all began in 1992, when Mark Staton returned to his home state of Louisiana after
a three-year stint in Papua New Guinea. While there, he lived with his wife and
three children and worked on the world’s largest commercial crocodile
farm. Today, he runs a business, Mark Staton Co., based in Lafayette that deals
mostly in alligator leather goods.
in the isolated and unique culture of Papua New Guinea was an experience Staton
and his family will never forget.
“We made lifelong friendships and memories, and I had my first practical experiences in farming of crocodilians,” Staton says. “I was hired as the technical manager and eventually became the general manager of the Mainland Holdings Crocodile Farm, which was, at the time, the largest commercial crocodile farm in the world. As general manager, I began trading with tanneries and skin buyers around the world. This experience made it possible to continue dealing with tanneries when we returned to the U.S.”
territory and perseverance
set up shop in Lafayette because it was strategically located in the heart of
the state’s alligator-rich marshlands and bayou country and he had a close
connection with the farmers, trappers and skin dealers. Mark Staton Co. now
brings those toothy reptiles’ uniquely textured hides “from the swamp to the
admits it was not easy establishing a new business after they returned from Papua
New Guinea. The U.S. market for alligator skins was flooded and the world
economy was weak and affected by the Gulf War. Determined to start his
own business, he never thought about getting a regular job. It
was with the support of a patient wife, a Ph.D. in alligator biology, feeds and
nutrition, and his experiences in farming and skin trading that provided him
with the ability to establish a variety of consulting and trading accounts, which
led to that start.
Over the years, the business has evolved and there are now a dozen employees. There have also been challenges, including the time the business was flooded in August 2016. Six thousand square feet of office, shop and warehouse were three feet under for a few days, which led to serious property loss in terms of buildings, machinery, inventory, computers, records, etc. – but they forged on.
Pride and purpose
alligator market has also changed, but Staton says this has only led to new
opportunities for the company, including product manufacturing.
years, we’ve helped local Louisiana alligator hunters get their skins
tanned. We now get their products made or make them ourselves,” he says. “Our
production team of eight leather workers has developed a good set of leather-working
skills, of course with special emphasis on alligator leather and products for
hunters with their own skins, private label for designers, and to consumers in
the Lafayette market who know us. We’ve always tried to stay away from the
markets and customers served by our skin customers.”
for its core clients, Staton says, “We sell to small guys like us.”
company takes time to listen to what their customers are looking for and figures
out how they can best fill their alligator needs, keeping in mind their
finished project and budget. They primarily sell in the U.S. and have
sold to customers in almost every state.
alligator skins and products are enjoyed and used by satisfied customers from
every walk of life, from ‘ordinary Joes’ and billionaires to movie stars and
royalty,” Staton says.
local hides are sent away to be tanned, and then shipped back glazed in
eye-popping pinks, purples and greens as well as more subdued greens, blacks
and browns. In the creation of everything from purses and wallets to belts and
bowties, employees choose the areas of the hides that will best highlight the
texture of the skin and provide design elements that customers crave. One hide
can produce a smorgasbord of items for a customer: from purses and belts to
phone cases, shoes and even baseballs.
asked what he enjoys most about the business, Staton says he really has a
passion for seeing and being a part of beautiful things made from a natural
have raw salted alligator skins arrive at our back door on the measuring table,
and leave through the front door as beautiful finished alligator skins or
alligator skin products,” he says. “There are few people in this country who do
exactly what we do and we believe what sets us apart is our customer service
and knowledge of the alligator skins.”
Staton’s team has more than 100 years combined experience in handling alligator skins as raw skins, leather and products.
All in the family
aside, Staton says his greatest success has been raising a wonderful
family while following his dreams along the path of a fairly
wife, Allison, and our three daughters, literally followed me to the opposite
side of the Earth and back,” he says. “Our family now includes three son-in-laws
and seven grandchildren. All the credit goes to Allison; the only
thing I did was choose the right wife!”
the family that moves together, works together. Allison works in the family
business alongside their daughter, Karin Marie Herbert, who handles office administration,
and her husband Clint Herbert, the sales and marketing manager. Three of
Staton’s grandchildren also spent their first years hanging around the shop,
though Staton jokes they didn’t get much work done.
hopes the business will continue to grow and evolve and says that every year
brings unpredictable changes. But because they’re small, diversified and
adaptable, he believes they’ll meet the challenges head on.
a small business. We all do what we need to do to make things run,” he
says. “If you’re a manufacturer, designer, retailer or consumer, we’re the
one-stop alligator source for you.”
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