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Hemlock & Hyde Produces Quality, Ethically Made Leather Goods

By , August 6, 2019

Name: Nick & Leanne Polidore
Occupation: Owners & Designers
Company: Hemlock & Hyde

High-quality, locally sourced and ethically produced leather goods – that’s what you get when you make a purchase from Hemlock and Hyde. Founded by husband and wife team Nick and Leanne Polidore, Hemlock and Hyde came into being when a good friend of the couple gifted them with $3,000 worth of vintage hides that were destined for a landfill. After a few personal design experiments with this new material, the company was born.

Once Leanne and Nick made the decision to go into business, they knew eventually they would run out of the vintage hides and would have to purchase something new. They chose to work only with vegetable-tanned leather. Veg-tanned leather is tanned using tannins extracted from vegetable matter as opposed to the chemicals that are used in chrome tanning. The veg-tanning process is slower, but it leads to a higher quality of leather – and Leanne and Nick wouldn’t settle for anything less!

LAUREN: You and your husband started this business together. What role does each of you play in running the business?
LEANNE: We both work on the design side. He designs the men’s line mostly and I design the women’s line mostly. He tends to design more of the wax canvas bags that we carry, and I design more of the leather. We do a combination of both. I work more on the design end [because of] my personal background [in design], and because of his love of business, he [works] more on the business end.

L: What was the impetus for starting for the business?
L: A good friend of ours was a manager at a big-name shoe company. The window display people had set up a really cool display of all these vintage hides. [After the season ended] the team came back in to take the hides down and our friend Ben asked, “What do you do with all of this stuff when you’re done with it?” They replied, “We’re just going to throw it out.” And he was like, “Wait, really? Because I know someone who might want those.” He was able to get about $3,000 worth of vintage hides that he gifted to us. He knew that I really loved to sew and was in to fashion.

I guess we sat on those hides for two or three years just making things for ourselves. And then this one winter I decided, “You know what? I’m going to work with some of that leather.” I made a leather catchall and Nick saw me doing that and said, “You know what? I’m going to make some wallets.” He made some awesome wallets. [That was when] he decided, “We could really do something with this.”

We were both working full time jobs at the time, so it was very much a side hustle. We slowly grew our little business and we decided to do our first show and we made $500. This opened up our eyes that we could do something with this if we put more time and effort into it.

L: What do you think is the biggest factor in the success of your business?

L: First, I think it’s our design aesthetic. Nick and I are extremely visual people. We both went to school for illustration. I think the design is the first thing that catches people’s eye. It’s not just the design of our bags. It’s the design of our website. It’s our photography – Nick does all of our photography.

And then [second], I think it’s the story behind it. It’s the fact that everything that we create and all the materials that we use are from the United States. Most of it is from PA, too. We try to keep a very small carbon footprint. I think that’s what makes our bags different from just any bag that you might buy at Target.

L: What is the biggest challenge you encountered in starting your business and how did you overcome it?

L: Marketing! That was where we were struggling at the beginning. We had cool designs and great feedback from people who saw it. We knew we had something good, but how would we get that out into the rest of the world? Really, marketing it toward the right people has been the most difficult part. I think we’ve finally hit our stride on Instagram, which is our main point of marketing. We’ve really started to make a name for ourselves.

L: Which style is the most popular with customers, and which style is your personal favorite?

L: The circle cross-body bag is our number one seller. My favorite is the half circle dowel bag. I think it’s the most unique and it’s the purse that I personally use the most. It’s very stylish and you can actually fit quite a bit in it. You can use it as either a should bag or a clutch.

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