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Hot leather, cool to the touch
in business pic
Juan Montes displays one of his custom-made Hot Heads Leather firefighter helmets. - photo by JAYDEEP BHATIA / The Journal

Name of business: Hot Heads Leather

Type of business: Custom leather goods

Location: 2753 Explorer Way, Turlock

Hours of operation: Varies

Contact info: 535-1912

History of business: When veteran Turlock firefighter Juan Montes isn’t putting out fires, he’s working on another passion — making leather goods.

Having always been a fan of working with his hands, Montes started working with leather in 2008, when he noticed that the helmet shields he and his fellow firefighters used weren't of the highest quality.

“We wanted something nice,” said Montes. "So, I said to myself ‘I think I can do that.'" 

Montes then embarked on his first leather project, a custom shield for a member of the Turlock fire department. The shield was a hit, and Montes’ leather work was starting to catch fire, with orders moving from helmet shields, to suspenders, wallets, and eventually even axe holders.

Despite the growing number of orders, Montes continues to fly solo on his home hobby leather venture, stating that he would love to hire help, but he doesn’t want to lose the custom feel that he puts into every project. One of Montes’ favorite projects is a leather shield he made for his daughter, complete with pink stitching.

Along with working with leather for his business venture, Montes said he also prefers the product when fighting fires.

“The fire department used to use only leather because it wouldn’t burn and would resist the heat,” said Montes. “I still wear a leather helmet.”

Last year, Montes made the switch from a home based hobby to an actual licensed business. He’s hoping to expand, but with the full time gig fighting real fires, he has to put leather on the backburner.

Currently, members of the Ceres, Turlock and Patterson fire departments are all using Hot Head Leather goods. Montes credits his quality, customization and lifetime guarantee to why more and more people are opting to use his goods rather than cheaper plastic versions.

“I warranty my stuff for life,” said Montes.

Business specialty: Hot Head Leather specializes in custom-made leather goods ranging from fire fighting shields to wallets and everything in between. Each order is custom made and comes with a lifetime guarantee.