holtz leather

A&E Asks a Retailer: Rick Holtz of Holtz Leather

Holtz Leather is a personalization shop located in Huntsville, Alabama. They specialize in handcrafted leather wallets, journals, belts, and travel items with other focuses in custom gifts, drinkware, and the corporate market. Here, Owner Rick Holtz answers a few questions about the business and offers insight on a successful customization business.

What did the founders see in this opportunity?

We have offered personalization from the very beginning. It’s one of the key aspects that sets us apart. We see personalization as a chance to offer our customers so much more than just a product. When you add personalization to one of our fine leather goods, it makes a gift so much more meaningful.

What is your shop’s backstory?                                                        

Holtz Leather was started after suffering through some of the lowest points in our lives. Over the course of five years, we lost an established business, had our cars repossessed, had to short sell our home, were sued multiple times, had our health insurance revoked, suffered through the pain of four miscarriages, were evicted from a rental property, and ended up nearly living in our car. Just weeks away from eviction, my wife, Coleen, stumbled on a new idea. 

With some borrowed equipment and some late nights, we launched a small Etsy shop selling wedding gift-centered products. To our amazement it worked! Immediately, we were taking in multiple orders and a lost joy began to take root in our family once again. The storm finally began to subside, and now Holtz Leather is four years old. 

What does a typical day look like in your shop?

Our work day normally starts a little before 8 a.m. when our managers come in to get things set for the workday. Throughout the workday, the hum of machines and voices fill the workshop. We value the close-knit nature of our team and the conversations. 

While marketing meetings are being held in our conference room, there is bound to be a couple of our kids working on their homeschooling work. 

What do the majority of your orders look like?

Almost every single order that leaves our shop is personalized. No matter how big or small, our customers greatly value leather goods that are personalized. That could be initials on a wallet, a secret message inside one of our belts, or a last name on our journal that can be handed down for generations.

What is the biggest challenge to running a personalization business?

Keeping up with demand. Though many fads come and go, personalization seems to stay consistent. Whenever you can take a quality product and add personalization it instantly becomes so much more meaningful.

What is your shop’s philosophy for success?

Success for Holtz Leather is being faithful stewards of what the Lord has so richly blessed us with. This means doing our very best in every aspect of our business from only using full-grain, all-American leather to the extreme precision with which we stitch each piece. Even our packaging is carefully and intentionally designed to provide the best customer experience possible. 

How do you plan to grow your business?

By continuing to do what we have done from the beginning: handcrafting fine leather goods right here in Alabama with the best materials possible while staying true to our values through it all. 

Shifting gears… Why use full-grain leather?

We use full grain leather because it is the highest quality and has the most character! We love the “imperfections” in the hide: bug bites, scars, stretch marks, and sometimes even brands. 

From a business’s perspective, what is the draw?

Really, it’s the same reasons – the quality is the best. We stand behind our product because we know the quality it brings to the table, and that starts with getting the best hides. 

What is the general process of debossing leather?

We use an old- school type font, heat it up to about 400 F, and then press it into the leather. This not only physically imprints the characters, but also burns them in. 

How has the market for customization changed throughout the business's history?

If anything, we think it’s grown! People love stories, they love to take pride in their family name, and they love advertising their brand. The ability to put initials or names in our product is a big deal – and a logo is no exception! 

What do you think contributes to these changes?

The maker movement obviously helps. People love branded goods but are shifting toward a more unique gifting experience. We don’t sell mass-produced goods from another country with a printed logo; we sell high-quality, hand-crafted goods that will stand the test of time.

What does it take to run a successful business in a booming industry? 

For us, we feel that flexibility is one of the biggest keys to success. The industry changes so fast, so you have to be thinking ahead.

Can you offer any tips on how to keep up?

Be willing to try new things, and more importantly, be willing to redirect them if/when they don't work. Think outside the box!

What training opportunities do you offer your staff to learn the technologies used at Holtz Leather?

We taught ourselves how to do everything around here, so training manuals have been created based off of our real-life experience and years’ worth of trial and error. Our new hires get hands-on training that is specific to their department and our shop. 

What future do you envision for the personalization industry?

Continued growth! More businesses or organizations open every year, and most of them will have logos that would look amazing on some leather.