Feature by: Black Bear Leather
A Legacy of Leather Craft
From the moment that Black Bear Leather owner and CEO, John ‘Michael’ Glick, cut into his first side of leather, he knew that he had found something special. It was as if working with leather simply made sense to him.
Michael had never been particularly good with his hands. He always opted to practice art forms like photography as opposed to the finer detailing work of drawing or painting. Michael never really gained an appreciation of carpentry, even after growing up working in his father’s construction business.
When Michael took a knife to a side of leather for the first time, it was as if he instinctively knew what to do. When he was working with leather, it would seem as if his hands had found their natural form. The craft was in his blood, and so leatherwork became his passion.
When he first began in the spring of 2014, he wasn’t aware of the deep legacy of leather craft that ran through his family lineage. When he started to share his work with his family and friends, it was not long before his grandfather began to share tales of a long-standing tradition of leather crafting.
Michael’s grandfather, great-grandfather, and great-great-grandfather were all leather craftsmen as well as members of the Amish community. Besides running their family farms, their trade was to make leather goods. Their concentration was for practical purposes, such as horse harnesses and boots for the Amish and non-Amish alike.
In 1972, Michael’s grandfather, Elmer Glick, left the Amish church. He, along with his wife and five children, was subsequently shunned by the Amish community. Elmer was forced to leave his leather crafting trade behind and chose to begin a new career path in construction. Elmer started a construction business from the ground up with his son, Merv. They named the construction business, Black Bear Structures.
Elmer and Merv started Black Bear Structures out of the upper level of their family farm’s barn, above where Elmer kept his horses and milked his cows. That barn still stands, just across the road from Black Bear Structure’s current location. More than 40 years later, Michael Glick would set up his first leather workshop and craft his very first leather belt in this very same barn.
The name “Black Bear” originated from an 18th-century tavern called “The Black Bear Tavern.” The revolutionary General Lafayette once visited this same tavern. The original Black Bear Tavern structure remained standing until 2016 when it was destroyed by a new local owner.
When Michael discovered his passion for leather, later learning of his family’s leather legacy, he wanted to connect that deep leather crafting legacy to his passion. Thus, he named his company “Black Bear Leather” as an ode to his grandfather. Even the distinctive Black Bear Leather logo is the same logo that was created and used by Black Bear Structures.
Today, Black Bear Leather stands as an ode to a deep legacy of leather crafting. Using the same handcrafting methods and same leather that the owner’s forefathers have been using for hundreds of years, Black Bear creates leather wares that will stand the test of time, and become a piece of a legacy in themselves, to be handed down with even greater beauty and character for generations to come.