Manufacturing is the foundation of Pennsylvania, producing an $85 billion impact on the economy and positioning the Commonwealth as the eighth largest producer in terms of manufacturing output in the United States. Here, Matt Bressler, vice president of Sales and Operations at Clearfield Leather (dba as Wickett & Craig) in Curwensville, Pennsylvania, shares his view as a Pennsylvania manufacturer and one of only two remaining vegetable tanneries operating in the United States.
Wickett & Craig is marking its 155th year in business in 2022. Tell us more.
Founded in 1867, Wickett & Craig is a world premiere vegetable tannery. Veg- tanning is a natural, eco-friendly process that produces durable, exquisite leathers recognized for their depth of color and rich patina. Simply put, our leathers not only endure, but get better with age.
Although the business began in Toronto, Canada, Wickett & Craig has been calling Central PA home since 1991. How did this come about?
Wickett & Craig was in Toronto, Canada for 123 years. However, in 1989, the city of Toronto thought it was going to get the ’92 Olympics, so it actually expropriated a handful companies from the city limits. Wickett & Craig was one of them. Literally, Toronto said, “We’re taking your property. You need to get out of Toronto.”
At the same, here, in my hometown of Curwensville, Pennsylvania, there was an abandoned cheese factory ideal for Wickett & Craig’s operations. Curwensville was already a tannery town because of Howes Leather, a sole bend and shoulder tannery, which is no longer in existence. The labor rate was right, and there were 16 acres with a 180,000-square-foot, relatively new shell of a building. It turned out to be the right place at the right time.
Describe your output and operations today.
In this small “two traffic light town” in the middle of Pennsylvania, we employ about 90-people at our state-of-the-art facility where we produce about 3 million square feet of both light and heavyweight leathers each year.
Wickett & Craig is known for its unique veg-tanning process. Please explain.
Our starting material is a byproduct of the beef industry. We dehair, tan, color and finish the leather all here onsite. The tree bark extract comes from tree farms where the wood is sold for furniture, and the bark is concentrated and sold into the tanning industry.
We also have our own wastewater treatment facility, so all of the water from our process is treated here. The solids that come from the treatment process are used as a fertilizer on local agriculture fields and the water, after being treated, is released to the West branch of the Susquehanna River. This too is something to be proud of, and we consider ourselves as being very sustainable and part of the story told by our customers.
Please describe your customer base and some of the most popular products made of your leathers.
Our customer base is very unique. One minute, I can be on the phone with someone from Ralph Lauren and, the next minute, I will be talking to an Amish man at a phone booth.
The diversity of customer base is what keeps us in business. We make leather for the travel goods industry (bags, luggage, briefcases, etc.) the equestrian trade (saddles, tack and harness), pet goods (collars and leashes), high-end custom footwear, belts, wallets, holsters, motorcycle bags, radio cases, lineman belts and also a huge amount of custom leather goods made by small crafters.
How proud is Wickett & Craig to manufacture in PA?
We are very proud to have Curwensville as our home. What better story is there than to display this “awesome belt” that was handcrafted by a leather worker, and the leather come from a 150-plus-year-old tannery in “middle of nowhere” PA (that actually uses tree bark to tan the leather)!
What’s the best way for our readers to learn more? Follow us on social media or visit our website, wickett-craig.com