AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — Oliver Saddle Shop has been in the business of making art with leather for more than 100 years. It is a family business steeped in tradition with customers that range from former President George W. Bush to Joe Leathers, the general manager of the Four Sixes Ranch.
When you walk into their shop on Plains in Amarillo, you will hear a symphony of sorts. The tapping of hammers creates lyrics on leather.
Chances are you will also hear a lot of laughter.
“Our shop is a fun shop to work in,” said Richard Oliver. “It’s fun to come to work every day. When somebody’s gone, we miss them. We really do become family.”
Richard Oliver has seniority in this shop. He has been in this building making saddles since 1970. He can’t put an exact number on the saddle count, but Richard believes he has personally made around 1,100 saddles.
“I’ve built saddles for granddads, dads, and grandsons,” said Richard. “I’ve built saddles for three generations for sure and there maybe a few I built a fourth generation of saddle for personally.”
Richard Oliver calls that a good feeling, one he is glad to share with his two sons Brian and Zeb.
“That’s a wonderful feeling for a father of course,” said Richard. “I wish my dad and my granddad had been alive and seen what we’ve accomplished with this shop and carried on the tradition they started.”
This legacy of leather began in Vernon in 1917 and the family moved the business to Amarillo in 1960.
For the last 55 years, the Oliver family has called this shop their home away from home.
“We grew up down here as little babies,” said Zeb Oliver. “There’s pictures in the back of the shop where there’s Brian and I with little leather aprons on.”
Brian and Zeb both built their first saddles when they were teenagers.
Each saddle is tactfully tooled, carefully created, and no two are exactly the same.
To keep up with the demand, it takes four full-time saddle makers. They average 18 to 20 saddles per maker.
“Each saddle is built by the one person,” said Richard. “I take it from start to finish.”
Brian said the saddle takes about a week to build. If the saddle requires more detail, it could take up to two weeks.
They are a family of makers, pouring their passion into leather, leaving their mark on ranches and rodeo arenas across the country.
“The sports of cutting and team penning and team roping and everything have increased so much,” said Richard. “We’re building more and more of that type of saddle, however, the working cowboys is still our base. That’s who we really shoot for.”