Stagecoach bags

These three retired sisters Gayle Maloney, Debra Fink and Vicki Mabery started a business turning old cowboy boots into purses called Stagecoach bags. May 2, 2012. Darryl Webb/AFN

Darryl Webb

Three retired sisters have found a way to give old boots new life by turning them into stylish purses of all shapes and sizes.

Gayle Maloney, Debra Fink and Vicki Mabery say they’ve been avid readers of a national magazine called Mary Janes Farm for years. When they saw an idea in the magazine to make old boots into a new purse they decided to give it a try.

“My husband had an old pair of boots 20 years ago and he was throwing them out and I thought what a shame because the tops are so beautiful,” Gayle said. “If only we could find something to do with them. When I saw the article in there I called up Deb and asked if she had seen the article and she said ‘I think we could do that.’ So we got together and started making a few and sold them to friends and made a few more and sold them to friends.”

The women had never worked with leather before and the thickness of the boots meant they had to sew each purse by hand, but with each new purse they became more excited and eventually decided to try selling the purses at a bazaar. In two days at a bazaar the women sold 12 purses and from there their business has taken off.

Since January the sisters have sold over 50 purses, made about 140 purses, and have bought nearly 275 pairs of boots.

They decided to write a letter to the magazine that gave them their inspiration and a few days later they got a response—the magazine would like to publish their entire letter and highlight their new business, StageCoach Bags and Collectibles.

“I think it’s about the creativity of it and staying busy,” Gayle said. “We’re retired but we’re not ready to just do nothing. This is our recreation, to get to go out and meet people and shop and get to come home and be creative. Once we don’t enjoy it anymore we won’t do it anymore but that hasn’t happened yet.”

Each pair of boots is used. Most come from thrift stores or donations but the women also do custom orders if a family has a certain pair of boots they want used. Once they’re collected they’re cleaned and sanitized and the bottoms are cut off. From that point the women come up with a design, pick out fabric for a liner and spend hours putting it all together before giving it a unique name.

Some take days to create but when there’s a bazaar coming up the women will meet together, Gayle from Ahwatukee Foothills, Debra from Sonoita and Vicki from Maricopa, and make 12 or 13 purses at once. In one sitting each purse takes about eight hours from start to finish.

Each sister has her specialty when it comes to putting the purses together. Gayle enjoys making the handles from other purses or old belts. Debra is the designer. Vicki does the cutting, cleaning and burns their logo onto the wood at the bottom of the purse, or on a wooden tag that is attached to it.

“Each one is just so completely different,” Debra said. “I think we just get a joy out of knowing we created something. When we hear a certain purse was sold it’s always a little bittersweet. Each is our favorite until we create a new one.”

The purses are being sold in some small stores in Arizona and Texas as well as online at The women are also working on making cell phone covers and smaller holders from children’s boots. For more information on the company email or call Gayle at 480-265-5312 or Debra at 602-320-1658.

Contact writer: (480) 898-7914 or

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