Hunt season a busy time for Century Leather

United States
Published:  06 December, 2013

For more than a year now, it’s been a very busy time for Lanny Uber and the staff at Century Leather Products after he took the Uber Tanning business back from bankruptcy.

The small tannery based in Owatonna (Mn) specialises in processing small quantities of hunt and game hides and skins. 

Now is one of the busiest times of the year for Uber and his employees. “There’s three seasons that all pile in right now — winter season, Christmas season and hunting season,” Uber said. “Everything happens at the same time. Within eight to ten weeks, we try to get in a year’s worth of work.”

To be working their way through so many new orders is a welcome occasion for Century Leather after a significant amount of time was spent working through back orders after Uber bought back his business in October last year.

Century Leather Products is operating out of the same space occupied by Uber Tanning, which left Owatonna for Ham Lake, Mn, in February 2012 after Lanny Uber sold the business in 2006. In August 2012, the new owner filed for bankruptcy and a bank foreclosed the company. Uber bought the business back from the bank in October 2012.

When he bought the business back, it meant trying to catch up on the orders that had gone unfilled since the business had been in trouble.

“We didn’t reach an agreement with the bank to purchase the foreclosure until Halloween of 2012, so in a little over a year we’ve gone through the backlog and completed all the past-due orders,” Uber said. “It’s been quite a busy year.”

The purchase of the business included the shop on Adams Avenue, the tannery located on North Street and the rights to the Uber Glove Company name.

“We did get the rights back to the Uber name. That was one of the assets purchased from the bank in the foreclosure sale,” Uber said. “We could go back to that name. The name appears randomly all over. It’s on some of the shipping cartons. It’s on the sign out front. It’s kind of a mixture of the two names at this point.”

It’s quite a process from when someone brings in a hide to when it is turned into a custom product for them, which is very often a pair of gloves or mittens. It’s important for people to get the product made with their hide back.

“Raw hides are received this time of year. At the tannery they’re all code marked individually and the numbers are recorded in a master log,” Uber said. “From there, data entry puts them in the computers and we track them throughout the tanning process.”

The tannery will begin processing hides around January 1, 2014, Uber said. Once the hides are tanned, they are brought to the shop on Adams Avenue where the names, addresses and order information are matched with the hides. Then the hides go to cutting.

For Uber, having an experienced crew to work with has been a benefit during the busy times.

“We’ve all been here quite a number of seasons for the most part, anywhere from five to 10 years to 40-plus years,” Uber said.

Hides can be dyed five different colors, a process that is done during the tanning process. The business has also been taking hides from elk and beef cows as well. As the only custom tannery of its scale in the state, it means orders come in from across the country.

“The custom work comes in nationwide,” Uber said.

It’s a special time of year for the business, especially when families start bringing in hides from shared hunts.

“I think there’s a lot of tradition with people. We’ve had a grandfather in who was hunting with a grandchild who has gotten their first deer,” Uber said. “It’s pretty special to bring it in and have leather made or have gloves or mittens made.”

Source: Peoples Press Owatonna

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