May 2000 The South Whidbey Marketplace & Community Journal

By Chris Crotty

They're a perennial favorite at Choochokam and since 1997, their store on Second Street in Langley has become a popular shop for locals and visitors alike. Ace Leather Goods is a success story that goes back a number of years when Andrew Gilkerson was an apprentice in a friend's leather tooling workshop in the Bay area. By the time he was 17 he was the production manager and after a while had gained enough knowledge and skill to to establish his own leather business. Ultimately in 1982, Ace Leather Goods Inc. was born.

Starting out with craft shows and consignments, Andrew produced hard leather belts, wallets and watch bands. Today, he and wife Kathy offer more than 100 products. All their creations are made and finished by hand, using only the finest materials. Besides the basics, they specialize in wild life designs with a look that is distinctive and diversified. The tooled products are made with a leather called California Latigo, made from range toughened steer hides. The hides are tanned with oil and wax and glazed at the tannery to bring out the natural characteristics of the leather. Andrew and Kathy then cut, tool, hand dye, polish and sew each item. In their large shop outside Langley, they use over 3000 hand tools and produce a quality hand finished product that is durable, yet flexible and pliable with a Natural luster that improves with age. Items made with the California Latigo leather include wild life belts, braided belts, bi-fold wallets, checkbooks, and clutch wallets. The soft leather products at Ace Leather Goods are made from top grain cowhide in various grades. The leather is tanned and colored simultaneously at the tannery, which ensures that the color is deeply set and won't come off on clothing or water spot in the weather, even if it becomes wet. Perfect for our Northwest environment. The soft leather is lighter and actually strong, with it's pliable nature, giving it more flexibility that allows space for items inside. Large gussets, top quality zippers and durable linings are used in the products that range from fanny backs to luggage. some of the soft purses and small bags at Ace Leather come in a variety of eye-catching colors, such as various shades of lavender , rose and green. One of the more popular bags is the Balance Organizer, which was introduced in 1996. Its ergonomic design is balanced for comfortable carrying, easing the weight from the shoulder and distributing it across the back. Interior pockets aid in weight distribution and eliminate the need to dig through the purse to find items that fall to the bottom. The Conversion Bag is also a hit, as it converts from purse to fanny pack.

These products, along with a huge selection of luggage, briefcases, backpacks, wallets, clutch wallets, coin purses and pouches have made Ace Leather a sought after entity at craft shows around the state and beyond. Even with their presence at their storefront in Langley, locals often continue their tradition of purchasing their leather goods at their booth during Choochokam. Andrew and Kathy have a full schedule of shows in which they're participating this year, which include The University Street Fair, The Laser Light Festival at Grand Coulee, the Loganberry Festival in Greenbank, The Anacortes Arts Festival, the Coupeville Arts and Crafts Festival, Issaquah Salmon Days and many more. Their appearances around the Northwest are always successful and their excellent product and customer service keeps people coming back for more.

Andrew and Kathy both work long hours in their workshop, producing an impressive array of leather items. With great attention to detail and consistency, a keen sense of creativity and experience and an artistic eye for design have resulted in beautifully original pieces that represent quality and pride in workmanship.

You an visit Ace Leather Goods on the web at www.aceleathergoods.com, or stop by their store in Langley at 220 Second St. #101 (next to Knox Photo). And of course we'll all be there to see them on the street at Choochokam!