Langlitz Leathers follows the market into Japan

| Print |  Email
Articles - December 2010
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
1210_ATS17
Dave Hansen, general manager of Langlitz Leathers in southeast Portland. // Photo by Shaun Strickland
Family-owned Langlitz Leathers keeps a low profile in its retail and production shop in southeast Portland. For more than 60 years it has constructed high-end custom biker apparel that has attracted a global market more than willing to pay over a thousand dollars to look like Peter Fonda, circa Easy Rider.

General manager Dave Hansen started working at the business in 1981. A friendly, soft-spoken man who himself could have been an extra in that iconic 1960s movie, he points out during a tour of his shop a collection of jackets hung under a stack of rejected leather. A yellow elk-hide jacket stands out from the others. “That one has been to shows all over Japan,” he says. “I’d say it’s worth, oh, $25,000.”

Ross Langlitz was a motorcycle enthusiast who lost much of his right leg to a bike accident in the 1930s. He founded Langlitz Leathers in 1947 in his basement, where he whipped up jackets for friends. By the time Hansen married Langlitz’s daughter, Jackie, in 1981, it was a well-established shop for leather lovers. The shop relies on word of mouth to promote its product.

The word gets around. Sales exploded in the late 1990s following an article in the Wall Street Journal that featured the shop. “We had a backlog for almost two years,” Hansen says. But following the recent recession, sales declined and the average wait time is now around one month. In the past few years, the shop laid off two of its 15 employees. Despite its drop in sales, its custom jackets still attract customers with money to spare. “The top 1% of the world is a lot of people,” Hansen says. When Hansen bought his first Cascade jacket in the early 1970s, it was $75.  It now goes for $850.

Before the recession, Langlitz split its business between catalog and drop-in customers; now 80% of business is non-local. These catalog shoppers are from around the globe, most of them Japanese.

Hansen first started selling to the Japanese market in the early 1990s. “Two [Japanese] sailors came into the shop during the Rose Festival one year and bought jackets,” Hansen says, adding that he gets about one-third of his revenue from Japan.

Hansen credits foreign interest in his products to the rebel-without-a-cause Americana image of their jackets. “Folks like old American stuff made by old American companies.”

PETER BELAND
 

More Articles

Nine lives

Linda Baker
Friday, May 22, 2015
0f4f7bfBY LINDA BAKER | EDITOR

Roy Kaufmann always lands on his feet.


Read more...

Fighting Fire With Fire

May 2015
Friday, April 24, 2015
BY BEN DEJARNETTE | INVESTIGATEWEST

Timber companies and environmental groups take a stab at collaboration to boost logging and restoration in Oregon fires.


Read more...

Knight Cancer Challenge No Biotech Dream

May 2015
Monday, April 27, 2015
BY JOE CORTRIGHT

The Knight challenge is an important instance of philanthropy. But we should not assume it will magically transform OHSU into a business- and job-spinning engine for the local economy.


Read more...

Intrepid reporter checks out ZoomCare rebrand

The Latest
Wednesday, May 27, 2015
dentistthumbPHOTOS BY JASON E. KAPLAN

Like all good journalists, OB editorial staff typically eschew freebies. But health care costs being what they are, digital news editor Jacob Palmer couldn't resist ZoomCare's offer of a three-in-one (cleaning, exam, whitening) dental office visit, guaranteed to take no more than 57 minutes. 


Read more...

Beneath the Surface

May 2015
Thursday, April 23, 2015
0515-goodhacker01 250pxwBY LINDA BAKER

On April 1 I attended a forum at the University of Portland on the sharing economy. The event featured panelists from Lyft and Airbnb, as well as Portland Mayor Charlie Hales. Asked about the impact of tech-driven sharing economy services. Hales said the new business models are reshaping the landscape. “But,” he added, “I don’t pretend to understand how a lot of this [technology] works.” 


Read more...

5 highlights from the Angel Oregon Showcase

The Latest
Thursday, April 23, 2015
IMG 5069BY JACOB PALMER | DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

The entrepreneurial spirit was alive and well at the Oregon Angel showcase, an annual event for angel investors and early stage entrepreneurs.


Read more...

Hall of Flame

June 2015
Friday, May 22, 2015
BY JACOB PALMER

A Power Lunch at Oswego Grill.


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS