At a glance: Leather Works Minnesota is a family-run line of handmade-to-order small leather goods.
Who’s behind the brand? Kent and Lee Begnaud, along with their son Nathan O’Malley and a few other recent additions to the Leather Works Minnesota team – they’re growing quickly!
What do they do? Kent has been a leather crafter since 1976, and in 1999 when the company he worked for relocated to produce their goods in China, he decided to make a go of it on his own, with his family. He started with business with his wife and their son soon joined in, and now they’re designing, creating and distributing hand-crafted leather goods as a part of the American Made movement. Everything they make is charmingly rustic, and that’s not a euphemism for messy. The attention to detail is impeccable and you get the sense that the goods they produce will last a lifetime, if not longer. Each item is made to order, so you’ll have to allow 1-2 weeks for delivery, but that’s just part of what makes them so special.
Exta fun facts about the production process? They have a big swing in the workshop, referred to either as the Creative Design Department or the Research & Development department. When workers get down, tired, frustrated, or just “bucky” as Kent says, “they have to go and swing on it until they get happy again”. They also have a Singer sewing machine that’s over 100 years old – they downloaded the manual from the Smithsonian Institute’s archive!
What materials do they use? They use leather sources from Ohio, California and Red Wing, Minnesota (as in those Red Wing work boots), and try to make use of every single scrap of it – even the leftovers from making belts get used in the toothpick holders. They also use tough and rugged brass and nickel hardware.
Where are they based? They live and work in St. Paul, Minnesota, and their leather is sourced from Ohio, California, and Red Wing, Minnesota.
Bonus feel-good factor? They’re investing in the future of handmade goods as well as in their own success – they train interns though a program run by the Dunwoody College of Technology and The Makers Coalition to become the next generation of industrial sewers and makers.
Editors’ favorites from the line? The amazing braces (that’s suspenders to those of us who aren’t in the know) are what first drew us to Leather Works Minnesota. We haven’t worn suspenders since 6th grade, but are seriously reconsidering now. Likewise, we never knew we needed a solid beautifully crafted key fob until we saw theirs. But now we know. The Cousin Johnny’s Cowboy Wallet (named after, you guessed it, their cousin Johnny) is also a standout piece, we’ve never seen anything like it. Kind of like a magic trick way to store your money. Oh and who doesn’t want a great slingshot?
Where can I get the goods? At their online store. They’re also stocked at quite a number of small boutiques (and cafes!) throughout the U.S. and into Canada as well. Check here for local stockists if you’re interested.
They also participate in the amazing Northern Grade pop-up markets, so if you have a chance you should definitely check those out.