ALBION — The smell of leather and large tables covered in various leather working products and materials greet customers when they first enter Sharon Sellers’ boutique, Sharon’s Leathers.
She has been making various leather goods for nearly 35 years to the delight of her customers, and pictures of some of her favorite completed projects hang around her business.
Sellers, now 76, started small in 1987 while still employed at Fisher in Marshalltown. She began making vests and other leather pieces and selling them at motorcycle rallies as a member of the Christian Motorcyclists Association (CMA).
Making leather garments while simultaneously working at Fisher was sometimes a challenge, but Sellers balanced them for seven or eight years. Eventually, she was laid off and she dove into leather working full time.
“We would go to a lot of motorcycle rallies and set up and I had two 10-by-20 tents that I set up,” Sellers said. “I never imagined it would be what it is right now.”
At gatherings, vendors would showcase his work and take orders. She measured the person for the specific garment requested, then assembled the custom piece at her home after the rally. These items would then be available for the customer to pick up, or the sellers would ship the item to a provided address.
As a result, the business was able to grow organically, and on top of that, salespeople loved the personal connection she developed with her customers.
“I don’t advertise because I don’t have to. It’s just word of mouth. Motorcycle rallies have helped tremendously to spread the word and everything,” she said. “Meeting people has been my favorite part. I enjoy meeting them so much.
At one point the vendors even employed three part-time helpers to help fill orders during peak periods, but about three years ago the vendors stopped attending gatherings due to the heavy workload they needed.
“My business went down. I was out there making money on the road and when you’re not on the road making money it’s going to go down, but I’m still making a lot of money,” a- she declared.
She still works a few hours a week in her backyard store, filling orders for vests, jackets, leggings and even doing repair work for customers. Reducing her hours was both a personal choice – so she had more time to do the things she wanted – and due to poor health she has been experiencing recently.
Despite this, she said she’s “still going strong.”
“I had a ball, really. I really enjoyed doing that,” Sellers said. “I thank the Lord every day that I am able to do this.”
Sharon’s Leathers is located at 507 N. Dubuque St. in Albion, and the business is in the outhouse behind the house.