Crates History

The Crates name in the western saddlery industry dates back over 75 years to the 1940s, when Robert H. Crates joined T. Fletcher Sims in building Sims Collar & Leather Company in Chattanooga, Tennessee, established in 1932, into world-wide 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 Daniel M. and Robert C. Crates.


The 50’s, 60’s and 70’s were boom days for both Western and English riding sports. Simco Leather during this period was considered one of the largest world-wide distributors of western equestrian equipment, as well as a major pioneering factor in horse clothing and nylon tack and 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.




Fabtron - Crates Alliance


Beginning June 1, 2016, Fabtron, Inc., of Maryville, Tennessee and Crates Leather Company, Inc., of Chattanooga, Tennessee pooled their 70-plus year history of manufacturing equestrian equipment. Fabtron is the exclusive manufacturer and distributor of Crates branded saddlery worldwide.


We will maintain our two current separate companies and locations in Maryville and Chattanooga as in the past thirty-five plus years. Manufacturing, shipping and administration functions will be centered in Maryville, Tennessee. Crates Chattanooga will continue with support and information on present, past, and future products.


The Fabtron-Crates Alliance will continue to be a MADE IN THE USA product and company. We will continue to distribute through established equestrian retailers and direct sale organizations, and not to the product end-user.


Fabtron Maryville, as the manufacturing and administrative arm, is staffed to provide assistance in ordering, manufacturing and accounting information for all Fabtron-Crates products. Crates Chattanooga will continue as a source of product information as well as initiating Crates product ordering requirements, concentrating on Crates branded products. Contact either one of us. We are ready to help.


Fabtron-Crates is managed on a daily basis by its owner-operators. Our commitment is to design, produce, and market current and innovative equestrian products for today’s up-scale equestrian, with an eye to the future. Simply put, we are a family-owned and managed MADE IN TENNESSEE USA team.