During my stay in Wellington, I stopped by to see Tato Alvarez (right) and his son Santiago (left) at their rapidly expanding shop, Tato’s Mallets. There are several mallet makers who’ve been on the Wellington retail scene longer, but Tato’s is quickly becoming a favorite, thanks to their excellent customer service and gorgeous product.In 2001, Tato’s was basically a 750 square foot workshop. Now it’s 5000 square feet of polo equipment, leather goods and one of the industry’s largest varieties of equine bits. Look at that sweet blue iron.Tato’s Mallets is polo retail mecca. As anyone who plays this crazy sport knows, it’s rare to find a shop dedicated to our sport. Even a polo section in a store catering to horse owners is unusual. So I had to take a moment. And text a fellow club member that they needed to buy some camouflage girth straps (available here in colors ranging from pink to traditional green). The main thing, of course, is the mallets. Everywhere you look, they’re hanging from something, or leaning up against something else.Sensing my mallet fan-girl-ness, Santi offered to give me a tour of the workshop. Even as the slow season draws to a close, Tato’s has a backorder of 800 mallets, despite a staff of nine.Santi tells me that it’s a misconception that mallets are made from bamboo.
“It’s actually cane,” says Santi. “Polo mallets are made from Rattan. There are 900 different type of Rattan, but mallets are made from Manau.”
He ships them from Indonesia, and buys them extra long, so he can choose the best part of the stick and the necessary diameters.
The thicker part of the cane, at the root, is where the handle goes. With a little help from Tato’s skilled workmanship.Repairs are also a huge part of Tato’s business. The shop will splice new cane onto a broken mallet, matching diameter and flexibility, at 30% of the cost of a new mallet.Meanwhile, the heads are made from Tipa wood, found only in northern Argentina and parts of Brazil and Parguay. Santi was tight-lipped on his high profile customers, but he did confirm that Nic Roldan‘s mallets were in for repairs… with the mysterious middle initial E.
Meanwhile, as the store keeps upgrading, don’t expect a Mate bar too soon. Santi, Tato and the gang have waaaay too much work to do. Thanks for the tour, Santi! Have a good season!