Upon arrival at Black Jack off Interstate 10 and Vista De Oro Drive, we’re greeted at the door by Jerry Guerra, the founder and president of Black Jack, and his daughter, Jennifer Guerra, at the front desk. Next we’re ushered up to the offices to meet Mark Guerra, Jerry’s brother, Sergio Guerra, Jerry’s other brother, and Jackie Guerra, another Guerra daughter. Already it’s clear that this is a true family operation.
After coffee and donuts, we’re invited on a factory tour led by Jerry himself. We start in the leather room that is covered floor to ceiling in fine exotic skins (all hand-selected by Jerry, might we add). Back in the day Black Jack was known as the king of alligator boots producing about 500 pair of alligator boots and belts each week. This brings up a frequently asked question, ever wonder what the difference is in alligator and crocodile? Here’s a quick breakdown from Sergio…
This is your highest quality skin with larger, more defined tiles. Alligator is soft and supple but also thick and more durable.
Nile sits right between Alligator and Caiman. From South Africa, this skin is very similar to alligator, but has small calcium deposits that can be seen in the center of the tiles.
With Caiman the excess calcium is removed to make skin more supple and malleable. This renders the skin much thinner and requires double-lining to make it stronger. You can spot Caiman with smaller tiles and the patterned effect from calcium.
Needless to say, these guys know a thing or two about exotics.
After a short leathers and skins Q&A session, we made a quick stop in the pattern maker’s office. Carlos, an expert pattern maker and, you guessed it, another Guerra brother, designs stitch and cording patterns, detailed leather in-lays and any custom designs needed for the shop. While inside his office we spotted a super cool design for a pair of “Come and Take It” boots for the Texas Governor.
Next we made our way into the factory going step-by-step through the production line. With Jerry as our tour guide, no stone was left unturned in the boot making process. From the importance of calf lining to using lemonwood pegs in the handmade leather sole, the quality of the components is second-to-none.