New Braunfels leather shop open for 80 years

A shop that's kept customers coming in for 80 years, could be called tough as leather.

Running a small business is hard work, and running a successful one is even more difficult.

So a shop that's kept customers coming in for 80 years could be called - tough as leather.

In historic New Braunfels, among old buildings and new businesses, there's a place that holds a patchwork of tradition.

"It's nice to see this thing still carrying on,” said Al Ludwig. "It's kind of amazing that this thing has been able to survive and flourish."

Ludwig and Marglin Leather has been part of the community for decades -- since 1938, to be exact.

"There's Clinton, uncle Clinton Ludwig;  dad, James P Ludwig,” said Ludwig as he looked at historic photos on the shop’s wall. "Yeah, this brings back a bunch of memories here."

Al Ludwig's grandfather opened the leather shop during the 1930s to offer jobs to people during the depression.

Ludwig grew up playing in the shop and learning the leather crafts.

"We'd come in here on Sunday after church or Sunday school and push the carts around in here and had a good time," said Ludwig.

He enjoyed braiding the leather as a child, and as an adult opened a wholesale leather business. But eventually, he came back to take the reins of the family business.

"I decided I was going to turn an obscure craft into an actual business and I was hard headed enough I proved it and actually did it,” said Ludwig.

But as Ludwig grew older, he handed the business over to another Central Texas family.

Terri Cocanougher's grandfather from five generations ago helped found the city of New Braunfels. She bought the building after wanting to invest in her hometown, but instead, she fell in love with the business inside.

"I fell in love with the people who were working here," said Cocanougher. "The people are the main asset that are here, they're the ones that preserve the memories, they preserve the skill sets."

It’s clear they have dedicated workers.

"They always go, 'Helen you're still here?' Yes I'm going to be here until I can make it, even if I have to come in a wheelchair," said Helen Oppelt.

Her husband, Opie, has worked there since the 1970s.

"I've been here since 1977,” said Opie.

He told KVUE Wednesday that he plans to stay until he’s 90 -- six more years.

In a time of big box stores and mass production, they are still creating something unique in New Braunfels.

"We like the individual, one piece at a time things, things that are truly special,” said Cocanougher.

"Seems to still be plenty of people looking for that type of thing,” said Ludwig.

They make a variety of products from personalized gifts, to braces for those with arthritis, to suspenders for firefighters.

"If they're in a heated situation the leather doesn't heat up and it's more comfortable to wear of course than if you had hardware on your skin,” said Cocanougher.

They even make period pieces for the big screen.

"Holsters, belts, it remains strong, the guys hardly have enough time to get it all done,” said Ludwig.

"We kind of have some specialty things that we make for the wholesale market that you can't find other places," said Cocanougher.

It's that one of a kind touch that Ludwig says has kept the shop alive.

"Have to have a certain modicum of adaptability to change with the product,” said Ludwig.

It’s an adaptability, and strength these craftsmen have, like the material they work so closely with.

© 2017 KVUE-TV


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