Sponsored by Oregon Business

Historic Oregon tannery shuts down

| Print |  Email
Archives - July 2007
Sunday, July 01, 2007


DALLAS — Lisa Koloen hoped to see her daughter keep alive the family’s tannery but instead came to a hard realization. “Being a historic place doesn’t pay the bills,” says Koloen.

Muir & McDonald Co., the oldest of three remaining tanneries in the United States employing a traditional vegetable tanning method, will close its doors this summer after 144 years in the business. The tannery supplies leather to saddle makers in Louisiana and Texas and until now has defended its title as the oldest continuously running business in Polk County.

The vegetable method the tannery uses requires a four-month process that allows the tanner to start and end with one piece of hide, compared to other processes that can finish in hours. But the tannery kept with tradition, even until the very end.

The decision to close was a difficult five-year process, says Koloen, company president and the fourth generation of tanners at Muir. “The confusing and crazy part,” Koloen says, was that “the tannery had a lot of orders.” Despite demand, the rising cost of production for a small tannery operating in a world market combined with an unwieldy utility bill for the company’s 40,000-square-foot building forced the tannery to close down. “I love this business,” Koloen says. “This has been our life.”

Koloen worked at the tannery as a child, sweeping floors and painting fences. She remembers growing up and seeing the town’s businesses spring up around the tannery.

Koloen won’t be out of the leather industry for long. When she and her husband finish their current orders in the next few months, she’ll start with another vegetable-method tannery based in Pennsylvania, which has stayed afloat by employing more upgraded and progressive techniques.

— Eunice Lee

Have an opinion? E-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it



P.T. Dessero
0 #1 P.T. Dessero 2011-09-17 20:05:48
I bought leather sides fron this Tannery back in the 79's and 8o's. This company made one of the best leathers I used. I am sorry to hear this. I am retired now but still know people who are new in this business. I would like to be informed when they start there new adventure. I can be reached at email below.
Your truly
Quote | Report to administrator
0 #2 Muir & McDonaldGuest 2012-08-18 23:19:24
Hello P.T. Dessero,

Both Lisa Koloen and Eldon Bevens passed away within the last two years. The Tannery is still in the process of being sold and likely demolished. Sad end to an era.
Quote | Report to administrator
+1 #3 RE: Historic Oregon tannery shuts downGuest 2013-01-13 02:36:56
I am living in the Kansas City aarea - but am from Monmouth-Dallas area. Have a nice new belt buckle that needs a belt - the custom shop here is a big fan of Muir McDonald, and has a small stash of leather that he thinks we can make into a nice belt. Sad this has come to an end.
Quote | Report to administrator
0 #4 BeltGuest 2013-01-13 04:12:13
Glad to know that there is still a bit of leather out there being used. I hope you get a great belt out of it!
Quote | Report to administrator
0 #5 Looking for the new shopGuest 2013-03-03 03:08:24
Does anyone know if these folks opened a new shop?
Quote | Report to administrator
+1 #6 RE: Historic Oregon tannery shuts downGuest 2014-05-27 20:51:39
I'm working with my boss on tearing it down right now and selling the beautiful wood from it
Quote | Report to administrator

More Articles

Downtime with Barry Cain

November/December 2015
Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Live, work, play with the president of Gramor Development.


The death and life of American cities

Linda Baker
Monday, November 02, 2015
housingoldpdx thumbBY LINDA BAKER

The hollowing out of the American city is now a bona fide cultural meme.  Newspapers, magazines and digital media sites are publishing story after story about the morphing of urban grit and diversity into bastions of wealth and commodity culture.


Where Do We Go from Here?

Guest Blog
Wednesday, October 21, 2015
102115-thumbBY JASON NORRIS | CFA

Volatility reigned supreme over the summer. The old Wall Street adage of, “Sell in May and go away,” was prophetic in 2015.


The Food Pod Grows Up

November/December 2015
Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Oregon's first generation of food entrepreneurs created a brand based on quality and craftsmanship. Can the second generation sustain it?


Back in Black

Guest Blog
Friday, November 20, 2015

It’s been a volatile year in equities and heading into the holiday season, it doesn’t look like these market extremes will dissipate.


The Harder They Fall

November/December 2015
Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Storyteller-in-Chief by the managing partner of Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt.


Photo Log: #TillamookSmile

The Latest
Friday, October 30, 2015
103015-cheesethumbBY CHRIS NOBLE | ART DIRECTOR

Against a changing backdrop Patrick Criseter’s infectious grin remained constant. It’s a cheesy (pun intended) beam that begs for a hashtag.

Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02