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Artisan Leather Shop Provides Quality Goods

Photographer / Angela Cornell

The purses, belts, wallets and other products sold at Silver Star Leather start out as hide that many people would probably throw away. Where others may only see a piece of leather, Loren Yoder, owner of Silver Star Leather, sees a beautiful fashion item in the making.

When a piece of leather – whether it’s cow, crocodile, cobra or frog, to name a few of the options – arrives at the shop, Yoder begins to devise what he can make from it.

“The thing I like about this is that it is so endless,” he explains. “We’re just scratching the surface as far as the different types of products we can make, and the fashion industry as far as belts, wallets and purses. If you’re bored, it’s your fault. Just come up with a new idea and try it. It’s too much fun.”

Even though the business offers dozens of creations, both wholesale across the nation as well as retail, Silver Star Leather is known for custom products.

“I’d say that the most popular is probably gun holsters and knife sheaths,” Yoder says. “We also do a lot of custom wallets of every shape and size.”

Yoder doesn’t work exclusively with domestic leathers. Some of his hides come from around the world, and all are internationally certified through CITES, an international organization that oversees and protects endangered plants and animals. Therefore, the materials are legal to work with, even the extremely rare and exotic leathers that come from protected breeds like elephants, stingrays and eels.

“Everything is so tightly regulated,” Yoder says. “CITES knows where it is, if it’s legal, where it’s going and who has it. I keep my paperwork until the hide is gone because each hide has a CITES tag on it.”

The custom projects provide Yoder and his team with valuable inspiration.

“My goal is to continue to do custom stuff where you not only help people with their little individual project, but you also gain knowledge,” he says. “There are so many variables in the custom world and that’s what got me started – and it’s something I don’t want to lose.”

Silver Star Leather doesn’t only offer standard leather fashion goods. They make items of all shapes and sizes like coin purses, keychains, pillows and journals, among many other items.

“The 18-inch American Girl dolls – my daughters make purses and wallets for those,” Yoder says. “That’s a hit for some people.”

There is no denying that Silver Star Leather products are eye-catching. Surprisingly, however, all of the items are extremely durable.

“I had a guy here who had a belt that was 10 years old,” Yoder says. “He must have bought it just soon after we got serious about this. He was still wearing it – he needed another hole in it. Ten years old and it was worn, but structurally, you’re looking at another ten years. If you buy them at a box store, they look nice, but if you wear them for a year, they start cracking and fraying. If it’s real, solid leather, there’s nothing to fray. It’s a solid chunk of leather.”

Most of the fashion items Yoder makes require minimal maintenance. However, he does carry cleaning wipes and leather oils.

As unique as the business is now, Silver Star Leather had humble beginnings as a harness shop that Yoder, who is Amish, purchased in 2006. At that point it was only a part-time job, something for him to do after he came home from his full-time factory job.

A few years after purchasing the business, his wife Dorcas decided to have some fun with a spare piece of leather.

“One day we found a piece of leather that I had bought somewhere and it was soft,” Yoder says. “With this piece of leather, she made a purse. It wasn’t terribly impressive, but it was a purse. That’s what got this whole thing started as far as this type of business.”

Eventually, Silver Star Leather drifted entirely into the artisan realm and Yoder handled the harness-making side of the business.

“In 2012, I went full-time out of the factory,” he says. “Every year is a little bit more.”

As time passed, Yoder hired three full-time employees.

His daughters, Jennifer and Jody, also work in the shop part time, and both dream about taking over the business some day. Until then, Yoder strives to encourage their love for the creativity and craftsmanship required for the business.

“With something like this, it’s important to enjoy it,” Yoder says.

Silver Star Leather is located at 6875 North 800 West in Shipshewana. To contact them, place an order for a custom item or schedule a tour, call 260-768-7958 or email lyoder@ibyfax.com. For more info, visit silverstarleather.com.

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