From belts to Bible covers, leathercrafts come a ‘Long’ way

From belts to Bible covers, leathercrafts come a ‘Long’ way
From belts to Bible covers, leathercrafts come a ‘Long’ way | From belts to Bible covers, leathercrafts come a ‘Long’ way
By HOPE MONTGOMERY
Messenger intern
John Mack Long has been in the leather making business for 35 years.
“If it’s leather, unless it’s shoes or boots, I probably make it,” he said, and his declaration seems to be true.
At his shop on North Old Troy Road, he makes saddles, belts, gun holsters, knife sheaths, chaps, bags, purses, Bible covers, portfolios, notebooks and “anything horse related.”
One look around Long’s shop will give the visitor an insight into what he most enjoys. Located on his farm, his shop is covered with western- and cowboy-themed collections of old saddles, hats and spurs. He’s a collector as well as a craftsman.
“I’d say I started getting into this kind of thing when I was just a small boy,” he said. “Walking around the farm, I’d make holsters out of inner tubes, and then I’d use a hammer and nail to make designs.”
Then one day years later when his children were young he took them to Opryland in Nashville where they had a custom leather booth set up for college students making belts.
“I took one smell of that leather and I stopped. I thought, I love that, and I knew then I could do it,” said Long explaining his history with leather. “One thing led to another and now here I am.”
Of course, Long’s experience hasn’t exactly been picture perfect. Two and a half years ago, his shop burned down, destroying a large quantity of his work.
“We’re still not completely straightened up,” he said and went on to talk about the display pieces he hasn’t had time to replace since the fire.
“Luckily one back room didn’t burn in the fire,” he said. “We were able to save two of the sewing machines and my books. Without those things I probably wouldn’t have even been able to restart.”
Luckily, though, those things did survive and Long’s business survived as well.
These days he continues to work in his new, rebuilt shop alongside his son, Chad, staying busy with constant projects repairing saddles and making belts.
“I never even have to advertise. I rely completely on word of mouth,” he said.
For years now, Long has gone to leather conventions where he and other leather makers trade shop talk and display their craft.
A few years back, Long won a Best of Show for a pair of chaps that he brought to one of the conventions. He laughed and said, “I was pretty proud of that one. I hadn’t had time to prepare anything for the convention that year and just picked up that pair of chaps running out the door.”
Long has also won second and third places in other categories at these conventions across America for his talent and passion working with leather.
Editor’s note: Hope Montgomery is a sophomore at Hendrix College in Conway, Ark. She is the daughter of Bob and Amy Montgomery of Union City.
Published in The Messenger 5.23.13

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