Steurer & Jacoby Creates Handcrafted Leather Bags With a Passion
“I am humbled and astonished how people in Bangkok find us, but no one in Louisville knows about us,” says Will Jacoby, owner of Steurer & Jacoby, a local company that makes unique canvas and leather goods.
Jacoby’s long history in the sporting goods business began in 1970 when he was hired by Wilson Sporting Goods. He worked as a manager for Wilson’s golf division but eventually opened his own company manufacturing golf bags in Springfield, Kentucky. His plant was 40,000 square feet and housed 60 seamstresses who made thousands of golf bags every week.
By the late 1990s, it became much harder to manufacture textile goods in the United States. Jacoby says when duties were dropped, it opened the floodgates to importers.
“Imports just killed American manufacturing,” he says and made it unprofitable to manufacture textiles in this country.
He closed his business in 1995 and figured if he couldn’t beat ‘em, he would join ‘em. For a few years, he worked as an importer and would often spend three to four months a year in China. When the traveling began to wear thin, he retired for a decade.
Eventually, his friend, Mike Just, who owned Louisville Golf, began asking Jacoby about getting back into manufacturing because of the growing popularity of hickory golf. Just told Jacoby, “People want to have a vintage bag again.” Although Jacoby was enjoying his retirement in Florida, he says Just was very persistent.
Jacoby began tinkering with relaunching a small manufacturing company and eventually contacted designer Steve Steurer. Jacoby asked Steurer to design his first bag for the new company and gave Steurer attribution with the company’s name.
“It was my homage to him for his help and uniqueness,” Jacoby says.
Half of Steurer & Jacoby’s business comes from outside the United States, with a substantial portion coming from Bangkok and Switzerland. Even though the bags are vintage-inspired, modern golfers like and use them. Because they are made of leather or waxed cotton duck, they last longer and hold up better than nylon golf bags. Depending on the time of year, it can take anywhere from a few days to two weeks for Steurer & Jacoby to manufacture a golf bag. The shop typically makes 400-500 golf bags every year.
The game of golf and its equipment has changed dramatically over its long history, from bags to clubs to balls. In the early 1900s, golf bags were between four and six inches, but by the early 1980s, golf bags had grown in size to 10 inches. Golfers needed the smaller, lighter bags in the days before golf carts. Jacoby says his eight-inch bags sell like hot cakes both out of his manufacturing site as well as through some pro shops in California, Florida and New York where he has merchandise.
Jacoby personally selects the leather that he and his daughter, Meghan Leezer, use in manufacturing. Unlike some buyers who look for perfect pieces of leather, Jacoby says, “I look for cows that like to scratch themselves against barbed wire or have flea and tick bites. I want leather that has personality.”
Most of the fabric is American-sourced (except for the Scottish tartan), and everything is handmade in Jeffersontown.
In addition to his handcrafted products, Jacoby takes great pride in having his daughter run the shop, which she has done for the past four years. She does design work and is an accomplished seamstress.
“I never thought in my wildest dreams I’d have one of my children with me,” he says.
Jacoby is passing down his manufacturing expertise to Meghan, and he hopes his crafted work is also passed down in families.
“We believe that what we make will be heirlooms,” Jacoby says.
Making something that can last a lifetime is important to him. He treasures his own father’s golf bag, which dates back to the 1920s.
“The thing I love most [about our business] is not a particular product,” Jacoby says. “It’s when I see something that we craft that I know someone is going to revere for a long time.”
Golf bags can run anywhere from $300 to over $1,400, depending on their size and fabric, so they are an investment that can stand the test of time.
Because the product is so well-made, Steurer & Jacoby have many repeat customers who refer their colleagues and friends.
“I feel like I’m getting people addicted to what we make,” he says. “It says we do have quality. We do have uniqueness.”
Being a loyal customer has its benefits. Jacoby tells the story of selecting a piece of leather with a brand that is the name of one of his longtime clients. Jacoby purchased it, made a bag and sent it to this customer as a gift.
Although Steurer & Jacoby’s golf bags are popular, the company also makes a variety of other hand-crafted goods, including duffel bags, satchels, messenger bags, wristlets, market bags and halo purses. Under its Firebird Group division, Jacoby and Meghan use a laser engraver to personalize insulated cups, cutting boards, leather key rings, glassware, wine carriers, drink coasters and composition notebooks, ranging in price from $15 to $100.
Jacoby says game hunters will sometimes bring in their own hides and have him or Meghan customize a product using them.
Whether you are a longtime golf lover or new to the game, a visit to the shop is in order to not only see beautifully hand-crafted golf bags and accessories but to learn about the history of the sport. Although Jacoby says he doesn’t have time to golf because he is working, it is obvious he has a great love and knowledge of the game. He talks about how the game of golf in the past differed because “the balls weren’t as lively.” They didn’t go the distance that they now do. Gutta percha balls, for example, would go about 25 percent the distance of a modern golf ball.
Steurer & Jacoby is a unique gem in Jeffersontown because Jacoby is able to blend his love of golf with his knowledge of manufacturing and craftsmanship.
Steurer & Jacoby is located at 2700 Holloway Road. You can visit them online at steurerjacoby.com or give them a call at 502-267-6878.