By PHOEBE WALL HOWARD, Detroit Free Press
DETROIT (AP) — Everyone kept asking about dog leashes.
People had money. And they wanted to spend it.
But Jarret Schlaff and his team at Pingree Detroit didn’t have any dog leashes for sale.
Still, they wanted to explore the idea.
The company on Avenue Livernois, west of the city, creates handmade leather handbags, drawstring leather backpacks, leather wallets, leather key rings leather, leather coasters and other products made from scrap leather and nylon donated by car manufacturers and their suppliers. The worker-owned company employs Detroit residents and military veterans. He is investing in the city, reports the Detroit Free Press.
Their shoes, ‘The Mayor’, black sneakers that retail for $349 a pair, have been out of stock for two years – since they were spotlighted in a March Detroit Free Press article picked up by USA Today . They sew a whole bunch of these shoes – each pair takes 2.5 days – sell out and start again.
“Thanks to the hundreds of people who joined our sneaker waitlist from USA Today’s latest piece, we made another 120 pairs available for pre-order in November on Veterans Day and sold out the same week for everyone. 2022,” Schlaff told the Detroit Free Press. .
Despite all the success with innovative designs and products, he continued to receive requests for leashes and collars for large and small dogs and poop bag holders. So the team spoke to a veteran who runs a junkyard and began digging through trash in abandoned cars for seat belt hardware to design prototype dog leashes.
Because maybe one day they would get donated seatbelt gear.
Patrick Patercsak heard from a news report that Pingree needed seat belts and wondered, what if his company could help?
“These guys were right in Detroit,” Patercsak said. “They were going through wrecked cars in the junkyard, cutting through seat belt webbing,” he said. “I consulted them, I called and I didn’t get an answer for about a week. Then, oh surprise, I get a call. I said, ‘I think I can help you guys.’ ”
Patercsak is the health, safety and environment and facilities manager at Autoliv, the world’s largest automotive safety company with a huge facility in Auburn Hills with about 550 workers.
Few people outside the automotive industry have ever heard of the global company headquartered in Sweden. Yet almost all car owners benefit from its safety work. He fabricates the materials and ships everything to Michigan for testing.
“Autoliv is actively pursuing the disposal of products destined for landfills,” Patercsak said. “We aim to be carbon neutral by 2030.”
When he contacted Pingree, he explained the company’s global mission to throw away as little as possible. And Pingree explained his commitment to reuse, recycle and employ the Detroiters. Patercsak went to the factory to see Pingree.
“Their mission in the city, employing people from the neighborhood, veterans, learning great skills,” he said, “it tugged at my heart.”
The Pingree co-owners piled into a car to go see for themselves what might be available: Schlaff, 34, co-founder and CEO; Nathaniel Crawford II, 39, an Air Force veteran who makes shoes and oversees quality control, and Megan Harris, 37, lead designers and materials manager.
Everything related to safety is tested and manufactured by Autoliv.
“They kept saying, ‘Don’t tell me you’re throwing this away,'” Patercsak said. is leather from steering wheels, nylon, straps, airbag materials.
Pingree is just grateful that a stranger reached out to help, Crawford said.
“It’s great to work with local businesses that can help us with our mission and we can help them with theirs,” he said. “We line up.”
In this case, Pingree will use the donated leather from the headrests to make coasters, dog leashes, bow ties and wallets. All seat belt material is used in all three types of leashes. All material is from Autoliv – 1,500 meters of seat belts, so far only for dog leashes.
The Junkyard Dog Leash costs $29.99 and is made with leather and recycled seatbelt material and stitching guaranteed for life. Designed for large and small dogs.
Meanwhile, airbags are new to Pingree, which is looking to explore possible designs beyond the handbag and backpack liners that are currently being worked on.
“Infinite possibilities,” Crawford said.
Pingree has pledged to divert 25 tonnes of automotive materials from landfills by 2025. So far, they have calculated they have diverted 12 tonnes so far, Schlaff told the Free Press.
Pingree also sources leather from Ford Motor Co., General Motors, Lear/Eagle Ottawa and others.
“Forging new partnerships like this to breathe new life into these perfectly imperfect materials helps us reimagine a future where there is no ‘waste,'” Schlaff said. “We are proud to be among those who design and manufacture products that are solutions for a circular economy.”
For Rayne Rose, 71, the latest project hits closer to home. She has four children, 18 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren – and 21 granddogs.
“We’re very excited about using seat belts to make our junkyard dog leashes at this Detroit plant,” said Rose, sewer manager at Pingree, who has spent years working in draperies and a uniform store, where she made police uniforms and affixed them with emblems and stripes.
Now, the Mumford High School graduate, co-owner of the thriving recycling business that Pingree has become, says everything with the business is about connections and helping each other.
“I think people should try their luck using our leashes,” Rose said. “They are durable and long lasting.”
The entire business plan depends on donations from local businesses. Now Pingree has a team of 10 people. Everything Pingree uses, from glue to varnish, promises to be non-toxic. All packaging is recycled.
In May, Pingree will launch its community training program at the Livernois factory to teach neighbors and young people industrial sewing, shoemaking and sustainable leathermaking at little or no cost, Schlaff said. “We will begin soliciting and sending flyers to the neighborhood within a five-block radius informing them of this free opportunity to learn sneaker making and leather crafts in April.”
Everything about Pingree is fueled by new ideas, new approaches and relationships with strangers that bring it all together, the Pingree co-owners told the Free Press.
“The upholstery leather that we divert from the landfill that we get … usually wasn’t long enough for a 4-6 foot dog leash,” Schlaff said. “In 2019, we were doing a ‘build’ of the entire Morning Crew, as we like to call them, when the solution to the dog leash design dilemma came up. We were exploring automotive waste streams that we could turn into useful things to make this dog leash, and then it clicked. We decided to go to junkyards and cut car seat belts every week before they became scrap. It was great for the prototyping phase and through the year of testing and development, but once we launched we could never get enough each week to keep up with demand, even after going into various dumps in southeast Michigan.
Now, the Junkyard Dog Leash is sold on Pingree Detroit’s website and at eight Metro Detroit locations, including The Detroit Shoppe at the Somerset Collection in Troy.
“Through this Autoliv collaboration, we can make good use of seat belt waste that might seem minimal to the largest seat belt manufacturer in North America, but is enough for our small business to grow and make our multiple missions possible. social,” Schlaff said. noted.
To tell the whole truth, Patercsak did not want to be mentioned or share any spotlight for this article. He said he and his company simply believe in doing the right thing.
“It’s about Pingree,” he said. “Their mission is inspiring, I just wanted to help them. Our goals just happen to align. This is when 1+1=3. You get more than you ever bargained for.
Corey Haynes, 38, a tech consultant team leader who lives in a loft on Library Street in downtown Detroit, bought a leash for his dog, Charlie.
“We’re walking around, exploring the city,” Haynes said. “I hate leashes that pull. Charlie is excited when he sees another dog.
Haynes, who encourages dogs and supports projects to reduce homelessness, said he was looking for a sturdy leash and spotted some Pingree items being sold at a dog park and bought one. Then he actually bought the Pingree leather backpack from the man who sold the leashes: Schlaff.
“To me, a leash can be a leash, but the fact that they have veterans helping them and giving them jobs and it’s really made in Detroit, homegrown,” Haynes said. “It just represented a lot of things that I stand for. I mean, it’s definitely quality too. When looking at what can be a commodity like a dog leash, why not take a second to peel back the layer and look at the great job they do.
Durability is important, he said. “I’m sure a lot of people could make leashes, but the fact that they’re making leashes out of recycled parts of Detroit history and helping out veterans – I appreciate what they do and how they get along. bend in so many layers of Detroit together.”
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