When Whoopi Goldberg, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Julia Roberts were on the hunt for a pair of over-the-top Western boots, they sought custom bootmaker Rocketbuster.
The El Paso, Texas-based company, run by designer Nevena Christi and her husband, Marty Snortum, began as a stock house that Snortum purchased in 1989. When the ’90s recession hit and local Western stores began closing, the business model was changed to mainly custom work.
Rocketbuster boots average around $3,000, with many customers seeking styles that are more elaborate than ever before. “Our boots are like large pieces of jewelry,” said Christi. “They’re identity pieces — outrageous, unique, memorable and comfortable.”
Some of the brand’s creations have included a green alligator style with the image of a $100 bill and boots with the likeness of a geisha. Christi, who’s in the process of creating boots for rapper Saint Jhn, said her dream client is Lady Gaga. “I want to do more wild performance [looks] to wear onstage,” she said. “I want to use LED lights.”
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But the designer emphasized that customers don’t have to be a celebrity to indulge in a pair of handmade boots — all it takes is some imagination, an open checkbook and a wait time of six to eight months.
Christi, who has a fashion and art background, is also training the next generation of craftsman by mentoring an architectural student and a grafitti artist. “There was a time when there were many custom boot shops in Texas, but it’s becoming a lost art,” explained the designer, who considers Rocketbuster part of today’s vibrant maker’s movement, which promotes artisan work.
To connect with customers globally, Rocketbuster relies on digital interactions. “We love social media,” said Christi. “We can give people a real eye into our [El Paso] shop and show them how a handmade boot is put together.”
And customer satisfaction is high. “We have a 75 percent [repeat-buyer] rate, and sometimes it’s only a week since they got their boots,” noted Christi.
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