COLUMBUS — River City Leather held is grand opening for a new retail store in Columbus at the Polaris Fashion Place Saturday with celebratory music, drinks and building of leather bags for newcomers and friends to view.
The Gallipolis business has become known for its leather totes, belts, wallets, shoe repair and more in southeast Ohio.
According to husband-and-wife duo proprietors Aaron and Erin Buckley, they did not have much time to put together a plan for the new location but everything seemed to fall into place as they pushed forward with the effort. The pair said the Polaris leasing director reached out to them in late June of this year in a search for handcrafted items and merchants focused on personalized goods to fill locations in the Polaris shopping area as the marketplace explores the future of American malls.
“We literally had like (a little over 30 days),” said Aaron, “to get everything figured out. We really couldn’t have gotten it all done without our employees and branding agency.”
“We decided for 2018 we were going to take every opportunity,” said Erin. “We have done a lot of traveling to shows (to display and discuss their leatherworking business) to DC, Boston and New York.”
Erin said she and her husband had previously explored opportunities to create a shop in Columbus a year ago but they were also attempting to keep up with growing demand for their products and meet orders for footwear repair with the B & E Shoe Repair division of the business.
“(The leasing director) had been following us through social media,” said Aaron.
Erin said, “I feel really good about (the opening).”
Erin said the store where the new River City Leather location opened was once a shoe store she had worked in roughly a decade ago. The Gallipolis location of River City Leather has around 12 employees and the new Polaris location has around five. Aaron said a lot of River City Leather’s online sales come from the Columbus area already.
“Bill Stapleton (owned) B & E Shoe Services and (had) since 1969,” said Aaron in an interview with Ohio Valley Publishing in July 2015. “Steve, his son, has worked there since he was 15. I started bugging him until he let me work there. He said no at first, but I just kept coming back and hanging out until he said yes. So I started shining shoes and cleaning shoes and picking stitches. Eventually, I started making a few of my own things. That year, I made my wife a leather tote bag for her birthday. We posted a picture on (social media) and we sold like two or three that week to friends. It worked out really well. It kinda took off on its own.”
Aaron stated that he worked for GKN Sinter Metals for a time while continuing to do leatherwork on the side with support from his wife. Aaron stated the pair’s first leather working shop was out of he and his wife’s home. They eventually ended up working out of a shed. Once they grew out of the shed, they worked in a shop on 2nd Avenue in Gallipolis, close to the current location of Envy Ink Tattoos.
“That was our little shop. It was like 17 by 13 feet,” Aaron previously said. “It worked out great at first. And then in September 2013, I quit my job at GKN and went full-time with River City Leather. We started the actual business in 2012.”
The pair would eventually renovate the old Parkfront Diner on Second Avenue and find a new home for River City Leather in Gallipolis and purchase B & E Shoe Repair, combining businesses but still keeping a separation in branding and work activities. River City Leather will lease its location in Polaris into the end of the year.
Currently, River City Leather is beginning to focus its River City brand for ladies while its B & E products, aside from continuing shoe repair, will focus on creating men’s products.
Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2103.