By Nick Pernokas
Many well-known companies roll off of leather craftsmen’s tongues because they’ve worked at developing and promoting their brand within the leather industry. Sometimes though, a real gem can be overlooked just because it’s not right in your path. I want to tell you about a company that may not be on your radar yet, but it should be.
Lowy Enterprises primarily focuses on webbing-related industries. They are distributors for webbing, fasteners, soft goods and hot cutters. Many products for the military, law enforcement and the aircraft industries are made by their customers.
“Our primary customers are small to medium-size manufacturers, who are in the sewn soft goods industry,” says Aaron Krouse, general manager and part owner of Lowy.
These are basically manufacturers who have a sewing machine and who are sewing something to something, with added components. This can be anything from someone making a dog leash to someone making a parachute or backpack. This definition sounds like most of the leather industry. This broad category also includes many military applications.
“Our restraint category is a fun category for us,” says Aaron.
These are items that get used in personal safety equipment like harnesses, seatbelts in a race car or a climbing harness. Lowy has 50 years’ experience in this field and has actually designed some of the hardware products that they wholesale to these industries.
Lowy sells a lot of military-spec hardware items, many of which need to be “Berry Amendment” compliant. This means that they are entirely made in the United States. This is different than the “Made in the USA” label because, for example, a clothing product can be made in the USA with yarn that’s made in China.
“Through the years, we have tried to source as many U.S. made products as possible.”
After 9/11, the Berry Amendment became more important in production as well as more encompassing. In the 1940s, it was applied only to textiles, but today it also applies to components like fasteners and hardware.
Lowy has been involved in supplying these types of items for their entire history and are well known with companies producing this type of gear.
“Many people like to use a military-spec item in their product, even if they’re not making a military-spec product.”
Many of these military-spec pieces are not being made anymore, but frequently Lowy can find them for their customers. Sometimes they can find them in odd lot sales and other times they can find a similar replacement. The government has also moved away from the military-spec business, so many items are now relegated to commercial specs, even if they’re used for military applications.
Over the years, Lowy has sold to customers who were recreating historic period pieces, like military rifle slings from World War II. Sometimes, when those components are no longer made, Lowy can find the next best solution. Because of Lowy’s location in Los Angeles, this has overlapped into the film industry.
“We’ve been working in the TV and movie industry as long as we’ve been around.”
Lowy provides all kinds of products to the entertainment industry for costumes, props and technical gear. A lot of production designers come to Lowy’s showroom to look at their unique products in person and to decide how something will look on camera.
“They like to see and touch things. It’s an important part of serving our customer base. ”
Lowy also had a lot of military surplus products, which made them a popular source for production designers. They continue to have an inventory of “ancient” gear related to parachutes and harnesses from the post-World War II era. They’ve even been used as a source to make period correct seatbelts for car shows.
“It’s hard to find that old stuff online and we still have a fair amount of that obsolete, discontinued product from another era.”
A. Lowy Enterprises was started in 1970, by Adolf Lowy, a Czechoslovakian immigrant. After a period of working at various jobs, Adolf found that he was good at trading. He became involved in buying and selling military surplus. At that time, there was a whole world of military auctions. Items were sold in large lots. If you wanted a particular item, like a helmet, you’d have to buy everything in the lot, including the jeep. Then, you’d sell the stuff you didn’t want to people who were looking for those items.
This industry became the kernel that Lowy Enterprises grew from. Adolf found that he was collecting a lot of parachutes, and related hardware, so the parachute became the logo for the company. It can still be seen today with the letters A, L and E, hidden in the canopy and lines of a parachute.
Parachute hardware began to be used in other industries, like safety harnesses.
“The parachute industry is, oddly enough, the focal point for all of the sewn soft production industries.”
The technology from parachute production influenced stitching patterns, thread, fabrics and types of sewing machines used for different applications.
Lowy branched out with the technology and became involved with new fasteners and webbing for producing new products. The company became diversified between dealing in surplus and selling new items. Today, military surplus has become more regulated and difficult to find. Lowy still sells the surplus they have, but concentrate on buying and selling new items.
Lowy has always been a family business. When Adolf passed away in the late Eighties, his wife, Rita, took over. Her nephew, Aaron, was involved in sales, so she asked him to come to work for the company in marketing. Aaron put the first formal catalog together for Lowy and ended up staying on. He became a general manager, and eventually part owner and COO. Aaron’s wife, Lisa, is an engineer in the aircraft industry and now, she provides her expertise to the Lowy quality-control program.
Today, Lowy, and their six employees, are housed in an 18,000-square-foot warehouse. The company remains unique in the wide variety of light to heavy duty products they stock. Their goal is to be a one-stop shop for someone who needs multiple components to build an item. They try to ship the same day, with a low minimum order.
“We always considered ourselves as selling service, not product.”
To find out more about what Lowy can do for you, call (866) 772-5159 or go to Lowyusa.com