When Carol Tallman was in high school, she took a job working with leather goods at the cowboy store owned by her boyfriend’s parents, Hap Tallman Stockman’s Supply. She was good at it, making custom chaps and reins for horse riders.
After Carol married Tim Tallman, he built a career in real estate while she worked at the store. When the elder Tallmans neared retirement age, they made Carol an offer: Would she like to take over the family shop?
That was three decades ago. Now 65, Carol Tallman is nearing the age her mother-in-law was then, and she’s considering retiring herself. She wants someone to buy the store. If she doesn’t find a buyer, Boise might lose another of its iconic businesses.
The cowboy boots, vintage sewing machines and pungent leathery smell at Hap’s harken back to an age when Overland was just a dirt road and cowboys rode into town from the ranches just outside of Boise. It was a time when being a cowboy was a profession, not just a hobby for boys and girls before they entered a different kind of rough-and-tumble world.
Hap’s didn’t always cater to the rodeo crowd. When Hap Tallman first opened the store in 1962, he sold two things: animal feed and vaccines. In the late ‘60s, he started to hire a few rodeo girls who convinced him to carry colorful hats, Tallman said. That spiraled into more Western clothes, much of it fixed with beading, fringe and rhinestones.
“The store and other businesses of its era, such as Flynn’s Saddle Shop on State Street that opened in 1958, are iconic remnants of a Western lifestyle that’s ever-rarer in the capital city,” Statesman reporter Anna Webb wrote in 2013 in a series of articles about Boise icons. Flynn’s has since closed.
Carol Tallman hopes to see Hap’s live on. She knows her mother-in-law, DeLoris, the owner, who is now 95 in an elder care facility, would like that, too. Hap Tallman died 30 years ago.
Like the owners of many other family businesses, Hap’s operators have found that the next generation doesn’t always want to take over. That same dilemma faces chocolatier Curtis Nokleby, whose business Lee’s Candies at 840 S. Vista Ave. will likely shutter when he retires if no one buys it.
Hap’s is still profitable, Carol Tallman says. Rodeos and horse shows still bring new business, and the company makes about $400,000 in sales each year.
“You’d be surprised,” she says. “It’s not dwindling.”
The Tallmans go back and forth over the future of the store, as Tim pushes to focus on their future retirement together and Carol cherishes the store’s history.
The day after Christmas, Carol Tallman worked diligently on her custom chaps behind a cramped counter. She does the embroidery there. The surface is crammed with so many rolls of leather that Tallman must get down on her knees to cut out the large, flare-leg chaps out of leather spread out on the floor.
“I have eight orders of chaps, and I don’t want any more orders,” she said. “If I retire, I won’t have time to do it anymore.”
If she’s not distracted, it takes Tallman about a day to make a pair of simple chaps. But she is often distracted. Regulars keep her busy. The man with a handlebar mustache and point-toed cowboy boots who belongs to the National Fast Draw Cowboy Association and can pull a gun from his hip in four-tenths of of a second. The country-western dancers who seek cowboy hats that won’t fly off mid-spin. The rodeo queens and princesses who demand lime-green leather and gold-tasseled chaps.
Hap’s finds plenty of customers from Boise, too, who still cling to the city’s Western roots even as it urbanizes.
“Even city folk like cowboy boots,” Carol Tallman says.
The store’s leather straps and custom chaps aren’t readily available elsewhere. “It’s the specialty items you can’t find in the big box stores,” Tallman says.
Throughout the years, the store has taken over more and more space in its small strip-mall location, growing slowly so as not to accrue debt. “I think that’s why we’ve lasted so long,” Tallman says.
At the leather workshop in the back of the store, employee Kathleen Mautz uses instant-drying cement to hold together an old leather eyeglasses case. When it dries, she’ll bring it to their 20th century Singer sewing machine, which she powers by pedal, to finish the repair.
“It’s a dying art,” says Mautz, who has worked with leather since she was a child in 4H. “A lot of people don’t understand how it’s done.”
That ignorance makes it all the more difficult to find a buyer.
“It has to be someone who has a love for this type of thing,” Carol Tallman says. “I don’t want to close it. It’s too important.”
But Tallman is going forward with closeout sales that started in November. If no buyer emerges soon, Tim Tallman says, the store will close for good in or around February.
“There’s no definitive timeline for moving out,” Carol Tallman says. But life might force one on her — the Tallmans need to find the funds to pay for their mother’s senior care, as well as their own retirement.
“It is just very, very hard for us to make this happen,” Tim says in an email. “It’s been such a large part of our lives.”