Prior to introducing our new collection, I had to visit Wickett & Craig whose leather is a new addition to Sandast family. I typically do not travel in a month of Jan and a rural Pennsylvania would be the last place I would’ve thought of traveling to.
Not to disappoint, this trip turned out to be remarkably memorable for good and bad. It was supposed to be 2 nights and 3 day trip from Los Angeles to State College, PA. I planned on arriving Sunday night, do a meeting on Monday morning, and wanted to explore State college Monday afternoon and better part of Tuesday morning. However, thanks to Delta & its system failures while going and the delay coming home, I missed both connecting flights and ended up spending 2 nights in motel near the Detroit airport.
It was 5:30pm Monday afternoon when I arrived in State college. After checking into the hotel, I went to downtown for a meal, but lost my appetite when I heard a news forecast of heaving snow & blizzard expected for Tuesday, a day I had to do a meeting and go back home.
Next morning, I was up and ready early in the morning. Wickett & Craig was located about 40 miles northwest of State college and I started panicking when I saw the snow outside. It was snowing quite hard and I wondered if there would be any taxi willing to go in this kind of snow. My cab driver (Thanks Billy !) showed up and he looked at me funny and said “Of course” when I asked him if he could take me in this snow. Living in Southern Cal where the entire city literally stops in a few inches of rain, I would not consider driving in this snow unless it is a life or death situation, but it was another day at work to Billy. Took us more than 2 hours to arrive, but I was just pleased to arrive at Wickett & Craig.
Everything was covered in a white snow and only upon entering into the facility, I’d only realized how big this facility was. Not only it was big, but was very precisely and neatly organized. From the raw hides to the finished products, it is all done in this facility.
To choose the leather for Francis collection and what the collection stands for, I knew the leather would have to be vegetable tanned in its purest form and it would have to be an American made products. These criteria helped me narrow my choices to a few and after I’ve made some prototype samples using different leather from different supplier, the final decision was quite easy to my surprise. The English Bridle and Harness from Wickett & Craig had captivated my mind even before I turned them into the bags, and when I saw the final sample, I was beeming with smiles.
As said, their facility is a state of art, but what impressed me the most was its lab. I have visited many tanneries all over the world and Wickett & Craig was the only tannery that had the lab and the testing goes everyday to ensure the consistency and the quality. I was thoroughly impressed with their dedication to quality and it felt like meeting a twin brother who got separated from the birth. The lab explained a lot of praises I had for its quality and consistency before making the trip.
Wickett & Craig has been specializing in Vegetable leather and vegetable tanned leather only for last 150 years and upon visiting its facility, I could feel the sense of pride in its employees and they are all well deserving. Leaving the tannery after 3 hours of tour, I felt very proud of choosing this tannery and also choosing to use the finest grade of its product for Francis collection. Felt like a good match between the leather and the design.
Going straight to the airport to come home, I’d wished there had not been a system failure in Delta that I spent a day exploring the area and get to know the life & culture of a small town in Midwest. But I had found a peace in knowing that at least I came and did what I wanted to achieve. I was just looking forward to going home to my family.
This is where it gets really memorable at least for me. It is not leather related, but I feel compelled to share this story. Yet again, there is another delay for my plane to Detroit. It is not weather related. By early afternoon, the snow stopped. The plane got delayed about 1.5 hours. I talked to the attendant and I was assured that I would be able to make my connecting flight to Los Angeles. Not only I wanted to go home, but I also had a very important meeting scheduled for next day. The plane arrived and we got on board. I remember my connecting flight to Los Angeles was departing at 8:30 pm and my planned touched down and opened its door around 8:15 pm. After asking and being excused to the front, as soon as the door opened, I ran like I never ran before. Not sure if anyone is familiar with Detroit Delta terminal, it has concourse A ~ C. Concourse C are for small planes for various small cities in Midwest and is located far out and connected through a little under the bridge. I remember running and it felt like an eternity. Must have been at least a good mile or so. As I was getting close to my gate, I was gasping for breath and I was feeling ill, but regardless I kept running. I got to my gate at 8.25 or so and of course, the plane was gone. I think I must have just sat in front of the gate for about 10 mins. Lost for breath and words…. and I felt like screaming obscenities, but Thank God I was able to behave myself.
At the bar of a hotel they put me in for the night, I saw many familiar faces that were with me on the same flight from State College to Detroit. We felt like old comrades in battle as we started trashing Delta, but eventually, it led to other issues such as politics, life in Midwest, and the problems rural Midwest are facing. It taught me a lot of things I did not know growing up and living in Southern California. Not only I thoroughly enjoyed the conversation and was thinking perhaps missing flights happened for a reason.