Alan H. Meigs
For 40 years, Alan H. Meigs, the sole proprietor of Iron Mountain Leather on Broadway, has been equipping Chico townsfolk with all of their leather essentials. He’s a self-taught leather craftsman whose one-man operation keeps lovers of leather coming back for more, sometimes a decade after their first purchase because his products last so long. Meigs has worked with leather for most of his life and honed his skills during the Vietnam War while being stationed for three years at a U.S. Army post in Germany. He specializes in jackets, belts, bags, wallets, hats, slippers, hides and motorcycle gear, which is mostly created from skin byproducts of the meat industry. Meigs expresses the Native American philosophy of “if you have to take an animal, don’t let any of it go to waste.”
How did you get into the leather business?
I started messing with it when I was a little kid. My dad used to keep some scrap leather around the garage. He was no leather craftsman, but he was a sportsman and came from an era where people took care of their own stuff. The first big project I ever made was a pair of knee-high moccasins for my girlfriend at the time. She admired some in a western store window, and neither of us could afford them, so I figured I could probably make them.
What do you like about leather?
The scent, the textures, the different feels—there are all kinds of different leathers. You can do amazing things with it, and the possibilities of the things you can make with it are infinite. Unfortunately I don’t get to be too creative anymore because all my time is obligated to either repair jobs or projects for other people. I don’t get to experiment with making things to sell like I did in the early days. But if you’re going to stay a solo act, you pretty much have to move into retail.
Who are your main customers?
Hard to pinpoint, it seems like everybody needs a leather guy at some point or another. Many people wear belts and use wallets. I do a lot of repairs on ladies’ purses, and I do a lot of business with motorcyclists. Sheepskin slippers seem to be the universal Christmas gift. I do so much custom stuff that I’m consistently backed up for about three months.
What’s the strangest custom job you’ve ever done?
Well, I’ve done a couple of things for people that you might be able to find in San Francisco if you looked hard. I don’t care; if I can make it, I’ll do it. We’ll just leave it at that.