NEWS

Leather company returning textile work to Fall River

Jay Pateakos

Once the textile and manufacturing capital of the region, Fall River has long been left in the dust by companies moving operations overseas. But a new leather manufacturer recently opened is looking to reverse that trend. 

Lotuff & Clegg just went live with its newly formed business this week in an old mill building on Ace Street in Fall River. The company’s new line of locally made, handcrafted leather goods includes briefcases, messenger bags, satchels, weekend valises, totes, Dopp kits, duffels and portfolios.

Co-owners Joe Lotuff and Frank Clegg are both part of a multi-generational manufacturing family. The two had made a business for decades in doing contract leather manufacturing for other companies. But as time went on, quality would be the first thing out the door and price would become the only concern.

“We got together a few years ago and talked about creating a company and a product the way it should be made,” said Lotuff. “Things have changed for the consumers and they are looking for things that are less dispensable, They are keeping things and repairing them instead of continuing to go back to Walmart for another one.”

Clegg said each part of the every bag is crafted by hand, and each unit takes hours to complete, painstakingly focusing on the smallest details of each corner. There is a lifetime guarantee on their products.

“We’re doing stuff we’ve always wanted to do, except in here, I’m not doing everything. We all have shared responsibilities,” said Clegg.

The partners employ three full-time workers at their privately funded company.

“We don’t design things to be made quickly, we design them to be made to last. It’s a labor of love for us, and we hope it will turn into something more,” Clegg said.

As a Fall River native living in Swansea, Clegg said Fall River was his only choice for a location.

“Fall River in particular has a very rich history in leathercraft and prospered for many years during the heyday of this industry,” said Clegg.

“We want to keep it here, not go overseas. Sending it overseas means you lose control of the product, and here we monitor all parts of the process.” 

Clegg referred to the work done decades ago by LL Bean, who created a boot and repaired them when they broke and perfected the boot until he got it right.

“This is a new way of doing things, but it’s also a very old way,” said Clegg. “The love and passion that goes into these handcrafted products versus products that are mass produced overseas makes a tangible difference. You can see it, smell it, touch it. Our vision here is to create items of lasting value.”

Lotuff said he feels a “revitalization” of manufacturing coming back to the states, with people focusing more than ever on things that last. He said eliminating multiple layers of middlemen by selling their items on its www.lcleatherworks.com Web site, they are able to provide quality items for hundreds of dollars less than in stores or outlets. Prices range from $250 to $1,200.

Lotuff said he hopes to one day expand the operation to other buildings and hire additional workers to keep the product going. The pair plan to keep designing and building new products as they go along.

“I hate to begin this company with a rant, but we are sick of everything going overseas or the waste we see in people buying things that end up in the landfill,” said Lotuff. “This is a product that is made in America and we plan to keep it here and build it here. We know there are people out there looking for a good product. This may be a way of doing things that you don’t see anymore, but we’re bringing it back.”

“We’ll expand,” Clegg added, “but only if the product stays the way we are making it now.”

E-mail Jay Pateakos atjpateakos@heraldnews.com.