Monday, December 5, 2011

My cousin Herb.

My cousin Herb and his father before him had a small leather goods company that made high-quality attache and brief cases for men. Schlesinger Brothers was founded in 1919 and stayed in business until about ten years ago when in was bought by Tumi. The cases Schlesinger built had fallen out of favor with most men preferring soft-sided bags with straps they could throw over their shoulder.

One weekend I was with Herb, he was my father's age and more of a father to me than my own, and he talked about closing his factory which he had relocated from Camden, NJ to a small town called Berlin, NJ.

"In the old days," he remembered "men would come in and apply for positions. We didn't look at applications. We didn't background check. We didn't ask for their employment history. We didn't care that they 'interviewed well.'

"We gave them space on a bench, leather, wood, nails, hardware and tools and we told them to make a bag. If the bag they made was good, we hired them."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I empathize with both you and your cousin Herb. I too lament the closing of Schlesinger Brothers' doors.

I am fortunate enough to be the proud owner of several Schlesinger Brothers business cases. These cases were made when Schlesinger Brothers was producing them-not by some company who had purchased the rights to the Schlesinger name. I can say without reservation that these cases represent first-rate craftsmanship. They are incredibly well-made of the most choice leathers, and have a unique beauty all their own.

What amazes me, is given this quality, they really weren't too expensive. You could tell when you picked up a Schlesinger bag that it was durable and meant to last a long time. Many people today don't seem to know what true value means anymore.

High quality leather good production is an art-in the spirit of the guilded craftsmen of ages gone by. I for one think that it's important for that art to be passed on to successive generations. It used to be part of what defines us.

If I could have helped Schlesinger Brothers stay open by purchasing one more case, I'd have done it in a nanosecond!

Thanks for representing some of the finest things that America had to offer!