Founded in 2012: Gallipolis, Ohio
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
Aaron Buckley, 29. Im a husband, father of 2 and a business man.
When was your brand founded?
We started in early 2011 but we became legit on paper in late 2012 with River City Leather LLC. Earlier this year we started River City Mfg. Co. and bought out the 45 year established shoe repair shop in our small town, B&E Shoe Service.
What’s the story behind your brand?
Needed something to keep me busy while I was laid up from a motorcycle crash. Bugged the local shoe repair and custom leather shop B&E Shoe Service to let me work in there for free (eventually turning into a small part time paid job). Learned a lot and had a major interest in making products that were simple yet serviceable like a good boot or shoe. Made my wife a tote for her birthday one year and the brand kind of took its own direction after that. Now we do small to medium scale manufacturing and promotional products for other brands and businesses. We also have a retail store front and own B&E Shoe Service that I apprenticed at.
What was your biggest challenge starting your brand from scratch?
Keeping up with orders. Our demand far exceeded our manpower and equipment from a very early stage in our business. Finding ways to produce goods faster and still have a quality product is something we have to deal with on a daily basis. Learning about new equipment and sewing machines that can cut time down, organization within the shop and understanding workflow throughout the various stages. These are all things that help and are refined and tweaked throughout the shop all the time. Most of what we do is self taught or learning from other business people and learning how to take advice makes a huge difference.
What does being successful mean to you and your brand?
It’s a sign that there is a more educated consumer out there. We aren’t unique in the message, style or quality of product we make. There are several amazing brands out there and we capture a small part of that shared market. The more people realize that buying a belt from Wal-Mart 6 times a year is still like buying one $120 belt. Do the research and educate yourself before dropping money on anything. I’m glad to see we have a large repeat customer base who knows how to spend their money.
Has starting your own brand changed your outlook as a consumer buying into another brand?
I think as a consumer I have always been foolish in wanting things I couldn’t afford. So I would buy a knock off or something that was cheap but looked the part. Huge waste of money and I saw things that I thought were cool but made horribly just fail or not do what it was supposed to. I have always bought good tools ever since my Step Father bought me my first Estwing Hammer. Once I realized that everything we buy is a tool It made me a little more cautious in what I would spend my money on. I chose to spend my money on something I knew I wouldn’t need to buy again or that I wouldn’t need to reinvest in for a long time.
What’s your next plans for your brand?
We want to build the B&E side of the business to showcase what can be done with shoes most people would just disregard. I have had boots resoled 6 or 7 times before buying another pair. My Allen Edmonds I got married in were given to me by a friend who picked them up at a thrift store. I’ve resoled them 3 times now and they still look and feel great. I am more interested in function and comfort in my shoes. I have a bad leg and I have to switch up my shoes a lot throughout the week. I mostly where a Vibram Christy wedge sole on my boots. They are as comfortable as a sneaker, they sit great on a set of motorcycle foot pegs and I think they look top notch. We are working on some leather combo wedge soles that I think are going to wear amazing. A lot of people have an odd walk that causes the shoes to wear uneven. This is a sign of other problems like a leg being slightly shorter than the other or a slightly favored leg from an injury. We recommend people see a podiatrist but sometimes a small lift or wedge can really help someone with their shoes. Our shoes are a big part of our lives and I think people don’t pay enough attention to them.
What are some other challenges or difficulties you’ve ran into while building your brand?
Customer understanding of what a leather product is. A lot of our customers buy a bag then fall in love with how it breaks in and will continue to last for them. We have had issues in the past with people not understanding that a good quality leather will change with age and we just try to handle quality or any concerns with the utmost respect to the customer. We sell a real leather product that will fade, stain, and wear, but its going to last and all of that is part of it. An educated customer knows all of this and is excited about it.
What does “USA Made” mean to you?
Its a label. I have bought a ton of stuff made in the USA that is utter crap. It takes a lot of equipment and supplies to run a business like this. If I killed myself to buy only made in USA products I would fail immediately. I think we have become a little arrogant to think that goods made in other countries can’t be as good as what we do here in the US. It simply isn’t true. I appreciate the sentiment of USA made and I hope that we can become the country that people turn to for quality made products again, but we have a little ways to go. It still means something to me though, as a consumer, and I seek it out when it makes sense. USA made means a better economy and is a step in the right direction for our country and we desperately need that.