Credit: Andrea Bauer

When you walk beneath the reared-up fiberglass horse that’s attached to Alcala’s glitzy sign, it takes no more than a couple seconds for the smell of leather to slap you across the face. The feeble glass doors fronting the 42-year-old western-wear palace just don’t stand a chance against the cumulative scent of thousands upon thousands of boots—ranging from alligator to snakeskin to motorcycle. Levi’s and Wranglers are meticulously folded and packed in rows of cubbies as far as the eye can see, available in every size and style imaginable. The 5,000 cowboy hats, stacked floor to ceiling, pretty much command the store’s entire west wing. And there are plenty of weird directions to go with the glass case full of belt buckles (a Derringer pistol or a maniacal Bozo?). Founded by the late Luis A. Alcala, who passed away earlier this year at the age of 92, the store can also pride itself on its customer service: during my recent visit I overheard a very patient employee on the phone carefully detailing the not-so-complicated route to the store.