The Final Word: John Wright
Here’s our conversation with John Wright, western heritage artisan and the owner of J.M. Capriola Co. in Elko.
NM&VG: How long has J.M. Capriola been in business?
JW: Joe Martin Capriola was an apprentice of the famous saddle maker G.S. Garcia. In 1929, he opened his own shop just a few doors down from Garcia Saddlery. Capriola operated the shop until my grandparents purchased it in 1958. The store has been in my family ever since, and I—along with my wife Susan and our two kids, Charlie and Audrey—plan to keep it this way. The store is 93 years old, and we have big plans for a 100-year celebration.
NM&VG: Do people stop in just to look around?
JW: We get plenty of foot traffic from tourists and people making the trip as a destination. We are the oldest western store in the state, and we strive to make our store unique for those traveling to see the saddle shop and manufacturing aspect of our business.
NM&VG: How big is your team?
JW: We have 12 employees. Our store is 10,000 square feet of retail and shop space. Our employees include retail clerks, bookkeepers, saddle makers, silversmiths, bit and spur makers, and last but not least, the freight room employees.
NM&VG: What does it take to create a J.M. Capriola product?
JW: This trade requires artistic, hard-working people who take pride in making quality items that are built to last generations and withstand the rigors of cowboying. All artwork and tooling is free hand. All our saddles, spurs, and bits start as a side of leather or sheet of steel and are crafted from start to finish by one artisan.
NM&VG: What else do you make beyond saddles, bits, and spurs?
JW: If you can think it, we can build just about anything. We do plenty of belts, wallets, chaps, jewelry, headstalls, spur straps, purses, and canvas products. Our canvas cowboy bedroll is our No. 1 seller. It’s made all in-house and sewn by hand.
NM&VG: Is it just Western cowpokes who buy your products?
JW: We sell most of our products domestically, but we have a huge international clientele. We ship goods to Japan, to working cowboys in Australia, and to horse enthusiasts who ride the remote trails of Germany.
NM&VG: Do you see the saddle and bit business going strong 100 years from now?
JW: The great unknown question. It may have been a worthy question in 1929 when cars were all the rage, and I can only imagine what the answer may have been then. If I was to have been asked this question then, I likely would have answered no. In reality, cars will never entirely replace horses. Cowboys now and always will exist to manage the herds on arid desolate lands. It’s been said that the cowboy is a dying breed, but we refuse to believe it. As long as there are people to feed, cowboys will always be there to manage and care for the livestock and the land.