Interview by Voyage ATL
Today we’d like to introduce you to Greg Muddell.
Greg, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today? My first project was a belt back in junior high school, a belt that I still have. Sadly I don’t fit into it any longer!! From what I recall it was an all in one project from Tandy Leather that involved my staining the leather, adding the white strip woven into the edges and stamping my name into the reverse, and adding my coveted “Coors” belt buckle! Please don’t laugh, it was the early 1980’s.
Fast forward to 2011. A great long time friend of mine was researching making hand-made custom holsters and speaking with him about his interest in leather, shooting, and hunting reinvigorated my past love and enjoyment of leatherworking. I decided to dip my toe in so to speak by taking some classes at my local Tandy store in Tucker, Georgia, taught by Chuck Dorsett. After my first project, and due to an amazing teacher, I was hooked. Months of research followed trying to determine what I would like to make – belts for my friend’s holsters seemed like a great match. In 2012 I knew I would need some machines to help and I purchased a great “stitcher”/sewing machine from the Leather Machine Company, a Cobra 4. Steve, the amazing owner of the Leather Machine Company, mentioned that John Bianchi, Matt Whitaker and their team, from Frontier Gun Leather, were teaching a class in Arizona in early 2013. I fudged my experience a little, well okay a lot, and was granted a slot in his week-long class for “advanced leather workers”. After five days, I had acquired some amazing skills and was educated on how to work with leather in a professional way, and to have my work look and perform to a very high standard. The project that I made, with a lot of help directly from John Bianchi, was a gun belt for my Sig Saur .45 ACP Scorpion. The project was a sturdy gun belt, holster and magazine pouches. It looked great and I was given an award from John due to that project. I was excited and ready to get to work.
By the end of 2013, I had my first offering of belts. As my main product, I decided that making belts to be used for conceal carry was a great way to introduce my product line. I began selling at gun shows in the Atlanta area. Armed with that success, I approached the Johns Creek Indoor gun range and they agreed to carry my belts in their extensive retail area in 2014.
Between 2014 and through 2018, I was balancing Churchill Leather and working for a very good friend of mine in London, commuting back and forth about every eight weeks. Folks would order on my website, and I had to tell them that I was in London for the next several weeks, which I thought would kill the sale. To my amazement, everyone (100% of my web orders) agreed to wait until I was back in Atlanta for five years!!
n early 2019, I decided it was time to come home from London so that I could be home 100% of the time and it was critical for me to spend much more time with my family. Coming full circle to today, I am home, and my shop is buzzing with new products to be showcased over the coming weeks and months. From my early days making beautiful but tough English Bridle belts, I added tote bags, luggage tags, dog collars, dog leashes, valet trays, Ranger belts, mousepads and desk pads.
The name of my business, Churchill Leather, was an easy name for me to utilize. I am a bit of a history buff, and Winston Churchill was a man I admired. Additionally, I use American leather from the Wickett & Craig Tannery (They have been tanning leather since the last 1860s) and I use mostly hardware, buckles, from England – and Churchill’s father was English and his mother was American, so I thought the combination of using American leather and British brass hardware was a great mix, it worked well for Winston Churchill!
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way? It has mostly been a good road. Leatherworkers tend to be a very sharing group of people, we share tips, product designs, and where to source the best machines, tools, leather and hardware. Compared to large corporations where most things are secretive, having this business is a breath of fresh air. The largest challenge for Churchill Leather is getting the word out, marketing and public relations. Great products are nothing if nobody knows your company, where to look, what you are selling and how to buy. As of now, getting the word out primarily consists of the website, www.churchill-leather.com, Instagram Churchill leather, Google business account and selling in person at a gun show and Arts and Crafts festivals.
Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Churchill Leather – what should we know? Churchill Leather is above all, a small artisan business specializing in hand-made leather products that are useful and that can make great gifts. I design and make everything that I sell. I am known for making products that last, for example, my belt customers tell me that I make things too well and that unless they want another color, they do not need to buy another belt – I love those comments and direct feedback from customers. I am proud that I have engaged my creative side, and provide folks with a quality product and that those products are made in America and whenever possible, I buy materials that are made in America too. What sets me apart from others? In a word, quality. I am happy to compare the quality, beauty and craftsmanship against ANYTHING that a person could find at stores like Macy’s, Wal-Mart, Nordstroms, Cabela’s, etc., as their imported products do not come close to mine.
Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role? Absolutely. My family, of course, especially my mom, dad, stepfather and stepmother, have always been supportive of my career. As I mentioned earlier one of best friends re-kindled my interest in leather and I’ve had some great teachers/motivators including Chuck Dorsett and John Bianchi (and his team) that were critical. Lastly, all of the leather workers out there who are so helpful, sharing and kind.
Address: 6500 Gaines Ferry Road Unit C2 Flowery Branch GA 30542