I was saddened to learn that Mike McNamee, former owner of Stompers Boots of San Francisco, died on Thursday, August 23, after a brief illness.
His death was a shock to me. I had last spoken with him by phone in December. I feel badly that I had let so much time pass before trying to get in touch again.
I think it is safe to say that Mike was about the most profound influence on “booting Booted Harleydude” than any other. Read on for some stories…
Mike was a friend and “boot mentor” to many, including me. I was honored to know him personally and to have the pleasure of “being booted” by Mike (and his store) with 28 pairs of boots that I owned and wore personally, and about another 28 some-odd pairs of boots that I bought from Stompers for others (my Spouse and friends who could not make purchases on-line).
I recall three stories in particular about Mike’s “booting me right.”
1. Back in 1997, I really, I mean REALLY, wanted a pair of Dehner boots with lug soles. Back in those times, the Denher Boot Company was reluctant to sell their boots to non-LEOs. When I asked them about boots with lug soles, they said, “you live in Maryland. We sell those boots only to officers who live in places like San Francisco where it is wet and hilly.”
I relayed that to Mike. Just a few weeks later, I had a pair of Dehner patrol boots with lug soles on my feet. All thanks to Mike’s intervention with the folks at the Dehner Boot Company. Mike got the sale — and I got my much-lusted-after lug-soled Dehners! (I wore those boots so much, I wore them out, but sure had fun doing so!)
2. In 2008, I saw a pair of Chippewa hi-shine boots on a cop during a police motorcycle event in DC. What was most fascinating about those boots is that they had lug soles on them. I asked the cop, and he said that he had the soles added by a cobbler.
I also discussed that with Mike. At first, he checked with Chippewa, who not only told him “no,” but “hell no, we won’t do that” (add Vibram 100 lug soles to hi-shine boots). But then about 2009… Mike had lug soles added to a pair of those boots for me. The requests poured in after I promoted what he did, and he began to offer the service of adding lug soles to Chip Hi-Shines on customer request.
3. Throughout the time I had a relationship with Stompers Boots, I got to know a lot of motor officers, both during training that I did with them (as a helper), and also as a judge at police motorcycle riding competitions (rodeos). Often the cops would ask me where I got my boots, and I mentioned Stompers Boots of San Francisco. They’d check out Mike’s website. Some cops from very conservative areas were reluctant to do business with a gay-oriented boot store (even on-line), so I served as their “middle-man.” For no markup, I arranged purchases for them of Dehners and Chip Hi-Shines. I loved to see the smiles on their faces when they pulled on their boots and rode their motorcycles.
I met Mike when I was traveling to SFO regularly for work 4 – 8 times/year. I remember shortly after he opened Stompers in 1996 that I got up the courage to go in, though I was very timid.
Mike was at the counter, lacing up a pair of loggers for display. He was so friendly, though in full leather, he was quite intimidating. Mike struck up a conversation with me, and 10 minutes turned into 3 hours — just talking about boots, life, and mutual interests.
Soon enough, I became what he referred to as one of his best customers. He even offered me a “BHD Coupon” that I shared with fellow Bootmen via my website that gave $20 off any pair of boots for sale through Stompers. — that was classic Mike — even though Stompers was not profitable, he always was supporting whatever it took to get more men into boots.
Over the years that Mike owned and ran Stompers Boots in SFO, I bought more than 50 pairs of boots* from him, and he told me a few years ago that I probably assisted with sales of 500 more pairs of boots to other men. My website prominently features many pairs of boots I got through Stompers — Dehners, Wescos, Chippewas, and more.
I can’t say how flattered I was when Mike would ask permission to use photos that I took of my boots for his website and ads. Lil’ ol’ BHD’s boots on Stomper’s website? Wow.
Mike and I would frequently chat by phone, and he always listened to my suggestions as an avid motorcycle rider. In fact, when Mike went out of his way to have Vibram 100 lug soles added to a pair of Chippewa Hi-Shines at my request (only charging me $25 extra), he then began offering that service to customers.
Then whenever I visited San Francisco for work or pleasure, Mike would offer to pick me up at the airport, have dinner with me, and just be a great friend. His home, “the best damn boot shop in the world” was my home as well (figuratively speaking.)
I could regale more stories, but to sum up — I always appreciated how well Mike listened, shared his knowledge, and was such a warm and caring friend. I’ll miss him terribly.
My moniker, Booted Harleydude, was inspired by Mike and Stompers Boots. His warm smile, sly wit, and sense of endless fun will sorely be missed.
*Note: 28 pairs of boots were for me; 5 pairs of boots were for my Spouse; 23 pairs of boots were for other men for whom I arranged purchases.
These posts on this blog recount more stories about Stompers and Mike:
Life is short: fondly remember those who made the most profound influences on your life.