A Bit of History
Meet Peg Larabell; craftswoman, bee enthusiast, inventor.
In the mid 1970’s, craving the satisfaction of working with her hands, Peg started a small custom leather-goods business in Neenah, Wisconsin. She began making belts, bags, shoes and boots. She relished finishing her leather goods with stains and oils similar to the ones she used when she helped her dad with woodworking projects. In addition to her small leather goods business, Peg began keeping bees. Fascinated with honey, honey comb, and bee culture, she was soon providing friends and family with an abundance of honey. She was also collecting a fair amount of beeswax, a by-product of honey extraction.
In 1978, newly married and ready for adventure, Peg packed up her old Singer industrial sewing machine and moved to the Flambeau River State Forest in north-western Wisconsin. The area had been devastated the year before by a severe windstorm called the Independence Day Derecho of 1977. It produced recorded wind speeds of up to 115 mph and damaged nearly 850,000 acres of hardwood forest. The blowdown had attracted loggers and Peg began using her leather working skills to repair work boots and chopper mitts for the lumberjacks who had come to clear the woods.
It was so cold and snowy during the winter of ‘78-‘79 that Peg says “deer left the woods and walked in the road.” While she repaired loggers’ leather gear she searched for a simple and non-toxic way to keep their boots and mitts dry in the harsh cold and wet of the north woods. In an old book on leathercraft she came across a reference to a paste made from a combination of Neatsfoot Oil (an oil extracted from the shin bones and feet of cattle) and Beeswax as a trusted method for conditioning and waterproofing leather.
Unfortunately, no recipe was listed.
Peg began experimenting with pure Neatsfoot Oil and the beeswax she had saved from her beekeeping days. After some trial and error she hit upon the perfect proportions. The result was an oil and wax paste that was easy to apply, non-toxic, and extremely effective in waterproofing footwear. It also created a beautiful patina on the undyed, natural, vegetable-tanned leather products she was making.
People loved her leather paste.
Soon she was making it for family, friends, and loggers in the area.
As the demands of life, marriage, and children mounted, Peg set aside leathercraft and beekeeping.
In the mid-1980s she decided to go back to school and moved to Madison to attend the University of Wisconsin – School of Law. She became a practicing attorney, focusing on union side labor law and employee benefits.
After about a dozen or so years, her love of craft prevailed. Peg apprenticed with a Madison cobbler and found her calling. Immersed in the world of shoes and leather care, she once again found herself in need of a waterproofing product. It needed to be easy to use and free of petroleum additives (which Peg now understood could break down the glue bond on many types of footwear).
She found nothing on the market that met her standards.
Peg began to produce her old leather paste again. She made it in small batches in her kitchen and packed it in silver tins. She printed the round labels on her home computer and cut out each one by hand.
She used the shoe paste in the shop and offered tins of it for sale. Customers loved it.
In 2006 Peg opened her own shoe repair shop, Eastside Shoe Repair, in Madison, WI. She continued to put her leather paste to the test, using it in-house to winterize customers’ shoes and boots.
She also used it on smooth leather items that needed restoration or conditioning. Baseball gloves, riding equipment, belts, wallets, and bike saddles all got the treatment and looked beautiful. Customers started asking Peg what she was using to make their beloved leather look so good and where they could get some leather paste of their own.
Word got out and “Eastside Shoe Paste” started flying off the shelves. In 2008 Peg began making larger batches to keep up with demand.
Isthmus article about the MooBuzz® Leather Protection early days by David Medaris
In 2011 Peg applied for a trademark for MooBuzz® All-Natural Leather Protection – the new name for her old product that comes from cattle and bees.
Thirdstreet Leather and Shoeworks became the new “Home of MooBuzz®” until Peg retired from shoe repair in 2018.