For maker Jeremy Haas, it truly is all about the fine details. For him, growth of his brand is defined through the continual development of the goods and in honing these offerings. Stitch-by-stitch, this maker knows that good things come to those who persevere.
Pinch Flat Manufacturing (mfg.) is the evolution and rebrand of Pinch Flat Press. Sole proprietor, founder, and artist Jeremy Haas has had a unique journey that spans from screen printing, graphic design and lettering, on through to leather and canvas work. This journey has taken him from his hometown in the midwest on to Montana, then on-the-road through Chicago, North Carolina, Ohio, and back to Missoula. Propelling this journey forward, he put his hands to work in large-scale printing factories.
Now, he finds solace and motivation in his home-based leather and canvas workshop - a space expressing true character and authenticity.
Humble, authentic, and sincere. This is the story of Jeremy Haas, Pinch Flat mfg.
On a brisk, late winter morning, I arrive at Jeremy's house nestled in Missoula's Lower Rattlesnake at the base of a large wilderness area, yet just a short bike ride to the heart of downtown.
Jeremy warmly greets me, I step in, and close the door behind. Taking just a few steps forward, I have arrived: the Pinch Flat mfg. leather and canvas workshop.
NPR is playing in the background and the calm tunes softly broadcast throughout the first floor. This mid-twentieth century home is warm and inviting. I settle in to the diverse and inviting space around me.
I start unpacking my camera equipment onto a blue couch. A shelf, next to the couch, is stacked with hundreds of vinyl records, and a table in the corner holds a record player that is aptly given its own space in the shop.
Jeremy and I talk, as he sits at his workbench, drinking black coffee from a handmade ceramic mug. I start piecing my gear together and reference my notes for the interview.
Sitting on the couch to the left of him, I continue to look around the room, taking in my surroundings. I instantly survey the neatly-organized workbench where he sits - a desk that is well-lit both by the corner windows' natural light and by the overhead, focused lamp lighting.
The wall above this workbench holds a whiteboard scribed with his organized system of order details, important dates, and a tallied inventory of leather and canvas items currently on-hand. To the right of this whiteboard is an odds and ends and collectibles shelf - a nod to Jeremy's appreciation of unique goods.
Directly to the right of this workbench area is the sewing station, with a waxed canvas tote lying in-progress on the industrial machine. The machine is decorated with Pinch Flat and other logo stickers.
Shifting my attention farther to the right, another desk, a bike, and a shelf in the farthest corner of the room. This tall shelf holds completed duffel bags, rucksacks, and supplies - piled high and overflowing with rolled-up leather hides. To its right, another workstation that holds two waxed canvas totes.
Before coming full-circle, back to the couch I'm on, I notice the kitchen and side-room entries.
Jeremy begins telling me his story.
He started what was initially Pinch Flat Press, nearly 10 years ago, out of a love and passion for screen printing, graphic design, and lettering. His skills learned and practiced in this line, brought him on a multi-state journey. This journey became his "coming of age" or finding of self story.
He spent time working in both small and large-scale print and manufacturing shops during this time. Jeremy shared his conclusions from this journey, "though big companies may take care of you financially, they often don't, mentally".
This young maker found himself burning out at too early of an age, quickly, albeit unintentionally diminishing the flame in what had, for years, been his artistic expression.
This happens all too often today. What an interesting and complex crossroads to be found at, when one's self-awareness comes to: 'something has to change'.
As recognized in Makerview's maker definition and manifesto, it's stated that 'Makers don't do well in a factory.' Along with: 'Makers often do not accept the status quo.' And 'Makers are made, not produced.'
Hearing maker, founder, and artist Jeremy's story, and in comparing it with this - everything resonates and echoes.
As he told me more details about his journey from Montana > Chicago > North Carolina > Ohio and back, it was apparent that this has shaped him into who he is and what he pursues today. Jeremy found himself leaving the big factories and rebranding to Pinch Flat mfg., while diving further into leather making. This was about halfway into his business's story.
Pinch Flat, a reference to a particular type of bike tire flat (also deemed a snakebite), is the chosen name that avid cycler and bike polo enthusiast, Jeremy, initially gave his budding business.
Pinch Flat mfg. is a brand characterized by a logo that he made of a unique, hand-lettered type and snake design. Quiet and steady is its mantra and defining tagline. A mantra that perfectly compliments the authentic, field-tested goods and the maker behind them.
Jeremy clearly illustrates his brand, both emotionally and physically, embodying all that this company stands for. Authentic, well-made, high-quality, and thoughtful artisanship.
Moving back to Montana after his multi-state journey has been vital for the definition, evolution, and success of his brand. Montana and more specifically, Missoula, shapes and defines Pinch Flat and Jeremy, himself. This is a community that takes its time, moving at its own pace - a valley surrounded by pines, mountains, and trails. Missoula, Montana is a deeply inspiring location to make things and it all shines through in this brand.
The work of building, running, maintaining, and growing your own business is exciting. Through facing challenges head-on and defining and redefining your specific workflows and procedures, you have the opportunity to define and own every aspect of the operation.
Running a home-based business has its own unique advantages and challenges. Jeremy has a 10-second commute to the shop where he creates and fulfills customer's leather wallet orders, wholesale and larger bulk orders, and where he brainstorms and builds up an inventory of items to sell at market and on his online, eCommerce store.
All of Pinch Flat's stockists are currently and intentionally only based in Montana. Jeremy feels a strong connection to his community and is an artist that has built up an amazing local following. In the early days, and proven important still today, the majority of his sales would come through word of mouth and email communication.
This takes work. This take time. This take dedication.
Jeremy shares, "I am a workhorse, I put my body through a lot. After the hectic holiday seasons, I can feel the arthritis in my hands. Finding and maintaining a balance is critical."
Growth for him does not presently entail a roadmap of expanding into a factory or ramping up wholesale and digital sales or hiring extra shop hands. Instead, he's focused on growth through the development of his product lines and in the perfection of these offerings, as well as making more in-person connections through personal, artist-to-customer interactions at markets. Jeremy sells at Missoula's People's Market, MADE Fair events, Western Cider Flea markets, and many more.
Though you will find Pinch Flat wallets, keychains, and Field Note journal kits at Noteworthy Paper & Press and Betty's Divine in Missoula, amongst other small shops throughout Montana, Jeremy finds solace and comfort in spending his off-market months brainstorming and further defining the details of his brand.
After supply runs to Missoula's Home ReSource, Jeremy builds market product displays, focusing on every detail of his brand's presentation. It's important to him to ensure that everything is presenting and embodying the Pinch Flat brand in a consistent and thoughtful manner.
Growth for this maker is defined by creating something that's able to be passed down for generations to come. Jeremy's main goal for Pinch Flat, in his own words, is to "create the best products with the longest lifespan".
When sharing more details behind the time-tested design of his flagship product - the leather bi-fold wallet - Jeremy tells me of the conversation he enjoys having with potential customers at market.
"Look at a standard, box store wallet purchase. How many times have you bought that same thing? Try buying handmade, instead. You’ll find yourself saving money, in the long run, and will be passing the piece down for generations to come."
This humble and respectful maker ensures that he is staying within his own lane, too. He is aware of the other makers in this industry and within our Missoula community and he mindfully makes sure that he is not "stepping on anyone's toes", as he says. He is defining his own, unique niche and product lines based off of ruggedly-tested, quality design.
As this maker is staying ahead of demand and currently preparing for his fourth year of craft fairs and markets that start in a few months, he tells me how sticking with this has been critical to his continued success and recognition.
Makers, entrepreneurs, or artists are fed a lot of "quick" and "instant" and "overnight" in today's fast-paced, digital age. These stories make it too easy to give up prematurely, to throw in the towel much too soon.
Jeremy's advice to other makers is to stick with it.
When asking him what advice he would like to give to other makers, he focuses on responding with the advice of persistence, of non-stop pursuit towards perfection of craft, alongside pushing oneself to work when working is the last thing you may want to do.
Building a brand and a business is never an overnight success, despite the clickbait headlines and articles that you may come upon.
Stick with it, stay consistent, and don't give up. Things will come together within enough time spent and you will become recognized and sought after more and more - in good time.
Makers are made, not produced.
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Also follow along on Jeremy's Instagram.