By Megan Wadding
When John Humphreys, openly gay founder of the Texas Rover Company, was a child growing up in the small Texas town of El Campo, little did he know that his boyhood passion for tinkering would lead to the career he has today.
According to his website, the Texas Rover Company (which recently relocated from Houston to Austin) produces quality goods for the modern adventurer with an appreciation for the past, while being almost entirely Texas-sourced.
Humphreys, who calls himself self-taught, said he spent his childhood in El Campo and Austin trying to figure out how things fit together. “As a kid, I was always tearing things apart, rebuilding them, and looking at how they worked,” he explains. “I built some tables on my own out of steel pipes and wood.”
His inquisitive nature continued to grow as he got older and began to apply his talents. He eventually developed his concept for a company that would provide goods to the modern consumer inspired by classic world explorers from the last few centuries.
Humphreys, who was born in Houston, said he found the inspiration for his creations during his own world travels. “I was on a plane, and I just started sketching,” he recalls. “I ended up with about 10 things on the page, which eventually started the line of products that would become Texas Rover Company.”
The Humphrey Chair
In 2005, Humphreys made the move to Houston with the intention of bringing his idea to fruition. The Texas Rover Company was founded six years later, and the first product they designed and produced was the Humphrey Chair.
Humphreys was originally thinking about creating a portable beach chair when a friend showed him a chair he had found in South Africa years earlier. Humphreys immediately loved its folding design, and he now refers to the Humphrey Chair as a “recreation” of that classic 1800s design. “There are similar chairs on the market, but we’ve made one that is more refined and beautiful than anyone else,” Humphreys says.
Alongside the Humphrey Chair, which has been on the market since 2014, the Texas Rover Company currently offers three other products—a leather travel case, a leather kit, and a leather bag.
Humphreys prides himself on the fact that the materials used to create the products are almost entirely sourced from within Texas, and everything is assembled entirely within the state. The wood for the Humphrey Chair is a native Texas pecan wood that has been reclaimed from a large power-line project in Wharton. “I thought it was special to use that [wood] because we are a Texas company,” Humphreys explains. “It’s very beautiful wood. It has a beautiful pattern that comes from
being aged and left outside just long enough.”
The bolts, steel, leather, and other pieces needed for the products also come from the Lone Star State. “We hand-select from a pile of leather hides and decide which can be used,” explains Humphreys.
The manufacturing of the products is a Texas-driven effort as well, with leather work from El Paso, steel from Lockhart, and processed wood from El Campo.
The Texas Rover Company aims to make beautiful products with a “chic, modern aesthetic” that are useful in the modern home, with an emphasis on designs inspired from other cultures he’s experienced through his travels. “I really love the idea of [discovering and interacting with] indigenous cultures, and appreciating who they are and what they do.”
Humphreys calls this a “Texas without borders” attitude.
Keeping in mind that some customers may choose to use the products outdoors, Humphreys finishes the chairs in such a way that the wood is protected against moisture and the leather can withstand exposure to the elements. “I think our typical customer will use [our products] indoors,” says Humphreys. “But they can get wet and will be fine.”
Being touted as “heirloom” products, each of the pieces is designed to last for generations. Humphreys has four of them in his own home.
Goals for the future
Since the move to Austin in September, Humphreys continues to look at the continued evolution of the company. “Texas Rover is a growing company. We’re very forward-thinking,” Humphreys says.
Humphreys plans on expanding the Texas Rover brand in the future to include many other household products inspired by the world’s indigenous cultures, including a sofa, linens, and pillows.
As the company continues to grow and move into unchartered territory, Humphreys remains excited. “[I hope to continue] furthering the vision and hopefully inspire people to be more understanding of the world we live in, and to have a sustainable life,” he says.
For more information, visit texasrover.com.
Megan Wadding is a freelance writer and travel addict with a B.A. in journalism. Follow her on Twitter at @meganwadding.