leather is coming back and is gaining in popularity again, and I hope we’re going to get some dealers again who will carry us in their stores.”
The best thing about what she does, Rachel says, is talking to customers.
“It’s fun to talk to people from all over the country and all over the world,” she relayed. “We have customers in Australia and New Zealand, and all over Europe. It’s good to talk to different people and get their perspective about what’s going on. I really like the customer interaction part of what we do.”