Del Rio Custom Leather
By Amy Witt
He was told numerous times he would not live. For many, there would be mental barriers preventing one to continue on with their life. However, this is not the case for Paul Ambrose. After 14 major and 24 minor surgeries to his abdomen, Ambrose decided that nothing would hold him back.
In 1995, while working on an excavation crew at an industrial warehouse operating a track hoe, Paul got off his machine to check the water that was being pumped out of the trench they were s digging. With the pump creating a vibration into the ground, the trench caved in, Ambrose being the victim. While he was forced into the trench, the 3,000 pound pump landed on top of him, crushing him and trapping him in six feet of water, causing the pressure to his spine to sever him in half.
A full-time horseshoer for over 10 years, an accomplished horseman, hunter, family man, and inspiration, Paul and his wife, Melissa are the owners of Del Rio Custom Leather, formally, Cactus Custom Saddlery owned by Al Levey. Married for 15 years, Paul and Melissa are parents to four children, and grandparents to three kids.
Melissa has been a professional horse trainer and riding instructor for the last 15 years training mostly colts and problem horses using her own natural horsemanship techniques. Since a young girl, Melissa has also been active in barrel racing and other competitive events, however her heart craves speed.
After his accident, Paul decided that he would finally fulfill one of his child hood desires and purchased his first horse, introducing as part of his recovery process. Although he has beenshoeing for 12 years, the injuries inflected on his body, mixed with the wear and tear of bending over a hoof, Paul and Melissa decided they were in need of a new life, a new path for both of them.
Having an interest in leather and creating things, Paul began making mounted shooting gun holsters, belts, fixed saddles, headstalls, and anticipated over the years building his own saddle. In September 2015, Al Levey was injured and decided to sell his leather shop, Cactus Custom Leather. Through fate, brought to their attention by family friend George, the couple was introduced to a new adventure. George, who brought over his horse for a tune-up, suggested that this business would be the perfect avenue for the couple and arranged a meeting with Levey.
It was important to Levey that his business was sold to individuals who were not only compassionate, but would maintain the quality and reputation of the work and the company image. After meeting with Levey, Paul and Melissa were assigned some work as part of the “prospective buyer” test. Anticipating that she would have no interest or talent in the business, Melissa fully supported and encouraged her husband in his decisions. After passing Al’s test, Melissa fell in love with the trade and the couple fully divulged their hearts into a new chapter of their life, naming their new business, Del Rio Custom Leather.
Since 1999, Del Rio, (formally known as Cactus Custom Leather), has been one of the leading gun belt and holster makers for cowboy mounted shooters. For many years, Levey has been reputable for making many world champions’ shooting gear.
“Al’s quality and craftsmanship is what Paul and I have been working on making sure we continue to carry on. It is important to us that we produce quality and style that will last.”
Paul and Melissa are avid shooters and competitors in cowboy mounted shooting. This allows them to really specialize in cowboy mounted gear as they live the lifestyle, know the sport, and understand the importance of having gear that fits comfortably and is reliable for competition. With this being said, the Ambrose couple can focus on making sure their customers are prepared and ready to compete without any equipment malfunction which is highly important no matter what level of expertise; especially when chasing a championship title.
Outside of the cowboy mounted shooting gear, the Arizona company, specializes in chaps, chinks, rifle and shotgun scabbards, and conceal carry holsters. Their love for leather is constantly flowing while they draw inspiration from old west styles and new trends in western wear, all western sports: rodeo, reining, mounted shooting, showing, whatever it is that pertains to equine sports. Being able produce the clients’ ideas while exploring with creativity and leather, the Del Rio owners are driven and most satisfied when they see the faces and reactions of their customers.
Currently, the biggest challenge Paul and Melissa are facing is the size of their shop. In 5 years, their goal is to continue to strive as one of the top and reputable leather shops for mounted shooting gear. They also anticipate expanding and venturing into other areas of equine events.
As the competition within the industry is always rising, Del Rio is proud to delivery their customers with not just quality but honesty, hard work, and a rapid turnaround time without sacrificing the quality or style of the product. Building relationships with customers and making customers a priority, while standing behind their work, allows them to continue to stay on top of the leather competition.
As the founders of Atlasta Home Horse Rescue, lovers of God, family, and the United States of America, Paul and Melissa, aren’t just the owners of Del Rio Custom Leather, but rather, hardworking, genuine, and loving individuals who truly have commitment and love for the industry, people, and allow their work to be produced through the appreciation and devotion for life.
In the wake of the Battle of the Marne, Allied and German forces began digging the first trenches during World War I. These trenches ranged in measurement, but measured approximately six feet wide by seven feet deep. Solely for protection, soldiers dug through soil for protection from the British and French. Imagine falling six feet down into a trench; then imagine an object falling, crushing, and trapping you in water inside the trench -your spinesevering everything in the abdomen, cutting you in half.