Rich Leather: Small store, big apparel sizes

Publish Date: 
May 23, 2013
By Dennis Johnson

RICH LEATHER in Jefferson City, Tenn., is known widely for carrying big and tall sizes.

“I’m in a small town off the beaten path, so my overhead is low,” says owner Rich Johnson of his 1,000 sq. ft. store just outside Knoxville.

“I have made my store a place that people ride to on the weekends to take a break and look around. They say I have a little bit of everything.”

He started by buying out another store’s inventory. “When I first opened, the biggest jacket I had was a 58,” he recalls. “I quickly realized within a couple [of] weeks I had some guys a lot bigger. I then started stocking sizes 60 and 62.

“I can order up to a size 66 in some jackets. In the vests I stock up to a size 64, and some vests I can get special in a size 66,” he adds.

Johnson stocks 7XL chaps and can order up to a 10XL. He also stocks helmets up to a 4XL, which can be advantageous considering, he says, that most of his local competition only carries up to 2XL.

“My best advertisement is word-of-mouth. I have several customers who were at a benefit ride and were told if they need a big size to come see me. I have several customers that drive over 50 miles to come and buy riding gear from me just because I carry the bigger sizes and my prices are reasonable,” he notes.

Johnson says he orders most of the larger gear from Vance Leather and Dealer Leather, and orders larger-sized helmets from Daytona Helmets. “These three companies have the bigger sizes ready to ship most of the time, and best of all, I can have special orders in two days,” he says. “Plus, I have a lady who does my sewing, and she can add panels and make adjustments to anything I sell to make it fit to your body since we are all a little different.”

Larger sizes, usually starting at size 50, cost a little more, since Johnson’s vendors have an upcharge on the bigger sizes of leather. “The helmets are also a few dollars higher for me to buy,” he notes.

Even though Rich Leather pays special attention to its big and tall customers, they aren’t called out when they come into the store. “All of my merchandise is organized by size. I have the bigger sizes with my regular sizes. There is no need to single out bigger-sized people. This way when a group walks in and wants a 10-pocket club vest, I send them all to the same rack and everyone is treated equal,” he explains.

“From the feedback I get, they really appreciate that I do carry the bigger sizes, especially the vests, so they can have it right now. Plus, the leather I carry will last a long time, so once you buy a good quality jacket you’re usually set for five to 10 years or longer if you take care of it.”

This story originally appeared in the June 2013 issue of Dealernews.