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Langlitz Leathers

65 years of crafting motorcycle leathers in the Northwest

Editors note: One of the fun things about doing this magazine is we never stop learning about the past. If you're not aware of Langlitz Leathers out of Portland, don't feel alone. I'm supposed to know everything about motorcycles, or at least a lot, but of course I don't. Thanks to Barry Mercer for the seed and Dave Hansen for sharing this great story with us.

The Langlitz story begins with the birth of Ross Langlitz on July 10, 1918 in Plymouth, Idaho. When he was young, he moved to McMinville, Oregon, where he grew up. At the age of 17, he lost his right leg in a motorcycle accident that the doctors predicted would end his riding career. Much to their surprise, the first thing Ross did when he returned home is to get on his bike and defiantly ride it back to the hospital. That was the nature of Ross ... to do what others said he couldn't.

One of those who thought he couldn't was Mavis Edwards, a beautiful young woman living in a nearby city who thought Ross was pretty arrogant for doing wild things while riding his bike. Well, once again Ross proved 'em wrong ... Ross married Pinky (Mavis' nickname) shortly thereafter. They moved to Portland and, in 1947, Ross officially founded Langlitz Leathers, after building jackets in his basement for a couple years for himself and his friends.

Those early years were lean as Ross rented the corner of a basement of another leather company (Culbertsons) at 17th and East Burnside. While his skills, reputation and customer support developed over the next decade, he found it necessary to supplement his income during the slow seasons by commercial fishing for salmon at the coast. He enjoyed fishing so much that he moved to the beach after retiring in the mid 1980s.

Photo: Ross sporting the first jacket.

While Ross managed the shop, Pinky was busy raising their three daughters, Nicki, Jackie and Judy. Nicki's two children � Tom & Jenny � were pictured on the cover of a more recent catalog (see left). Judy sought a career in nursing and now lives at the beach her parents loved so much.

Ross and Pinky's middle daughter, Jackie, went to work for Ross in 1971. She eventually became my wife. Since Ross' retirement, she has continued keeping Langlitz Leathers doing what her father intended � building the "world's finest motorcycle leathers".

I was first introduced to the world of Langlitz when I purchased a used Padded Cascade in 1973 from a motorcycle shop on the outskirts of Portland. Needing repairs and other garments, I soon found myself frequenting the shop where both Ross and Jackie helped me. In 1981, Jackie and I got married and headed out on our HONEYMOON riding a 1950 Vincent Comet with a Busmar sidecar. And not even the POLICE could spoil our happiness that day!

Ross and Pinky were approaching retirement age, so Jackie asked me if I'd consider joining her at the shop and learning the business from Ross before his departure. Those couple years were an experience I will never forget.

Today, all production is done on one of 4 cutting tables and 8 sewing machines. As what must surely be a modern business anomaly, one can enter a single room and order a custom jacket, watch it being cut and then sewed, all from the same vantage point!

While we usually build 6 garments per day, it usually takes from a few weeks to a few months to build a custom set of leathers, depending on how many orders we have. A garment can usually be cut in a half day, with the sewing taking place several days later. Depending on the difficulty of the garment, it can take another day or more to sew together. The leathers are cut by a single cutter, and sewn by a single seamstress. You won't find any mass-production assembly lines at Langlitz!

If you have a chance to visit us and are interested in seeing how we build the leathers, just ask for a tour. You will probably find our space cramped and our tools rather primitive, but it works for us. And it's the same way Ross did it more than half a century ago.

For those who don't feel the need to wait for a custom garment, we also offer stock leathers. If you come to the shop, you will be able to try on both new and used jackets. And, if you do purchase something from us and years later outgrow it, we can either alter it to fit you again, or offer to buy them back or sell them on consignment for you, which is an advantage few companies can offer. And of course, should you need repairs, we don't want you to risk having somebody else fix it. Our repair service is quick, reasonably priced and expertly done.

Dave Hansen/Fall 2011

Langlitz Leathers
2443-A SE Division
Portland, OR 97202
503-235-0959
www.langlitz.com

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