At its core, J. Stark is a bag and luggage brand. We make timeless, sturdy things that will be carried with you for a lifetime. And we keep our designs simple. We don’t put a pocket where a pocket doesn’t belong. The result is a product that is aesthetically minimalistic and highly functional.
We started with a clear vision of creating beautiful, American-made goods. But that vision evolved the day we brought someone else in to join our team. Hiring our first employee at J. Stark sparked a new kind of fire. One where we envisioned ourselves helping to create new manufacturing jobs for local folks with a kindred itch to create something with their hands. And not simply creating the jobs, but also the light-filled space where the jobs are done. Expanding deeper into our little brick building on Coming Street, we created our own factory where our goods are made and sold right on site.
Building our own factory from the ground up means having complete control over what we bring in and what we ship out. We can touch the fabric and the leather before cutting it down and stitching it up. We have the opportunity to notice when something isn’t exactly right, and to find something better if it’s not. And that translates into our bag making, as well. When we make it ourselves, we can see just how strong it is. And we also notice the weak spots. So there are no surprises, which also means less waste. We’ve empowered ourselves to make real-time adjustments before large production runs, so there’s rarely an error in the final product.
Legend has it that the first usage of waxed canvas was sailors in the North Atlantic. By putting linseed oil into their sails, they were able to allow their sails to catch the wind without the sails getting waterlogged and slowing the ship. While waxed canvas runs the spectrum of water resistant to waterproof, depending on the weight and density of the canvas, we use a variety of waxed canvases, each perfect for the demands of the modern world while retaining some old world charm.
Used first by sailors, and then by miners and other manual laborers, duck canvas has been around since the mid 1800s. Despite its long history, it remains a favorite for workers today. Made from 100% cotton, it gets it strength from how densely woven it is. Using two warp threads, and one weft, it has a deceptively simple construction that's not only water resistant, but has a legendary level of durability.
Brass, an alloy of copper and zinc (we won’t tell your science teacher you forgot that one), is one of humanity’s oldest materials, and one of the materials that surrounds us whether we know it or not. Resistant to corrosion, spark and warping, it's an obvious choice for the hardware on our bags. Our rivets, d-rings, buckles, and zippers all brass. We chose an antiqued brass because the colors just spoke to us on a gut level and it looks great on everything.
Made to meet the huge demands of a rider and their horse, bridle leather has to be soft enough to be worn on the face of the horse, and sturdy enough to handle every possible weather condition, no matter how difficult the ride. It’s for these reasons that it’s a natural choice for our handles and shoulder straps. Never losing its strength, bridle leather becomes soft, flexible, and supple after a short break-in period, and with proper maintenance, can last a lifetime.
Vegetable tanned and hot stuffed with oils, and waxes for water-resistance then typically glazed. We actually use an unglazed variety for most of our items with harness leather, we like the subtle marbled appearance the oils and fats give the leather when they’re left unglazed. These oils add to the flexibility and stretch of the leather, allowing you to fit more cards in our wallets and our belts made with harness leather are a little more forgiving.
We want you to buy our bags with confidence. And if something goes wrong, we want to try and fix it for you. That's why we offer free repairs of manufacturer errors or defects on our products for the life of the bag. If we can make your bag work again, we will make your bag work again. So, barring complete destruction, box that baby up and ship it back to us, and we'll do our best. We'll even cover the shipping back to you. We're unable to replace an old bag with a new bag (unless a significant manufacturer error has occurred that makes the bag unusable), but we'll certainly do our damndest to make your old bag as good as new. Not a manufacturer error, you just accidentally ran your tote over with your moped? Well, give us a shout and we can chat about necessary repairs and costs.
For more detailed info on how to get ahold of us and where to send the dang thing, head over to the Returns page.
The name J. Stark is a nod to the character Jim Stark that James Dean played in Rebel Without a Cause. I wanted to find a common ground for connection, and we all have lived through the troubles and triumphs of our teenage years. Trying to fit in yet become an individual. Those experiences cut so deep because we were still wet from the mold.
My parents were greasers, outsiders… They grew up in inner city Cleveland and had dreams, but the dream they made come true was to give their children a better life than they had. The names of our products come from the streets they walked to school on, drove their 57 Chevy on, kissed on, rumbled on… It’s a tribute to them, Cleveland, the beautifully scarred years of youth, and to dreamers.
— Erik Holmberg
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