Tandy Leather Factory

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Tandy Leather Factory, Inc
Industry Retail
Headquarters Fort Worth, Texas, USA
Products Leather, Leatherworking
Website http://www.tandyleatherfactory.com

Tandy Leather Factory, Inc. is a specialty retailer and wholesale distributor of a broad line of products that includes leather, leatherworking tools, buckles and adornments for belts, leather dyes and finishes, saddle and tack hardware, and do-it-yourself kits.[1] Originally part of the Tandy Corporation, Tandy Leather has gone through a series of acquisitions and mergers, eventually being sold to The Leather Factory in 2000. Currently Tandy Leather Factory has over 100 stores worldwide and serves as a major supplier of leather and leatherworking supplies for hobbyists, cosplay, art programs, and Do It Yourself projects.[2] Its headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas is also the home of the Al and Ann Stohlman Museum.

The Origin of Tandy Leather[edit]

Tandy Leather began as a family-owned leather goods company based in Fort Worth, Texas in 1919. Norton Hinckley and Dave L. Tandy partnered to start the Hinckley-Tandy Leather Company and concentrated their efforts on selling sole leather and other supplies to shoe repair dealers in Texas. During World War II, civilian leather rationing prompted the company to move towards leatherworking as a hobby, which gave the company supply priority by providing for the armed forces. [3]

Dave's son, Charles Tandy, joined the business after returning from the war in 1948. He had been tracking the growth of leathercraft through correspondence with his father and wanted to put more focus on this industry. Among his first moves was the opening of the first two retail stores in 1950 specializing exclusively in leathercraft. Norton Hinckley did not agree with the transition and the founders came to an agreement where the company split and Hickley would continue in the shoe findings industry. [4]

Tandy Leather relied heavily on its formula of mail order sales, however the venture made a 100 percent return on investment the first year. The do-it-yourself movement was gaining significant momentum with consumer goods shortages and high labor costs and Tandy had $2.9 million in sales and opened 15 stores within the first two years. The following decade was filled with rapid growth through the continuous opening of new stores and the acquisition of other handicraft companies. By 1961, Tandy Leather was operating 125 stores in 105 cities of the United States and Canada and the company name was changed to Tandy Corporation.[5] In 1963, Tandy Corporation acquired management control of the Radio Shack Corporation and, after two years, Charles Tandy had turned the company's $4 million loss in to a profit. During that time of recovery, the Tandy Corporation purchased common stock until they owned 85% of the outstanding Radio Shack common stock.[6]

In 1975, the Tandy Corporation Board of Directors announced a plan to separate Tandy's businesses into three distinct publicly held companies. The two new companies would be named Tandycrafts, Inc. and Tex Tan-Hickok, Inc. This plan was publicized as a strategy to provide intensive leadership and tailored management of the three distinct and diverse businesses of the company, each of which recently had reached a substantial size. With this transition, Radio Shack and Tandy Leather Company were no longer under the same corporate umbrella.[7]

The Beginning of The Leather Factory[edit]

Wray Thompson was promoted to President of Tandy Leather Company in 1976 and Dave Ferrill was promoted to the position of National Sales Manager; they oversaw 288 stores. Ron Morgan was promoted to the Eastern Divisional VP in 1977. Although they opened their 300th store that year, the popularity of Nature-Tand's products had begun to slide as reflected by their sales and profit records. Unexpectedly, Charles Tandy passed away on November 4, 1978 at the age of 60. Concurrently, key stakeholders began to question the direction of the company. Wray Thompson subsequently made the career decision to resign from his position as President. [8]

Wray Thompson's future in the leathercraft industry was uncertain, however Ron Morgan decided to pay Wray a visit at his home. The two colleagues began to brainstorm; before the evening was over, they had developed an informal plan for a shared new enterprise in the leathercraft industry. The next morning, Ron turned in his resignation to Tandy Leather Company and set out to begin this new venture.

Initially three separate companies were set up:

Midas Leathercraft Tool Company, Inc. – an importer/exporter of New Zealand made tools

MT Enterprises – a partnership engaged in finding and developing customers to consult in the leathercraft industry

Midas Leathercraft – a retail leathercraft store similar to that of a Tandy store, where the partners would also office.[9]

Shortly thereafter, the partners were contacted by the Scholze Tannery, a division of the Brown Group in Chattanooga, Tennessee, to solicit a consulting agreement to help Scholze join them in the leathercraft market. Wray and Ron departed for Chattanooga, TN in 1980 to set up the new company later to be known as The Leather Factory. Prior to their departure these visionaries hired Jon Thompson, Wray’s oldest son, to begin the task of setting up Midas Leathercraft retail operations in Arlington, TX. Jon was told he could not buy any office furniture until he made a profit, so for the first six months he sat on the floor making sales calls.

Wray and Ron were unable to locate available housing in Chattanooga, so they shared a two bedroom apartment with Scholze Tannery’s sales manager, Tim Brown. That modest site served as the office, meeting hall and home for them over the next two years. The old tannery building featured over 500,000 sq. ft of space, but finding a 4,000 ft. area suitable for retail/warehouse seemed impossible. Finally, an area in the old dirt floor shipping department was selected and cemented over. Plywood walls went up and rustic shelves were built by maintenance crews of the tannery in their spare time. The store was not pretty and smelled like the tanning yard, but seemed functional.[10]

A catalog to market the merchandise line selected by the partners was laid out on the kitchen table of their apartment. Taking a newspaper and cutting it into pages, they scotch taped pictures from magazines, Tandy catalogs and other publications until they had what they considered to be an acceptable sixteen page catalog. When they met with printers, the partners found that their weeks of preparing their catalog mock-up for print would not work. Wray managed to locate and engage an out-of-work portrait photographer to help, and the photo images for 'Catalog One' were on their way.

The initial store was set to open in November and Wray persuaded Dave Woodward, President of Scholze Tannery, that they needed a store manager. Wray brought on Mick Hickman who had worked with Tandy in California, and he became The Leather Factory’s first employee. With housing limitations still an issue, Mick moved in with the rest of the crew and slept in a sleeping bag in a walk-in closet. Wray contacted Robin Myers to come on as the bookkeeper, however she turned down the offer and came on as a volunteer to help set up the accounting and bookkeeping practices.

With merchandise finally in Tennessee, Jon Thompson was called to Chattanooga. He had been waiting three months to open his own store as a dealer for The Leather Factory in Arlington, TX and was anxious to get to work. Help in Tennessee was still sparse, so Jon pulled, packed and shipped his own store opening merchandize order before driving straight through from Tennessee to Texas before the freight truck arrived. Although they still could not pay her, Robin Myers believed in the vision and leadership of her peers and moved to Arlington to help set up the books there as well. Sales for the first year were well above everyone’s expectations. The Brown Group pushed to open more stores.[11]

By 1984, the manufacturer Ivan Leathercraft was producing over 1,000 items for Midas Leathercraft Tool Company, who then supplied those items to The Leather Factory and others. They had opened 6 stores and named George Hurst, long-time associate and ex-merchandising manager for Tandy, General Manager of The Leather Factory. Regardless of their mounting success, the Brown Group decided to sell off or close down all companies that were under $100 million annually, unprofitable or non-shoe related. The Leather Factory, consisting of six locations, was offered for sale and in transition again.

Midas Leathercraft Purchases Assets of The Leather Factory[edit]

Through Midas Leathercraft Tool Company, the partners purchased the assets of The Leather Factory in January 1985. 'Midas', only 5 years old, had shown a steady increase in profits and developed good personal histories and banking relationships. Midas, with just over $200,000 in assets, took on a debt of just under $1.2 million for the asset purchase of the company. Two of the six managers chose not to gamble on new owners, so Wray called on former Tandy Leather Regional Manager Clyde Angus and his son, Mark, who had run the family’s western store in Pennsylvania. Dave Ferrill, former Tandy Leather Vice President, was also hired to start up the Craft Department.

The Leather Factory introduced their wholesale club in 1986. Membership fees were allocated to the advertising budget which allowed the company to produce more mailing pieces, sales, etc. By 1989, they had moved their warehouse and factory from Chattanooga to Fort Worth, TX and opened their twelfth location.[12]

By 1991, fourteen stores were open. Wray and Ron promoted from within to free them up from day to day buying, selling, etc. Jon Thompson was put in charge of operations and Mark Angus, The Leather Factory leader in sales gains and profits, was promoted to Sales Manager and relocated to Ft. Worth. Greg Sartor, former President of ST Leather, was hired as the Craft Sales Manager. In 1993, The Leather Factory went public via a reverse merger on the American Stock exchange and five new Vice Presidents were named: Jon Thompson, Dave Ferrill, Mark Angus, Greg Sartor and Robin Myers Morgan.

TLF Purchases Tandy Leather Company[edit]

The mid 90’s were rough on the leather industry with a decline in the Western industry and major customers filing for bankruptcy. In 1999, Tandy Leather Company decided to close all of its sales units and do business solely as a mail order/internet marketer. On November 30, 2000, The Leather Factory purchased the operating assets of Tandy Leather Company and the potential of the company immediately grew. Shannon Greene, who joined the company in 1997 as controller, was named Chief Financial Officer. Along with the Tandy acquisition came a number of seasoned veterans and The Leather Factory hired Jim Linnell to develop and lead a new chain of Tandy Leather stores.[13]

In 2005, The Leather Factory name was officially changed to Tandy Leather Factory. CEO Wray Thompson said, “Tandy Leather Company, founded by Charles Tandy and his father, was the first U.S. company dedicated to leathercraft. As such, we believe that Tandy’s name recognition is the best in the industry. On the other hand, The Leather Factory has provided over twenty years of stability and predictability that enabled us to purchase Tandy Leather Company several years ago. In order to accurately reflect the long-term stability of The Leather Factory while at the same time promote the name recognition of Tandy Leather Company, it makes sense to change our corporate name to Tandy Leather Factory, Inc.”[14] In 2006, Wray Thompson, past president of Tandy Leather (21 years of service) and co-founder of The Leather Factory (27 years) retired after nearly 50 years in the industry. Ron Morgan, President since 2001, becomes the new CEO.

With over 100 stores between the US and Canada in 2008, Tandy Leather Factory opened their first overseas combination wholesale/retail store in the United Kingdom. This was also the year the company relocated its facilities to its current headquarters and factory location. Jon Thompson spent a considerable amount of time in the UK during its opening, so construction coordination of the new factory was headed up by Executive Assistant, Cheryl Landry.

After 40 years of service from Ron Morgan and 39 years from Robin Myers Morgan, both retired in 2009.[15] Jon Thompson, the company’s President and Chief Operating Officer, was named CEO of Tandy Leather Factory. Working alongside Jon is Mark Angus, Senior Vice President, and Shannon Greene, Chief Financial Officer.

In 2012, Tandy opened a second European location in Cadiz, Spain to help keep up with the growing demand for leather supplies in Europe. International markets were expanded further in 2011 with the opening of the first Australian combination wholesale/retail store just outside of Sydney. In 2013, Tandy opened its Flagship store next to the headquarters and Bob Moore Construction was awarded the TEXO/AGC Distinguished Building Award[16] for the design of the glass building that can be seen from Interstate-20. This location helps trains potential Tandy managers, fills orders for outlet sales and manages shipments to South America. The Al and Ann Stohlman Museum was put on display in the lobby of the Tandy Leather Factory headquarters and features leather works by a variety of historically well-known leather artists.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Tandy Leather Factory Inc.". The New York Times. NASDAQ. 
  2. ^ "Tandy Leather: About Us". Retrieved 5 August 2014. 
  3. ^ Pitre, Boisy. CoCo The Colorful History of Tandy's Underdog Computer. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press. pp. 2–3. 
  4. ^ West, James (December 1968). Tandy Corporation: Start on a Shoe String. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. p. 7. 
  5. ^ Farman, Irvin (1992). Tandy's Money Machine. Chicago: The Mobium Press. 
  6. ^ West, James (December 1968). Tandy Corporation: Start on a Shoe String. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. p. 16. 
  7. ^ Farman, Irvin (1992). Tandy's Money Machine. Chicago: The Mobium Press. p. 372. 
  8. ^ Williams, Jeff (2004). Wholly Cow Too. Summit Press. p. 15. 
  9. ^ Williams, Jeff (2009). Wholly Cow Too. pp. 16–17. 
  10. ^ Williams, Jeff (2009). Wholly Cow Too. Summit Press. p. 17. 
  11. ^ Jeff, Williams (2009). Wholly Cow Too. p. 19. 
  12. ^ Williams, Jeff (2009). Wholly Cow Too. Summit Press. p. 23. 
  13. ^ Williams, Jeff (2009). Wholly Cow Too. Summit Press. p. 31. 
  15. ^ "Tandy Leather Factory Announces Anticipated Change in CEO". Business Wire. 
  16. ^ "Bob Moore Construction Receives TEXO / AGC’s Distinguished Building Award for Tandy Leather Store".