Made in NEPA is a series that showcases locally based manufacturers and the products that they proudly create right here in Northeastern Pennsylvania. We’ll give you a behind-the-scenes look at the companies and the impact they’re making in NEPA and beyond.
“Whatever you’re going to do, you should do it the best that you can.” — Nick Duvall
It’s a Monday morning at Duvall Leatherwork. Today’s project: wallets. Artisans unroll a rich, chestnut-colored cowhide across the work table and carefully measure it out. They line up the dies—think of them like cookie cutters for the different pieces of the wallet—and put them through a machine that slices through the raw material.
Out in the workshop, sewing machines beat out a steady tempo. There’s a cool, calm rhythm to the work here. “In our business, we’re more about the precision of something than the speed,” pointed out Nick Duvall, business owner and master craftsman at Duvall Leatherwork.
Quality comes first, not only in their wallets, but in all of their handcrafted leather goods. This local company creates a full line of bags, belts and more at their artisan workshop in Hanover Industrial Estates. Everything that they sell online and at their retail shop in Kingston is designed and made right here in NEPA.
Building a Business from the Ground Up
Since 2005, Duvall Leatherwork has grown from a cottage industry to a full-scale manufacturer.
Duvall’s love for leather started when he was just a kid. Growing up in Mercersburg, Pennsylvania, he spent hours carving scraps of leather with his father’s hobby tools.
As a young adult, Duvall moved to NEPA to study surveying at Penn State Wilkes-Barre. He earned his degree and went into the field, only to realize that he didn’t enjoy it at all. Surveying simply wasn’t his calling, but leather, on the other hand, had always been a lifetime passion.
Duvall wasn’t going to wait until “someday” to pursue his dream. On January 1, 2005, he launched Duvall Leatherwork in the basement of his house.
“I was twenty-five years old. I straight up quit my job, and I started my business,” he recalled. “I had no business training. I did not come from a family that had a business. I just had an idea and an incredible drive and passion to do it.”
At first, the company focused solely on historical work. Duvall had always been interested in history, so he researched and created high-end reproductions of military gear for clients like museums and the National Park Service. By 2006, he bought a building on Wyoming Avenue in Kingston, which still serves as his retail shop today.
As time went on, Duvall saw the chance to expand into modern-day items like wallets, bags and belts. The new products were so successful that around 2015, the company closed off their historic line and shifted completely to modern leather goods.
Inside the New Artisan Workshop
Even as they grow, Duvall Leatherwork stays true to craft and quality.
Up until 2021, Duvall Leatherwork created all of their products in the back of the Kingston shop. But as the business grew, it became clear that they needed a change.
“We got to the point where our product line is so vast and our workload is so much that in the spring of last year, we decided to move to a larger facility,” explained Duvall.
The new, 6,000-square-foot space is located in Hanover Township, just a quick drive from the store. The distance wasn’t far, but moving an entire workshop (while still keeping up with orders) proved to be a challenge. The team worked tirelessly that summer to transport the bulky machinery, tool cabinets, work tables and supplies.
“Imagine moving your house, but everything in here weighs a thousand pounds,” joked Duvall.
By October 2021, Duvall Leatherwork hosted their official ribbon cutting. Bright, spacious and tidy, the facility proves that a manufacturing business can still have a workshop feel. Here, it’s not about employees plugging away on machines all day. Instead, it’s real, skilled craftspeople who learn the trade and pour their own creativity and skill into each product.
Durability Meets Design
Everything’s built to last with superior leather and time-tested techniques.
A piece of black sketch paper is tacked to the wall in the handbag room. It’s the original design for the new women’s backpack that Duvall Leatherwork just launched this spring. This bag alone took well over 30 hours to develop. No detail was overlooked, from choosing the hardware to finding the right spot for a pocket to designing the perfect length for the straps.
“I always love designing handbags,” said Duvall. “I like the challenge of deciding what looks nice, the design aspect and finding the right leather. Sometimes I go to lunch, and somebody walks by with our bag on. I was on an airplane in Phoenix once, and a woman walked by with one of our bags. I think that’s pretty cool.”
Creating a new product is like starting from scratch. Duvall Leatherwork begins with cow, bison and goatskin leathers from some the world’s finest tanneries. Then, they handle every aspect from the design to the final inspection.
Larger bags are the most complex, with some styles taking upwards of four or five hours to complete. Other products like wallets have a faster turnaround. Already this year, Duvall Leatherwork has produced over 20,000 wallets, both for their own brand and for private labels.
In addition to their timeless styles, Duvall Leatherwork also releases new seasonal lines to keep up with the latest trends. The latest spring/summer line includes everything from fun, tasseled bags to vacation-ready materials like cork and bamboo.
A NEPA Favorite with a Nationwide Reach
Duvall Leatherwork has been a staple in the local business community for 17 years and counting.
Between their local following, online orders and private labels, Duvall Leatherwork has made a name for themselves in NEPA and beyond. Their online store has boomed since the pandemic with orders across the country. And while many local shops are closing their doors, their storefront remains strong.
“There is plenty of opportunity to have a business and thrive here,” said Duvall. “I don’t know if I ever would have been able to have this in a more metropolitan area.”