The following is the second in a short series about small businesses that started, grew and thrive in the shooting sports community of Cowboy Action Shooting. While these aren’t gun, ammo or even holster companies, they each play a vital role in the Cowboy Action ecosystem.
Kathy Tarantino, who goes by ‘Victorian Traveler’ in the Cowboy Action world, made it very clear to me that she and her husband Jerry are not carpetbaggers. They make what you would call a ‘carpet bag’ but she prefers the more polite term, victorian luggage.
There is no mistaking that distinctive look of a carpet bag. As soon as you see it you know what it is and from what era it’s design came from. Photo by P. Erhardt
For those not familiar with the term, carpetbagger has two meanings, and neither of them is particularly pleasant. The first, and more modern meaning is political and describes a candidate who seeks election in an area where they have no local connections.
Imagine being from Illinois or Arkansas but running for officer in say…New York. One might call you are carpetbagger.
The more derogatory usage describes a person from a northern state who traveled to the South after the Civil War to profit from the Reconstruction. Watch enough cowboy movies and you’ll spot more than a few carpetbaggers among the characters.
But in this case, we’re talking about the actual carpet bags themselves that Kathy and Jerry make and sell at matches like End of Trail. And the story of how their company started is literally torn from the pages of a Hollywood movie script.
Jerry Tarantino, ‘James Butler’ among fellow SASS members, was part of the additional crew as a buckaroo in a little movie in 1993 called Tombstone. Yeah, that Tombstone.
Jerry Tarantino still looks like he’s just walked off the set of Tombstone. His time in one of the most iconic, and popular, gunfighting films led he and wife Kathy to start their victorian luggage business. Photo by P. Erhardt
While visiting Jerry on the set, Kathy saw that plastic bags people used to hold things were prohibited because they were out of place on a western set. If one was accidentally left in a shot it could create significant problems.
You know what wouldn’t be out of place on an old west set? That’s right, a carpet bag…err, victorian luggage.
A year later, Kathy and Jerry were full-time in the victorian luggage business with Kathy doing the sewing and Jerry finishing the bags by installing all the hardware. As they explained to me, Kathy bakes the cake and Jerry puts the frosting on it.
And after 37 years of marriage, they make one helluva manufacturing tag team. During my visit I had a question for them, but before I could finish the sentence Kathy answered, “I’m the boss.”
Kathy Tarantino runs the show, choosing the fabric patterns and sewing the bags before handing them off to husband Jerry for finishing. Photo by P. Erhardt
I knew the answer, Jerry certainly knew the answer, and probably everybody that walked into their tent knew that Kathy runs the show. And it’s an impressive show.
The Victorian Traveler tent at End of Trail was a showcase of their bags, and their handcrafting prowess. They started back on the road to have fun and see old friends, which brought them here to the Ben Avery ranges in north Phoenix. While I chatted with Kathy about the origins of the business, Jerry sat at his workbench installing hardware on one of their bags.
Jerry does the finishing work on each bag, adding rivets, handles, leather straps and buckles. The final touches that make each bag the epitome of Victorian era luggage. Photos by P. Erhardt
Their victorian luggage ranges in size, and in pricing from $225 to $285. They offer a variety of colors and patterns. I even saw one – and only one – bag in a beautiful black leather. It had relocated across vendors’ row to the Hunters HD Gold tent, and more specifically Brian Conley’s personal collection.
The heart wants what the heart wants, and trust me, that bag was well worth wanting.
Cowboy Action Shooting isn’t just about the shooting, but more about the Cowboy lifestyle. And you can’t be a cowboy traveling the West without a rugged bag made from a piece of carpet.
And for those, both cowboys and cowgirls, needing to complete their look, and travel in style, Kathy and Jerry Tarantino have just the bag you need…excluding that gorgeous black leather bag, of course.
Next week we take a look at our final stop along vendors’ row at End of Trail and another artisan and their thriving cowboy business.
– Paul Erhardt, Managing Editor, the Outdoor Wire Digital Network