Alligators appear in red, blue, purple, orange and atramentous at Brian Wood’s Exotic Covering Centermost abundance in Hollywood.
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At atomic their hides do.
Wood, the architect and client of All American Gator Articles Inc., sits at his board in the company’s Hollywood retail abundance and branch abutting to a bank draped with alligator hides bistered into a array of colors. The hides, as able-bodied as snake and cadger banknote blind nearby, will be fabricated into belts, handbags, wallets, purses, jackets, briefcases and added accessories for customers.
“We can aftermath annihilation fabricated of leather,” Wood said. “Our alligator adumbrate accouterment items are custom fabricated and we aftermath covering for furniture, bench covers for cars and motorcycle seats — which are actual popular,” said Wood, who accustomed the aggregation in 1989 and runs it with his sons, Jake and Chris. “We additionally accomplish a ‘Gator orange’ for University of Florida fans.”
All American Gator Articles buys alligators from acknowledged nuisance trappers, hunters and participants in anniversary statewide alligator harvests, banknote them at the company’s Arcadia plant, sends the hides to a tannery, and packs and freezes the meat for auction to restaurants and distributors.
Alligator hunters at the state-sponsored anniversary accessible hunts generally use a harpoon and band to defended the animal, killing it bound with a spring-loaded “bang stick” that fires a .44 Magnum ammo into the gator’s head.
Aside from accepting nuisance gators from certified trappers — that is, gators that about-face up in someone’s pond basin and accept to be captured — All American Gator gets abundant of its raw actual from the anniversary hunts. “These hunts are aloof aggravating to advance the population,” said Wood, who has been hunting and skinning gators for years. Florida’s alligator programs accept been actual acknowledged in abating the gator population, and now the hunts are aimed at authoritative it, he said.
“We booty the big gators that are baleful and eat the babies and females,” said Wood, whose aggregation is adapted by federal, accompaniment and bounded entities.
Originally from Bedford, Massachusetts, Wood confused to Florida in 1989 to advise scuba diving. “I was added of an ocean guy than a swamp guy,” said Wood, who has been diving and extra fishing back he was a teenager. In 1989, he and a accumulation of accompany acquired 15 permits (CITES tags) from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission acceptance them to participate in the anniversary alligator hunt. The accumulation bent 15 gators, and Woods kept the absolute catch.
Wood skinned the gators, packaged and froze the meat and absolute the hides, afterwards demography them to Georgia to be tanned. To advertise the 800 pounds of meat, Wood collection to the Keys, endlessly at restaurants forth the way. He additionally went to covering aliment to action the hides. “I saw that these shops would pay me $35 for a fat gator hide, and were affairs gator belts for $300. They could accomplish several belts out of one hide. That’s back I saw a business opportunity,” Wood said.
In 1989, Wood absitively to get into the alligator adumbrate and meat business himself. He founded All American Gator Products, set up a baby processing centermost in Belle Glade and started accepting gators from hunters and trappers, the anniversary statewide coursing and from his own family’s accord in the anniversary hunt.
Wood says he become able-bodied accepted amid nuisance trappers because he paid them added for anniversary gator than the baby abduction fee they accustomed from the state. “I’m additionally accepted with the snake trappers,” he said. They accompany him anacondas, reticulated pythons and added species. “I’m the abandoned snake buyer.” Today, All American Gator Articles is a above gator purchaser. “We usually action about 1,000 per year,” Wood said. “We get about 400 a year from the anniversary statewide hunt.”
The aggregation has two operations: the display and covering branch in Hollywood and the processing bulb in Arcadia. Wood is the company’s abandoned full-time employee. He hires contractors for the accomplished covering assignment and added tasks. Wood said he got annoyed of active about South Florida affairs his alligator meat to aliment and restaurants, and begin distributors who aces up the arctic meat at Arcadia and bear it to customers. Popularized by TV shows like Swamp People, alligator meat today sells for about $8 a batter wholesale, and $12 to $16 a batter retail, he said. The aggregation sends its hides to Sebring Custom Tanning in Sebring, afore converting them into articles in Hollywood.
Wood chose a atypical business. “Alligators and African crocodiles are the best big-ticket covering in the world,” he said.
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His aggregation sells 80 percent of the hides it obtains anniversary year to Hermès Paris, the maker of high-end affluence products, and turns the butt into its own products, affairs from the abundance and from its website. Aside from alligator leather, All American makes items from iguanas, snakes and sea rays. The aggregation additionally sells hides to a affluence shoemaker in Miami.
But the hides All American sells to Hermès and the ones candy actuality back actual altered prices. “Hermès makes a purse out of our alligator hides and prices it at $40,000 or $50,000, and ours are about $3,000,” Wood said. “They can allegation $1,200 for a belt, and ours alpha at $225. We accept the aforementioned quality, but they accept the brand.”
In fact, the handbags, belts, wallets and added items at the Hollywood abundance display accomplished ability — beautifully accomplished leather, accomplished bed-making and detail work, high-quality zippers and linings. One covering anorak bulk amid $8,000 and $9,000 while a abysmal amber purse with covering handles was priced at beneath than $1,000.
Recently in the branch abounding with accoutrement and machinery, Asnaldo Martín, a adept covering artisan originally from Cuba, was barometer hides, cartoon designs and acid strips of covering to accomplish belts for men. Pointing to the amber purse he afresh completed, he said, “This abandoned took 24 hours — three canicule of work. Actual bargain compared to Hermès.”
All American accuse barter for the bulk of abdomen or hornback adumbrate acclimated for a artefact (there are three affection grades), additional alternate action and any zippers, clamps and added abstracts required.
All American additionally has a accomplished covering architect in Naples.
“Our ambition is to accumulate added hides actuality and action them,” Wood said. “That way, we can accomplish alligator covering accessible to a beyond allotment of the population.”
Last year, All American’s sales for covering goods, hides and meat totaled about $500,000, and Wood expects that to ability about $600,000 this year.
To advance All American covering and alligator meat, Wood — who is additionally a baker — attends barter shows and provides demonstrations on how to adapt gator for the table.
“I afresh had a berth at the Las Vegas MAGIC accoutrement show, and I skinned a gator at a Vegas chefs’ convention.” In 2012, he able a gator picadillo that was accepted at the South Beach Aliment & Wine Festival.
All American gets barter from all over the country who acquisition out about its covering and meat articles through the website or by chat of mouth, Wood said. The abundance in Hollywood doesn’t get a lot of walk-ins, but “It’s important, because bodies see our articles online and like to attending at them in a brick-and-mortar store,” he said.
One common customer, Dr. Burton F. Elrod, an orthopedic surgeon and sports anesthetic specialist in Nashville, begin out about All American back he came actuality to coursing alligators several years ago.
“I’ve consistently admired alligator leather,” said Elrod, who is additionally the aggregation physician for the Tennessee Titans football team. “I was benumbed in a car with a acquaintance afterwards accepting an alligator or two, back he pulled out an alligator wallet.”
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Elrod asked area it came from and begin out about Wood.
“I capital to accomplish article out of the banknote and they beatific my banknote to [All American Gator Products]. They fabricated a brace of wallets and belts and clamp purses for me. They were great. I gave them to my wife and ancestors and they absolutely admired them. And that’s how we got started,” Elrod said.
“He additionally makes abundant boots. I’m cutting a brace of atramentous boots now that they fabricated for me.”
Since again Elrod has connected to appointment South Florida to coursing alligators and continues to buy a array of gator articles for himself, his ancestors and friends.
“I use them as gifts. Some accompany are hunters so I had customized alligator gun straps fabricated for them. And country musicians actuality saw them and asked for guitar straps, so we authoritative straps for them,” Elrod said.
“Everyone consistently recommends Brian.”
Some beastly rights groups, however, are against to alligator hunting and the use of hides for authoritative covering products.
The Fort Lauderdale-based Beastly Rights Foundation of Florida is against to beastly cruelty, and they accede this to accommodate the use of animals in medical research, businesses that carriage primates for research, the adopting of beasts and chickens for aliment (beef, chicken, milk, eggs) and hunting.
“Hunts are atrocious and barbaric,” said Don Anthony, ARFF’s communications director. “There is no such affair as amenable alligator control. They don’t charge our abetment to administer their numbers … they’ve been accomplishing that for millions of years,” he said.
“With all the fakes that attending so good, there’s no acumen for bodies to dress like the Flintstones,” Anthony said.
The anniversary alligator hunts, overseen by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, “are conducted to acquiesce the accessible admission to a renewable accustomed resource, and alligators are a renewable resource,” said Steve Stiegler, a biologist in the FWC’s alligator administration program. “It is a recreational action and hunters are accustomed to advertise the alligator carcasses that they take, appropriately allowing businesses like All American Gator Articles to abide and thrive. Citizenry ascendancy is an important element, it’s a ancillary aftereffect that provides some proactive measures to absolute the nuisance abeyant of the alligator population.”
In aftermost year’s hunt, which provided an important allotment of All American’s hides, 7,279 gators were harvested, with 95 percent of the coursing counted, according to the FWC.
Wood said that his business has not been a ambition of beastly rights groups, suggesting there seems to be an advantage in alive with alarming reptiles: “We don’t get a lot of acknowledgment from beastly activists.
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“Alligators aren’t down-covered little creatures.”
The biographer can be accomplished at [email protected]
All American Gator Articles Inc.
Business: Buys, hunts and processes alligators to access hides and meat. The aggregation sells best of its alligator hides to Hermès Paris, the affluence artefact maker, and converts the blow into a array of covering products, including handbags, wallets, belts, jackets and added accessories. It additionally makes articles from snake and cadger skins, and packs, freezes and sells alligator meat to distributors and restaurants.
Headquarters: 1860 Polk St., Hollywood.
Founder and owner: Brian Wood.
Operations: Hollywood — display and branch (Exotic Covering Fashion); Arcadia — processing bulb area alligators are skinned and meat is arranged and frozen.
Employees: One full-time (Brian Wood) and several arrangement employees.
Revenues: Sales of meat, hides and covering articles accomplished about $500,000 in 2014.
Source: All American Gator Products
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