Levy's LegendLong ago and far away, in the cool warmth of the Nova Scotia highlands, midst bag pipes and wild strawberries, at a time when long-haired hippies roamed free, there came from out of the west a tall, straight-arrow of a man, short-haired and shiny suited. Equipped with leather-working tools worth $200.00 (Canadian) won in a bet or in payment of a debt (archival documents are smudged and vague on this), he sought to make his fortune.
Dennis was his name; Levy they called him, as he had also taken his father's surname, which was the custom. It had been many years since he had visited Antigonish, for this was the name of that little, Canadian-highland town where the story begins. As a young boy, he spent summer vacations working his mother's ancestral farm in nearby Lower South River. Now he had returned full of wide-eyed enthusiasm to work once more, this time for himself.
(Left inset: Dennis Levy, The farm, circa 1951)
Nestled between the tavern and the health food store, across the street from the bowling alley, and very handy to the taxi stand, appeared Levy's Handcrafts Limited, for such did Dennis name his business in those early days, selling leather goods to all and sundry. It was 1973.
Those were heady times. A time when it was politically correct, nay even mandatory, for the elite of the counter-culture to be festooned in leather adornments: leather belts, leather barrettes, floppy leather hats, wide leather watchbands, leather pouches and purses, and candles. Did I say candles? Yes candles. All produced by Levy's.
But times change and things happen, and when they did, so did Levy's. Today, Levy's Leathers Limited employs 200 people, in two state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities in Antigonish, Nova Scotia and Winnipeg, Manitoba, making guitar straps. Lots of guitar straps. Over 365 kinds of guitar straps, to be exact. Levy's also makes super gig bags for guitars, keyboards, horns, and a variety of other instruments.
(Right inset: Levy's Leathers, Angus MacQuarrie Drive, Antagonish, Nova Scotia, Canada
Watercolour by Janice Watson)
If you're not a musician, perhaps you are a sportsman. We also manufacture gun slings, gun cases, cartridge belts, and knife sheathes. Do you have a car? We probably made the key tag your dealership gave when you bought it. Talk about niche markets - they're our business!
Levy's leather products reach world-wide markets through distributors in over fifty countries, in addition to our Canadian and US dealer-direct distribution systems.
Getting from watchbands to guitar straps had more twists and turns than your average clairvoyant could anticipate, but our mission was to create a profitable company, and here we are! Our success is due to adherence to two principles: hard work and an unwavering respect for the customer.
Mom always said, "That Dennis, he's a hard worker." We'll he's not the only one, if you had ever worked for Levy's you would know how to work; it's the first thing employees are taught.
You also learn the extreme importance of customers. Without customers there's nothing to do. Adherence to these principles has resulted in an active customer base of over 5000 accounts, buying products they are proud to sell, made by people I am proud to be associated with.
Two hundred of us are working together to make sure that if you need guitar straps in Hong Kong by Friday, or gun slings in Peoria by Tuesday next, we'll jump through the necessary hoops and dance the dance that's required to make sure they get there.
(Left inset: Jerome MacPherson, General Manager, Nova Scotia Plant)
Jerome started with Dennis sweeping floors, and doing odd jobs after school and weekends. He quit working at the IGA grocery store across the street, next to the bowling alley, to experience the joy of working long hours, in an un-airconditioned room, pounding out leather watchband parts and key fobs with a hand held cutting die and a 12-pound hammer. That was over 30 years ago. He still sports an unusually strong right arm.
Tom Levy, Ace Salesman
Before joining Levy's, Tom was brakeman for the railroad or a lineman for the country, I forget which. But he left all that romantic stuff behind in 1975, to help build Levy's Leathers. He even sold candles. Tom, incidentally, is a fine jazz guitarist and uses all Levy's gear.
(Right inset: Harvey Levy, Vice-president)
Harvey gave up unpromising careers as a commercial fisherman and country singer-songwriter to join Dennis in 1979. He was appointed vice-president after years of being the president's brother.
"How did a nice boy from down east happen to start a manufacturing plant in Winnipeg?", you ask. Well, it could have been the lower rent or it could have been the quality of life offered or it could have been the weather. (yeah, right!)
The answer, which we all know you're losing sleep over, it's a matter of heart!
He met the love of his life... a love so strong that he was willing to move to Winterpeg!
(Left inset: Cheryl Clarke)
Cheryl has been an inspiration to him as well as providing constant motivation to be successful. (She loves to shop!). She actually helps out in the family business. At one time she was in charge of accounts payable, accounts receivable, payroll, and even did some artwork.
We have survived in spite of all this. She has also been busy raising the five Levy offspring. Please let us introduce Cheryl Clarke.
So that's our story, and you can take it from me 'cause I should know it, I'm Dennis' big brother, I've been to the farm, sold the watchbands, worn the floppy hat, and I still have one of the candles... somewhere.