GR leather shop turns old goalie gear into useful items

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Joe Messina and Zac Smith have known each other for well over 10 years through the game of hockey. One day, Smith struck an idea incorporating their love for the sport as well as old goalie equipment.

“It’s just something that I really was passionate about” he said. “I love hockey and goaltending alone, I love the equipment, that’s what really draws me in is the equipment.”

The pair came up with the idea they needed to get a leather shop involved to produce the products, that’s when they reached out to Jake Vrown, the co-owner of Gemini Handmade off of Cherry Street.

“These guys came to me with these beautiful vintage hockey pads and wanted to incorporate them into some wallets” Vrown said. “I thought it was a really good idea and it’s been going great ever since.”

Messina and Smith then launched Second String Leather Company on May 29 and immediately struggled to keep their products in stock.

“Probably roughly made about 240 pieces on the first launch” Messina sad.  “Within two weeks we were sold out.”

“I even tell my wife every day, I never thought this would go this far and be this successful” Smith added.

Vrown and his wife offer private-label production and design services at their shop and have had a lot of outstanding ideas from the community, but nothing quite like this.

“This is one of the most popular projects we’ve ever done” he said. “I pride myself on bringing success to my clients but having 100 packages sold out in two days is something to be proud of.”

A passion for hockey and specifically goaltending has turned into a one of a kind business right here in Grand Rapids.

“That’s what I want to be part of my life for the rest of my life” Smith said. “Part of hockey, I shot this idea to him and we ran with it.”

Each collection is unique, and hand crafted which takes a lot of time and dedication from all three.

“I bring the passion for the leather work” Vrown said. “They do too but they really bring the hockey passion.”

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