Silver Star Leather makes traditional & exotic leather purses, belts & more

Silver Star Amish-made Leather Goods

Silver Star Leather
Loren & Dorcas Yoder
6875N 800W
Shipshewana, IN 46565
(260) 768-7958

Open: Monday-Saturday 10 AM – 430 PM (430-8PM by appointment). Closed Sundays

Silver Star Leather is owned by Loren and Dorcas Yoder, Amish parents of four living in Lagrange County, Indiana. The couple started their business in 2008 and today make a wide variety of leather products using both conventional leather and exotic leathers such as ostrich, shark, python, alligator and more.  During a recent visit to his shop, Loren shared the story of his business and products.

What’s your background, and how did you get into the leather goods business? 

Loren Yoder: My mom and dad both grew up locally (Elkhart-Lagrange Amish community). Dad grew up on a farm, Mom grew up on a farm, I didn’t–but I helped out on like five uncles’ farms, most of my life. Until I moved away from home I was helping on a farm somewhere.

Stingray Wallet Money Clip

Wallet and money clip made from stingray leather

We bought this business as a harness shop from my uncle. He was an ordained minister and didn’t have time to do both. So we bought it from him and did only harnesses for three years. And then my wife wanted something to do out here as well, so she got ahold of some soft leather and made a purse…so it was really her idea!

Amish Leather Belts

Conventional leather belts by Silver Star

What are your prices like?

Loren: Belts vary anywhere from just your average dress belt for $22 up to an exotic for $250. As far as an exotic is concerned, that would be crocodile, alligator, shark, stingray, python, cobra, hippo, and others.

Alligator Purse Silver Star

Alligator purse

As far as standard in stock stuff, my billfolds start at $25. Exotics run into $80-90. Purses start at $129 and go up to $200-220, in that range. As far as the belts, $22 is my starting price on the belt, and then an inch-and-a-half croc is $250. Then all the rest are somewhere in between!

Belt and Black Exotic Leather Skin

I get the most time and the most material in that belt (1.5-inch croc). It’s crazy. I can easily spend two-and-a-half hours on a croc belt from start to finish, to get it right. It is a long time.

What’s your favorite leather to work with? Least favorite?

Loren: Shark is my favorite to work with. Crocodile is my least favorite. Shark’s pretty heavy, you have to laminate it, but the leather itself is not as stringy. If you look at the bottom of leather, often times it’s rough.

Exotic Leather Detail

Silver Star deals with a wide variety of exotic leathers

Shark is really fine, dense leather. If you edge that, it’s a sharp edge. Crocodile is my least favorite because along the back is all bone. So you have to drill each separate stitch.

Do you do custom work?

Loren: Just this morning someone picked up a custom-made purse. They had a purse they had been using for years and years, and they brought it last winter already, and told us when we have time, reproduce it in bison. So I did that over the last two months probably, just off and on, I worked on it.

Leather Insulin Pump Case

Custom-made insulin pump case by Silver Star Leather

The custom jobs like that really take some time and they cost a lot. But she got what she wanted, she was glad to pay for it. We do custom purses, custom belts, we customize just about anything as far as belts, purses and wallets. Do a lot of wallets as well.

Amish-made Leather Wallets

A selection of Amish-made leather wallets

How do you get your leathers and skins?

Animal skins I get from Weaver Leather in Ohio. That’s my main source for my average belt leather– my heavy belt leather and the light belt leather. Most of the purse leather comes out of Napa, California–just the fine cowhide. Hide House in Napa Valley.

Amish Leather Workshop

Inside the Silver Star workshop

Most of my sting rays I get out of California. Texas handles other stuff like python. Then the gators come out of Florida. Water buffalo out of New York. It’s literally from coast to coast, just depends on who has the best leather.

What’s the story on exotic leathers? Aren’t there restrictions?

There has to be a CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) tag on certain leathers like hippo [from the CITES website: “CITES is an international agreement between governments. Its aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.”]  Obviously if it doesn’t have the tag then it’s illegal.  They can’t import them unless they have a CITES tag. 

Ostrich Leather Flap Purse

Bag with ostrich leather flap

Ostrich is farmed so those aren’t regulated with the CITES logo.  The crocodile comes in under the CITES logo. The American alligators are tagged with CITES logos as well.

There’s no restrictions on snakes of any kind.  As far as my rattlesnake, that’s limited because of the season.  Once the 2014 season’s sold out, then America’s out of rattlesnakes until the next season comes along.  So you have to buy several just to tide you over.

Python Skin

Python skin

As far as the red tape, I don’t have any red tape that I have to go through, but the people I buy from do. If I call them and they say we’re getting the hide in, it’s on its way here, it’ll be in port say in a week, they’ll have another week they have to wait for it to go through customs.  For them to inspect everything, all the CITES tags have a scanning label on them, they have to scan every hide. Customs just takes a long time.  They go through all the hides.

Who are your customers?

The market, as of right now it’s good. Most of my customers are tourists out of Shipshewana. It’s steady in the summer, and walk in customers.

Loren Yoder Sewing

Loren at the sewing machine

Do any others do what you do?

There is another guy who makes standard belts.  As far as I know I’m the only one who handles exotics in this community. I don’t know anyone in Ohio or Pennsylvania.

Police Officers Leather Belt

Police officer’s belt

I’ve made belts for the Swedish military. I’ve sent belts to US military bases overseas, Australia, and every state in the United States. At least several of my belts are in each state. I’ve made belts for the Toledo police force.

Is your family involved in your business?

My wife is back to cutting purses again. She took about a year off. She’s got, I think, 15 of them cut in the house for me. So she can watch the babies and still, you know. I wasn’t going to ask her to do anything. She suggested it and it’s actually working well.

Leather Purse Built-in Wallet

Leather purse with built-in wallet. Loren’s wife Dorcas helps cut material for purses

Then if I get a custom order on the purses, she’ll cut that for me as well. She helps, and as far as the girls, at 6 and 8, they’ll help eventually. But right now, not so much. They watch the babies, so that helps in a roundabout way!

Where do you work?

The shop is next to the house, about a half-dozen steps from home.

Silver Star Amish Leather Building

The workshop in January

I used to work in a factory, and that’s got its place, and I’d go back if I had to.  I mean obviously I don’t make the money here that I did in the factory, but I don’t want it, if I can stay at home, and make the payments, then what more do you want? That’s my opinion.  I definitely want to stay at home and continue this, because I love it.

What’s your favorite thing about having this business?

Eating breakfast with my wife and my kids every morning. Every morning on the way in I just stop and take a deep breath and watch the sun come up a few minutes.

Leather Shop Stove

Leather soaked with kerosene serves as fuel to heat the shop on chilly mornings

When I worked in the factory I never had that. I started before dawn, and then the only time I saw the sun rise was Saturday mornings or Sunday mornings. Every morning I still watch the sun rise.

Silver Star Leather Lagrange County Amish

Silver Star is located at the Yoders’ Lagrange County home

I guess I could say there is nothing I don’t like about it. Except…the pressure. I think I have to work til 4:30 every day, because there’s work to be done, and to think to quit early to do something that’s not going to fill an order…it’s a mind game. But I’m getting better at it!

I’m relaxing a little bit more as far as…you’ve got to have time to do other things as well. You can’t just bury yourself in here.

What are your plans for the business?

This summer, the shop’s going to be expanded. We’re going to use that part as well. At least double the retail space. My biggest goal is to empty this out first, before I can decide what I can do.

Silver Star Retail Area

Retail space at Silver Star Leather

To do that is way more complicated than it sounds, because that stuff all has to go somewhere. So it’ll go into the barn. I have to re-work the barn, make [it] half shop, half barn–a day’s work if I can get my brothers to help me.  Maybe rub some pizza under their nose and I might be able to con them into helping me!

Silver Star Leather Shipshewana Indiana Address

Silver Star Leather – Address, Contact Info & Business Hours

Silver Star Leather
Loren & Dorcas Yoder
6875N 800W
Shipshewana, IN 46565
(260) 768-7958

Open: Monday-Saturday 10 AM – 430 PM (430-8PM by appointment). Closed Sundays

Silver Star Leather – Additional Photos

Amish Leather Belts Detail

Finished product on top, unfinished below

 

Black Leather Purse

Black leather flanked by sting ray wallet and snake leather

 

Leather Worker Tool

 

Silver Star Leather Brochure

The Silver Star brochure

 

Silver Star Leather Brochure Interior

Silver Star Brochure (back view)

 

Amish-made Leather Goods

 

Card Holders With Money Clips

Card holders with money clips

 

Colorful Purses

 

Exotic Leather Belts

A selection of exotic leather belts

 

Edging Leather

Loren edging leather

 

Weaver Leather Easy Edge

An edging tool used in the shop

 

Anvil Leather Shop

A traditional anvil

 

Silver Star Work Table

Work table

 

Leather Sewing Machine

Sewing machine

 

Hole Punch Tool Leather Shop

Hole punch machine

 

Weaver Master Leather Workers Tools

More tools of the trade

 

Santa Claus Belt Buckles

Santa Claus belt buckles

 

Measuring Exotic Leather

 

Black Exotic Leather Belt

 

Belt Detail

Belt detail

 

Assorted Purses Silver Star

 

Exotic Leather Purse

 

Silver Star Belts

Belts at Silver Star

 

Sting Ray Belt

Stingray belt

 

Silver Star Insignia


Question on the Amish? Get answers to 300+ questions in 41 categories at the Amish FAQ.