What was there in the beginning? People always ask. What made you get into this? Why are you doing this? Sometimes folks are excited to partner with us. And sometimes people are confused why two people would quit everything else and work in a small shop making bags from canvas on 100 year old sewing machines.
The answer goes so far back that its often hard to give a short answer to people. The short answer is we love making things, but the long answer is somewhat more.
Deep down there is a tugging desire in all men to create, to work hard, to build calluses on their hands. A goal to look and see that there has been something made, something built each day. We believe that God place this desire in us, to work hard. And there is a calling, "...make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you" 1 Thessalonians 4:11, which we must answer.
Since my brother and I were kids, we've been piddlers. Always a random project. Taking things apart to figure out how they work. Treehouse building on Saturdays in the woods, rebuilding go-carts, art projects, and writing. Event at a young age there is a reward for working with your hands. The finished product, whatever it is, awaits in all its glory at the end of the day.
As young adults, all of our lives we've heard things like, "back when things lasted," or, "when America made the best appliances," or "when America made great things." I knew we were blessed to live in a truly amazing and free country, but the blatant truth was things had gone down hill quickly. At least from a manufacturing prospective, things are not what they used to be. My grandmother had a Maytag washing machine that lasted 40 years. Washing for half a lifetime. It probably weighed a hundred pounds. One thing was for sure, it was made to last. Now I hear rumors that giant appliance companies purposefully under engineer products to have a lifetime of 5 or 6 years. Things will break. Integral parts will give out. Customers will need to buy a new product, and companies will have a sale every 6 years instead of every forty. Something about this illustration of durability from the past in contrast with our backslidden current predicament struck a cord with us.
Sturdy Brothers was born from the specific desire to Rekindle what has been lost over the years in American Craftsmanship, and in a broader sense, with our lives glorify God by creating beautiful things from hard work. Henry David Thoreau puts it well, "the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation." In many ways I believe this to be a desperation of man caused by an inability to physically relate to his work and glory in its end result, as I described earlier. I, for one, did not seek to be a man who's soul withers away at his fingers behind a desk and computer in a crowded office. In college for business, this was the direction I was quickly headed.
It all started one hot summer over a phone call. I was working up in Raleigh, NC at a coffee shop called Jubala, and Spencer was down in south Georgia managing Grassroots Coffee Company. The conversation indicated a few things: we needed a new adventure (something with heart and blood and sweat and tears in it), we wanted to make something well, and we wanted to inspire ourselves and others to make.
One of the downsides of working in coffee is you seem to always get dirty. Between the wet hot coffee grounds, and splattered milk there is seldom a day to return home unscathed. At least there is the ever lingering, semi-pleasent smell of a blended ice cream based concoction radiating from your clothing for the remainder of your post shift life. There has been one mechanism devoted to the protection of clothing in a coffee shop/ food industry environment, the apron. It was my brother who decided to experiment with the apron idea.
After browsing the internet for brainstorms, the most suitable, and most durable fabric for an apron came down to some sort of waxed canvas. For hundreds of years waxed canvas has been used for waterproofing and durability. Brands like Barbour, and Filson have been using this dependable medium for years. After several wax recipes, fabric testing, leather dying, and about $350 we had our first apron prototype.
It seemed like everyone who saw, tested, or heard about the apron loved it! The response was amazing, and suddenly we had our first product. Although we didn't know it yet, the waxed canvas apron was soon to be the cornerstone product to a line we would create over the next months.
Our name, Sturdy Brothers, was taken out of an old line of poetry I had written years before. It went something to the effect of "Sturdy up your souls for the work ahead." After long discussions back and forth from, "Young Brothers Goods," to "Down South Merchandise," we landed here. The word "Sturdy" very much describes both the fabric of waxed canvas, and our goal of "Rekindling American Craftsmanship." Our original aim of creating products that were both rewarding to make, and having the attention to detail last a lifetime was finally coming to fruition.
With the help of friends, all our family members, a computer guru, and videographer, we were off to make our stab at creating a kickstarter campaign that would showcase our newly designed waxed canvas and leather products, and allow supporters to pledge money towards a particular product. This was all back in February of 2014. We started an Instagram account, passed out fliers, and prayed for the best. The kickstarter campaign was called "Waxed Canvas and Leather. American. Sturdy." You can find it --> here.
Initially we had a $3,500 dollar goal. Reaching the goal would allow us to buy some key machinery, and enable us to buy fabric and materials in bulk 100 yard bolts. I was wondering if this goal was a little high, if we'd even make it.. To my and everyone's surprise the goal was reached within 24 hours. Friends, family, and supporters were coming out of the woodwork from everywhere. I was shocked watching order after order come through on my phone that first night. At the end of 30 days we had raise $14,823 to start our dream. I arranged to move to South Georgia where our little shop, behind my mother's house was, and we started making.
It has been such a blessing to watch Sturdy Brothers grow. We now have a manufacturing location on Jackson street in historic downtown Thomasville, Georgia, as well as a retail shop in Grassroots Coffee on Broad street. We have an online retail outlet on our website at www.sturdybrothers.com, as well as wholesale opportunities. We are always excited about new opportunities on their way. On behalf of Sturdy Brothers, we are truly thankful for the opportunity to live quiet lives and work hard with our hands every day.
Photo Credits to Christina at Redfly Studios