The Eddins family, which includes (from left) Mickey and sons David, Paul and John, owners of M&F Western Products Inc., have expanded their horizons with the addition of Crumrine, a jewelry manufacturing company in Reno, Nev. M&F Western Products is already known around the world, but the acquisition of a jewelry manufacturer is more than just Another Notch in Their Belt

Western wear distributor acquires Nevada company

By BRUCE ALSOBROOK, News-Telegram Managing Editor

Feb. 10, 2008 - Walk through M&F Western Wear's ever-sprawling complex just off Shannon Road and you can't help be struck by the brand names of products lining the tables and shelves -- Tony Lama, Nocona, Shepler's, Chippewa, and the list goes on, and on, a virtual who's who of Western wear.

A new name has been added to the list, and while most have never heard of Crumrine, if you're involved in Western jewelry, the name carries a reputation for innovative design and manufacturing processes.

M&F purchased Crumrine, based in Reno, Nev., in November, and the addition should only help expand the Sulphur Springs Western vast reach into the Western wear market -- a reach that extends virtually all over the world.

Yet despite its immense presence in the world of Western retail, M&F is something of a hidden jewel in Sulphur Springs' economic base.

"People will say, 'What do you have out there?'" chuckles Mickey Eddins, who started the company in 1969 with a wood shop. "We don't make very much noise around town, but you'll see a lot of goods out there."

"Out there" refers to the sprawling complex of warehouse space and assembling and packaging stations, a massive area that has essentially tripled in size over the last decade and a half.

And it's no wonder. From the deal in 1995 that put all of manufacturing giant Justin's accessories into M&F's capable hands to the acquisition of Nocona Belt Company about eight years ago, the Eddins family has steadily increased its ability to supply retailers with a variety of products.

"The thing that makes our company strong is not just any one category," explained Mickey. "But when you put all these products together, then what the stores can source from us, it saves them from buying it from 20 or 30 different people. Everything we have is our own brand now. Either we own the brand, or in Justin's case, we are licensed to do the products."

M&F already handles silver buckles and other jewelry products for Justin, but the latest acquisition gives the local distributor a virtual gold mine of belt buckle designs.

Charles Crumrine, according to Mickey, was that rare mix of artist and mechanist, a metallurgical machinist who developed processes that other jewelry manufacturers to this day can't duplicate.

Mickey should know -- he once worked as a salesman for Charles Crumrine, who started his business in 1948 when he was a jeweler.

"He was a real machine kind of guy," Mickey recalled. "He loved to tinker with all that stuff, and they've got some class procedures.

"When you look at their designs, you know they're Crumrine," he added. "Nobody has ever been successful duplicating them. Even when we were in negotiations, they wouldn't show us some of the secrets until we'd gotten it bought."

At one time, Crumrine employed more than 100 people manufacturing belt buckles and other Western jewelry, but following the death of the founder and his wife, the company has declined -- only about 12 people work at the Reno plant now.

"Their technique and expertise was in design and manufacturing," Mickey said. "They didn't really understand the marketing and merchandising of their products."

And marketing and merchandising is M&F's bread and butter.

"We're going to try to leave as much of their procedures in place that we can, and we're going to try to add to it the things that we do well," said Mickey. "Their production capability right now is low, but the potential is really good there."

The acquisition of Crumrine and its vast number of patterns and dies brings another dimension of artistry to M&F, which also operates a plant in Mexico to create buckles and other metal pieces.

"The real value to the company was all the artistry and the designs they developed over the years," said Paul Eddins, who with his David and John help run the company.

"We own all the designs now," Mickey said. "What we're trying to do is get the sales back to where they were several years ago when both of the senior Crumrines were still in the business. We'll reintroduce, with some modifications, some of the stuff they've done in the past, but we'll also have our design team trying to originate new products, too."

All in all, the purchase should help M&F acquire more shelf space in Western stores -- if that's possible. M&F Western Products Inc. already covers every state in the United States, and basically every continent in the world, with the exception of Antarctica, perhaps.

"We have people that regularly come into the trade shows in Denver in January from Australia, Brazil, Venezuela, Japan, all the European countries," Mickey said.

Adding Crumrine to the long list of known names in the Eddins family's product line can only enhance the company's reputation.

"The Western industry is pretty close-knit, and you get chances every so often to acquire another company, and we've been pleased with what we've been able to buy and take forward in the past," Mickey said. "But our goal is to capture more of the shelf space in the retail stores we call on. And when you add another product line, it just gives you another opportunity to sell more goods.

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