Firefighter-turned leather smith makes custom gear for fellow first responders
Anyone who has seen a local firefighter or first responder in action may have noticed some of them donning custom-made leather gear, such as suspenders or radio straps with their names or a flag on them. Much of that work is done by a New Jersey firefighter who turned his hobby into a business.
“I needed a creative outlet,” says Rob Meyer, of Ridgeway Leather Works.
Seven years ago, Meyer, a Monroe Township firefighter, decided that he needed a hobby. He started watching YouTube videos on leatherworking so that he could make a dog collar for his beloved Doberman, Jager. He then started making leather belts, suspenders and radio straps to use on his job as a firefighter.
“All of a sudden I had friends of friends asking me for something and it turned into a viable business,” he says.
The hobby expanded into Ridgeway Leather Works, a full-blown producer of custom leather gear for first responders. He has sold 10,000 items and counting.
“As a fireman, we tend to break things…so if you run over your own radio strap with your truck, I’ll replace it. I’ll repair it. I’ll honor the warranty,” Meyer says.
Many of the straps are customized and personalized with names, logos or flags – any sort of personal touch.
“You’re getting hand craftsmanship. You’re not getting something that’s mass-produced in some type of factory,” Meyer says.
He gets help in the shop from two other firefighter friends – Chris Lelong, who was the best man at Meyer’s wedding and Brian Olsen. Meyer will soon be the best man at his wedding. The camaraderie of the firehouse is alive and well in the workshop.
Anyone who is interested in buying a leather item can check out the Ridgeway Leather Works website.