Cutting Corners is not an Option
By Liisa Andreassen
They stand behind every piece of equipment sold with a “Limited Lifetime Warranty” and they mean it. They’re Dave Spiegel and Steve Tayrien, owners of the Leather Machine Co. and they sell and service top quality leatherworking machinery for the leather and tack trades. They also have the skills, tools and experience to assist their customers with all leather machinery, allowing customers to get the most out of their equipment because they’ve been doing it for a very long time.
Meet Steve and Dave
Between the two of them, they have more than 90 years of experience. Steve has 46 years in the business. He first got his feet wet in the industry when he was hired by his uncle right out of high school in 1973. He learned the trade in the San Fernando Valley in California where there were a lot of saddle makers at the time. For most of his life he has been a sewing machine mechanic. When he first started out with his uncle, he was a delivery boy and about a year later he began to study and practice sewing machine mechanics and has been a top notch mechanic ever since.
Steve then worked for Singer, Industrial Division. One of Singer’s customers was Rockwell International, the designer of the heat tiles for the space shuttle. Originally, the tiles were glued on – not sewn and upon re-entry the heat tiles would fall off. A better system of attachment was necessary. As a result, Steve spent about a month at Rockwell and modified their machine to sew the heat tiles to the graphite and fiberglass panels. Success!
Dave, originally from Canada, worked with his late father who imported and distributed industrial sewing machines throughout Canada.
“I cut my teeth there,” he says. “I did every job imaginable from sweeping the floors to preparing orders and sales. Eventually, I traveled to Asia to do the purchasing. My father retired and my brother and I took over the business until we sold it in 2004.”
Dave and Steve then met while they were working for what is now a competitor. After some time there, they decided it was time to create their own company – one where they could control the culture. And, in 2009, that’s just what they did.
They started the business at the apex of the recession in a garage. Today, they have nine employees and work out of a 6,500-square-foot building. They have dealers all over the world and claim that they “don’t sit in ivory towers.”
“We’ll do anything,” Steve says.
Steve attributes their ability to start a business and succeed during the recession to good old fashioned hard work – 12-14 hour days – and to selling only quality products, while offering the best customer service around.
“We’re far better than the competition,” he says. “Now, there’s no looking back!”
While Steve tends to handle more customer service issues and Dave works more with inventory and quality control, their roles are really interchangeable. If one of them goes down, the other can step right in.
“I really appreciate that,” Dave says.
A customer commitment
Steve says that they are really known for their customer service.
“That’s why people call us,” he says. “That – and we only sell quality machinery. Our machines are made in Shanghai and we go to Asia once a year, visit the factories, make modifications and our head mechanic tests everything too. We have the best warranty in the business, hands down.”
As a result, their customer base has a vast reach – from the extreme novice to the famous professional and everyone in between. Customers include Stohlman award winners and many novices turned award winners.
While Dave and Steve say that they hate to name names for fear of leaving anyone out, they share that some of their more well-known customers include John Bianchi, a holster maker; Chris Andre of Slickbald Leather; Bob Park, a famous tooler; Al Gould, a saddle maker; Jesse Smith; Don Butler and the deceased R.W. Lovelace.
Steve says that their products really speak for themselves and that many of their clients request their sewing machines for classroom teaching. Their top-selling machine is the COBRA 4. It’s the most versatile and retails for $2,395.
All of their COBRA machines come with many features and a new style heavy duty multi-purpose presser feet, designed for sewing everything from bullet loops and skirting, to chap leather and everything in between. They are strong and compact and make it easier for users to sew in smaller areas than before.
Company culture drives success
To date, Steve and Dave share that they really have not had many great business challenges. The most difficult has had to do with keeping in step with their company culture as the company grew.
“We had to make sure that everyone understood our commitment to clients and quality,” Steve says. We have meetings on a regular basis and everyone knows that we cannot let our standards drop – ever.”
In order to achieve this, it’s very important that employees feel vested in the company.
“We treat our employees like family,” Steve explains. “We know their families and are involved in their lives. All of our staff has been with us for a very long time and that’s why. We care about them and that instills their loyalty and trust. For example, just the other day, UPS didn’t pick up an order. One of our employees offered to grab the items and head to UPS before going home. He loaded up his car and headed out. He didn’t have to do that, but that’s how we work here.”
And, there are other perks too. Birthdays are celebrated, healthcare insurance is provided and two-week vacations are paid and employees are encouraged to use that time.
The days ahead
The Leather Machine Co. shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, Steve says they’re just getting started.
“We’re constantly looking for new products to expand on our product line,” he says.
They go to about eight or nine trade shows per year and they find out what people are struggling with and try to find products that will solve those problems. For instance, they recently learned that the 14-inch strap cutter just wasn’t cutting it anymore. Some people needed something stronger and bigger.
Enter, the company’s most recent addition – the COBRA AK 20 PLUS Strap Cutting Machine. It’s the largest on the market, a 20” strap cutter, and saves users a lot of time.
“It started shipping about a month ago and has been a resounding success,” Steve says.
Prior to that, the company added a burnisher with an adjustable stand and supply tray.
“We want to do most anything that will help to enhance the industry,” Steve says.
Leather Machine Co., Inc.