Small Business Spotlight: David Lane Design

August 16, 2019 08:48 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) -- There's just something divine about the smell of tanned leather. It's the first sensation you experience when you visit David Lane Design. 

"It's handmade, hand-sewn leather goods," said owner and designer David DeMarte. "It's heirloom quality piece of work."

For about a dozen years, DeMarte has been creating custom watch straps, handbags, belts and wallets. He works out of this studio in the Hungerford Building in the City of Rochester.

On the day we visited, DeMarte was working on a custom handbag. We quickly learned the intricate work involved no machines. Everything is hand-stitched, with a pacing and repetition that DeMarte has clearly mastered over time.

"This one in particular is quite involved. This will take us anywhere from 8-12 hours depending on the details," he explained.

Because David Lane Design products are made to order, customers can select from a variety of high-quality leathers.

"We have a number of different leathers -- from alligator to goatskin to cowhide to calf to cordovan," said DeMarte.

He has even made watch straps from re-purposed leather, taken from World War I and World War II ammunition pouches.

DeMarte learned a lot of his skill from his grandfather -- a shoemaker from Budapest. The rest he picked up from a book.

David DeMarte: "I literally just was messing around in my basement and took some time, learned a method and then kind of just did it."

News10NBC's Brett Davidsen: How did this go from a hobby messing around in your basement to becoming a business?

DeMarte: "That's a great question. I put a few things on eBay and I sold them. I sold a couple of watch straps really quickly."

Now he has built an international customer base. And his watch straps have been featured in a number of magazines, including Esquire.

DeMarte: "It's become a name brand that people actually look for, which is kind of cool," said DeMarte.

DeMarte is available by appointment only -- and that's because creating high quality leather goods isn't his only job. 

"I teach high school in Spencerport as well as middle school in Spencerport in photography, drawing and painting and that sort of thing," he explained.

Because of his schedule and his attention to detail, it can take 8-10 weeks to create a watch strap. But his customers don't seem to mind the wait.

The straps start at $150.

"It's an investment, and I've had somebody put a $300 watch strap on a $50 Timex," he said.

DeMarte hopes to expand the David Lane brand and continue to reach a wider audience.

Davidsen: What's your favorite part of the job?

David DeMarte: "The smell. I'm teasing of course. My favorite part of the job is the look on a customer's face when they're generally happy with what we did."

DeMarte figures he has sewn through almost six miles of thread by hand. He says his grandfather would be proud.

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Brett Davidsen

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