Western & English Today

SOURCE 17

W&E Today provides retailers and manufacturers with education and ideas that provoke innovation in the Western and English markets.

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44 Western & English Today EDITOR'S PICK I n the summer, magnificent scenery and nice weather draws big crowds to northern Minnesota's Itasca State Park. So naturally nearby Lake George seemed the perfect place for a souvenir stand. But come winter, icy temperatures keeps the crowds at bay, so shop owner Mardel Bents began handcraing leather moccasins in the off season to stock the stand and pass the time. When deciding to retire in 2012, Bents passed the company reins to Paul Kirkman, an entrepreneur who'd tired of city life and headed north to the lake community. Under Kirkman, the company, now known as Itasca Leathergoods, continues Bents' tradition of handcraed leather footwear but has continued to grow, taking on an accessories line and a national audience. It's the hand-sewn and home-grown qualities of Itasca Leathergoods, that sets the company apart, Kirkman says. at and the adventurous varieties of leathers utilized, including elk, moose, and buffalo. "We've carved out a huge market for what we consider to be premium leathers." Unique colors are also a selling point, but comfort is paramount. "We get positive response on the color combinations, bright festive colors that just feel and look different than anything else that's out there, and a second thing that we hear over and over again is the extreme comfort," Kirkman says. "We hear things like 'better version of barefoot' or 'feels like I'm wearing socks,' and yet, these moccasins are intended to be worn outside." Coming in 2017 is a new crepe rubber-soled design that adds additional weather protection. www.itascaleathergoods.com ITASCA LEATHER EMPIRE

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