Industry Tips

People Matter 

By Todd Salzmann of Hermann Oak Leather  

When ShopTalk! reached out asking if I would be interested in contributing to Industry Tips, my first thought was I would love to. Soon, a second thought crossed my mind, what can I provide to the industry? Seriously, I work with an amazing group of people in St. Louis, Missouri, that take great pride in producing and providing high quality leather. How can I honestly give tips to the amazing artisans, craftsmen and women in this industry?   

As I struggled for the perfect topic to cover, ideas were all over the place.  Should I dive into our 141-year heritage of making leather right here in the Midwest? How about the four generations of Hermann’s that have overseen and ran Hermann Oak? What about the 5th generation that is already an intricate part of the business? Should I get into the details of our tanning process and our Traditional Old World Tanning techniques? Maybe discuss how we surpassed three years with no lost time injuries? How about hide selection that we require to meet our obligations for heavy, full thickness leathers?   

The industry tip I needed to share finally hit me. A story told by Shep Hermann about a conversation he had with a customer years ago and how one little saying holds true to the exceptional, hardworking people that make Hermann Oak leather. After a trip to a new tannery, the customer told Shep of the beautiful building it was in, the brand-new machinery they had and how amazing the tannery looked. After he was exhausted of details, he finally asked Shep his thoughts. Shep’s response was simple, yet very powerful, “Buildings and machinery do not make leather, people do!” 

This statement is a true underpinning of the culture that has been created at Hermann Oak. In looking for new team members, our goal is to find a cultural fit to our organization. Long gone are the thoughts that a good strong back will make leather in a tannery. Today, it is a combination of respect, trust and support that make up the men and women of Hermann Oak. Over the years, shifting our thoughts on who makes the leather has resulted in wonderful changes inside the walls of Hermann Oak. Higher production rates, more efficient workflow, better communication, consistent leather tanning and quality, how safely everyone works and a love for what they do on a daily basis were a few of the effects of hiring the right quality people. It becomes very apparent to anyone that tours the tannery the pride and professionalism that every worker has in their job.   

As we process our leathers, every side is moved, split, hung in pits, pulled from drums, ran through specialized machinery, dried, finished and prepared for shipping all by hand. Every step is accomplished by Hermann Oaks’ own in-house artisans that create our top-quality leather daily. These same individuals take great satisfaction in knowing that they are the first step in what will ultimately turn into amazing works of art by our customers.  

So, the next time you see a saddle, holster, belt, personal leather good item or anything made from Hermann Oak leather, we hope you remember the remarkable work crew that produced the leather with hard labor and integrity.   Their dedication to providing the highest quality and consistent leather through teamwork, devotion, pride and a culture that is second to none, which proves that building and machinery do not make leather…people do. 

*Photographs Courtesy of Hermann Oak Leather