Early leather tanning required tannins from tree bark. And, one of the best trees for tannins was the Eastern Hemlock. In the mid 1800s, one of the largest reserves of Eastern Hemlock trees grew right here in Northern Michigan.
One of the largest tanneries in Michigan was the Michigan Tanning & Extract Company in Petoskey. Our Founders’ great-grandfather worked for them in the early 1900s.
The late 1800s brought the advent of chemical tanning processes and eventually the decline of vegetable-based tanning. As the tanneries left Northern Michigan, they took with them a piece of our history. A history tied to craftsmanship, quality, and a deep connection to this special place, the waters that surround it, and the forests that thrive here.
Today, many companies use chemical-tanned leather because it is faster and cheaper. At Great Lakes Leather and Cloth, we are committed to using leather tanned through the old method of natural, vegetable tanning that was so important to this region. We are proud to continue the long history of craftsmanship and leather goods that is unique to this place.
We also love partnering with local retailers, wineries, breweries and other businesses to help you tell your brand’s story through leather. From custom-branded pint glass sleeves to wine totes, you’ll find our products in several local venues.
About the Founders
We come from a long line of textile craftsmen. We grew up on the cutting room floor of our grandfather’s and later our father’s clothing stores in Indiana. They took pride in every item they sold and that same commitment to quality drives us
Today, we design and make leather goods from our facility in Traverse City, just south of where our great-grandfather was part of this region’s leather tanning industry over 100 years ago.
Heritage is important to us and we feel that shows in the products we create. We hope you will find that same sense of pride and place in owning a piece from Great Lakes Leather and Cloth.