John Varvatos Leather Bags

January 10, 2023

In light of Detroit's renaissance, several high-end retailers have moved into the city — namely Shinola, John Varvatos, and now Will Leather Goods. And their presence in the city can be quite polarizing. Some folks are stoked that these places are setting up shop here, making the place a little more hoity-toity. Others wonder quietly, "Who the hell can afford this stuff?"

Will Leather Goods sells beautifully crafted leather bags, wallets, briefcases, bracelets, hats, and other items and their price tags can be a little staggering. A leather backpack runs $395, an attache case could cost as much as $900. Their cheapest hat is just under $300.

Sure, many of the products sold inside the store are out of reach for even middle-class working folks, but according to store manager Brandon Ayers, there are a number of smaller items like keychains and other tchotchke that can serve as a quick impulse buy. Of course, they'll still run you at least $30, which is the cost of the least expensive thing in the store. You can pick up a leather bracelet for $40 or a beaded cuff for $65 or a men's wallet for $85.

And yes, that's expensive. But, let us offer a little bit of perspective. Everything Will Leather Goods sells comes with a 100 percent lifetime guarantee, which means if it breaks they'll either fix it or replace it — no exceptions. These items are made and meant to last a lifetime, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that you're going to spend a little bit more dough.

There are other reasons to visit Will Leather Goods than to browse their selection of backpacks, leather bags, belts, and hats. The shop also has a coffee shop where they serve up hot cups of Joe to locals who stop in daily for the affordable treat. If they aren't ready to be on their way afterward, they can hang out in that enormous cowhide teepee that sits in the center of the store (it's pretty cozy in there. There's even a chandelier). There's also a gallery space where local artists are often featured.

The coffee shop also serves as something of a community hub and, starting April 1, local guest speakers will lead engaging discussions every Friday morning from 8 to 10 a.m. Karen Dumas, host of 910 AM's the Pulse, and former 96.3 morning host Allyson Martinek are both scheduled to lead the series.

The company also has an altruistic division that donates backpacks to underprivileged students across the country, an endeavor that's close to the company founder's heart. Will Adler, a Detroit native who moved to the West Coast to pursue his dreams of becoming an actor but opened a belt store when things didn't pan out, attended DPS as a child.

Adler's Detroit roots, of course, great contributed to the opening of this beautiful — if not slightly unrealistic — store. Only time will tell if those roots, and the public's affection, can make it a viable endeavor for the company.

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