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L.A. retailer’s crowdfunding campaign will expand the shop’s leather business

Published May 16, 2017

LOS ANGELES (BRAIN) – When it comes to retail, Chris Kelly has always been one to think outside the box. From closing his store, Topanga Creek Outpost, mid-week for staff and customer adventures, which he has dubbed ‘Unpredict your Wednesday’, to ditching products sold on Amazon more than five years ago, Kelly has spent the better part of his career working to set his shop apart from the rest.

The store has become a destination for adventure seekers from all over the world, attracting bikepackers, endurance racers, the bike touring crowd and area cyclists who visit Topanga Creek Outpost for its group rides and fresh banana bread on Saturday mornings. And through his latest venture, Rogue Journeymen, Kelly has added unique, handcrafted leather goods to his store’s offerings.

The idea came about at Eurobike two and a half years ago.

“I’m not the guy sitting around waiting for things to happen. I was looking for more ways to set my shop apart from online retailers,” said Kelly, who has worked in bike retail since 1999. “I was talking to Christina at the Brooks booth at Eurobike and learned that a shop in London was stamping initials onto Brooks saddles. About a year later, I went to a leather shop in L.A. and started making keychains.” 

Kelly has since set up a leather workshop in his store, which is located in Topanga Canyon in the Santa Monica mountains, just outside of Los Angeles. He named the business Rogue Journeymen and has expanded his leather offerings to include wallets, belts, dog collars, leather valets, notebooks and mason jar holsters, which have become a best seller in his shop. Kelly also makes custom displays for his leather goods using leftover wood from his neighbor’s guitar making shop.

Kelly has also begun making custom leather goods for other retailers, including Pedaler’s Fork in nearby Agoura Hills, California. He set up shop inside The Wheelhouse, a retailer in downtown Los Angeles, where he made dog collars onsite for a Doggie Meet around Christmas time, and has made branded items for the Bicycle Nomad, located in Phoenix, Arizona. Inquiries continue to roll in. 

“It’s growing like wildfire. I’m making stuff with my logo and doing a lot more with other shops’ logos. It’s a great add-on sale,” he said. “I think working together with other shops is good thing – the more we do it, the better off we all are.”

Kelly can brand any logo onto his leather goods, and offers wholesale pricing to retailers interested in selling in their own stores.

Already the demand for Rogue Journeymen’s leather goods is outpacing Kelly’s production capacity. He’s doubled his staff in order to keep up with orders and his own in-store sales, but he needs some new equipment and more human power.

Kelly has launched a Kickstarter to help with the investment costs. He hopes to purchase an industrial sewing machine, leather dying equipment and other tools so he can expand production. 

To learn more about Rogue Journeymen and view its Kickstarter campaign, visit https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/377840115/rogue-journeymen-bicycle-shop-leather-designs.

Look for more about Topanga Creek Outpost and Rogue Journeymen in an upcoming issue of Bicycle Retailer

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