Crates History


A Brief History of the Crates Family In Saddlemaking


     The Crates name in the western saddlery industry dates back over 75 years to the 1940’s, when Robert H. Crates joined T. Fletcher Sims in building Sims Collar & Leather Company in Chattanooga, Tennessee, established in1932, into worldwide distributor and industry leader, Simco Leather Company. Robert Crates, a mid-westerner from Ohio moved south during the Great Depression, purchasing the small manufacturer of harness, horse collars, and miners equipment with Mr. Sims.


     The years after World War II brought a great demand for recreational saddlery and riding equipment, which soon eclipsed the work harness and farm equipment business. The sport of Rodeo grew rapidly, to become a major factor in the “horse business”. Robert H. Crates became the sole owner of Simco in the 1950’s and was joined in the 50’s after military service by sons David M. and Robert C. Crates.


     The 50’s, 60’s and 70’s were boom days for both Western and English riding sports. Simao Leather during this period was considered the largest, or certainly one of the largest, worldwide distributors of western equestrian equipment, as well as a major pioneering factor in horse clothing and nylon tack equipment. Simco also manufactured an extensive line of western style outer wear. The company grew to two manufacturing plants in Tennessee, and a distribution warehouse in Oregon to serve the West Coast.


     The Crates family continued to lead Simco after merging with world leader fishing tackle manufacturer Shakespeare Company in 1970, a New York Stock Exchange Company. Shakespeare operated sporting goods companies in archery, golf, water, craft, marine taxidermy, marine electronics, and mono-filament nylon products. Daniel M. Crates served as a member of the Board of Directors during this period. Shakespeare Company changed ownership in 1980.


     In 1982 Robert H., Daniel M., and Robert C., along with key Simco team members, established Crates Leather company, Inc., in Chattanooga, Tennessee, to perpetuate the tradition of Crates-made western saddlery, distributed world-wide, as did the former company. Manufacturing was located in Chattanooga, Tennessee, USA, home territory for over 75 years.


     Thirty-five years later in 2016, still under Crates third-generation ownership and management, another major move was set in place. Crates Leather joined in an exclusive licensing arrangement with long-time saddlery manufacturer, Fabtron, Inc., of Maryville, Tennessee USA and owners Stan and Brad Headrick, whereby Fabtron has exclusive license to manufacture and market Crates branded products world-wide. While maintaining two separate companies, Fabtron and Crates will team together to offer innovative equestrian products with an eye to the future, as private family owned and operated MADE IN TENNESSEE, USA organizations.