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Stash Co. shop visit :: Sealy, TX

by , March 27, 2014

Stash Co. is the coolest carry shop I’ve ever visited for Carryology.  And I’ve been to quite a few shops; heavy-hitting (Carry Award winning) brands of the industry as well as artisan workshops putting out beautiful handmade products.  Still, Stash Co.’s shop is at the very top of my list.  Why?  The whole combined experience.

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I love hearing about brands that are within driving distance of where I’m at here in Austin, TX.  I’ve also been extremely fortunate that these Texas-based brands I’ve done shop visits with (Barrett Alley, BEXAR Goods Co., Traveller Denim Co.) so far have been of the highest caliber of anywhere I’ve seen across the country or the world.

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Not to say that there aren’t amazing brands elsewhere…there just seems to be a high level in this corridor.  Or maybe I’m just good at only picking good ones.  There are dozens of great brands I’d still like to come and say hello to located elsewhere; California, the UK and all across Europe, Japan, Turkey, dozens more.

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Regardless, here is another high-quality Texas brand.  And they’re located 50 miles outside of Houston in the small rural town of Sealy (population of 6,000/10 square miles in size).  Back in 1881 an entrepreneurial cotton-gin builder started making cotton-filled mattresses here, then aptly named his company after the town, Sealy Mattress Company.  Since then, not much has changed.

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Sealy embodies what you picture when you think “small American town”, or maybe more specifically “small Texas town”.  Simple, quiet, quaint, hard-working.  Now that I’ve covered some of the surroundings, this should allow you to imagine this little place.  This experience added to the charm of my shop visit, even before I officially arrived at the factory itself.

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It’s fitting then that Stash Co. is located in a Texas Historical Commission recognized mattress factory (Haynes Mattress Factory), built in 1828.

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The owner is Cheryl Schulke (she goes by the nickname “Stash”) and her grandparents owned and operated this mattress factory back in the day.

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Not much has changed since they closed down the mattress factory when industrial rapid manufacturing eventually took over, leaving most of the original handmade factory equipment untouched.

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Cheryl and her small team have transformed this all-wood ex-mattress factory into one incredible carry brand HQ.  Stash Co. offers up a range of handmade quality leather goods such as duffels/weekenders, backpacks, belts, camera straps, tote bags, satchels, carry pouches, limited edition products, and plenty more.

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Go check out their collection and have a browse.  Rumor has it, someone from Carryology is modeling one of their products on the website.  First person to spot it wins a high-five from the entire Carryology team (winner must fly around the globe to accept their prizes).

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What makes these products truly unique is their extreme attention to detail and construction.  I could get really nerdy on you and explain some of the stitches/seams/construction methods to you, but you’ll have to wait for that.

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The point here is that no corner is cut.  Each individual product is crafted at a custom one-off level, made in small limited runs.

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More specifically, each product is quite unique to one another.  Cheryl selects the leathers for all Stash Co. products herself, inspecting them for thickness, quality, texture, and finish.  Now what most of you may not realize is that most of these leather hides have big brand marks on them.  Most people think these brands are ugly.

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To explain a bit about these “ugly brands”…ranches will get a scorching hot piece of iron in the shape of their initials or symbol and press it into the cow’s thick skin.  The brand heals up pretty quickly and the cow is back to grazing on grass without thinking twice.  It sounds prehistoric, but that’s just the way it goes.  This process helps the cattle farmers keep control of their living bovine inventory, as an ear tag can be switched out or removed by thieving cattle farmers to claim as their property.  In fact, this process is where the commonplace term “brand” comes from.  So when we’re talking about a brand, we’re talking about a unique business, which is plainly identified by a logo.  Neat, eh?

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Most tanneries try to get rid of these branding marks, throwing them away as scraps from the hide.  Cheryl specifically searches out these bits and highlights them on her products in a tasteful way.  Personally, I think that’s a really cool idea.  Gives the product that bit of extra character, showing off the process and connecting you to where this beautiful leather really came from.

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The shop is filled with echoes of a forgotten time, when things were handmade with blood, sweat, and tears.  You can almost feel the memory of the workers making mattresses around you, in a full-on hustle and bustle during a 100+ degree day (with no A/C).  Antique relics help to remind you of this constantly.  An old beat up Dutch post bag, a hand-repaired 100-ish year old leather punching bag, rusty old farm equipment that you know has seen its day out in the fields, some mysterious leather case possibly used by a doctor or other specialist.

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The flag collection here is something to admire on its own.  Cheryl collects old halfway-destroyed flags for her personal collection.

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But what’s really exciting about these flags is they’re not just to look pretty on the wall.  Some of these flags get a second life.  They’re retrofitted onto new, handcrafted pieces of carry for limited edition runs (shown in one of the duffels above).

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Though I could wax poetic about the beauty, soul and history of this shop, I personally believe the photos of this magnificent space will have to do most of the talking.  So take a visual tour of the shop and reminisce with us while we head back to the Haynes Mattress Factory down in Sealy, TX, where Stash Co. warmly occupies and produces all of their amazing carry goods.

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Oh, and one last thing.  We have a Road Test of one of these ridiculously handsome leather duffels coming up soon, so stay tuned.  This piece is quite possibly one of the best leather carry products I’ve ever laid my hands on.  And…well, I’ve already said too much.  In the meantime, head over to Stash Co. and enjoy a mosey around for yourself.



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