Ivory Leathers is located in West Fargo, North Dakota and is owned by Ruth Schepp. Ruth employs highly skilled individuals that take great pride in their jobs. Recently, Ruth granted recognition to the International Association of Machinists (IAM) to represent her employees. The following is taken from a 2006 article written by Karen Huber and published by a Fargo-Moorhead newspaper in which Ivory Leathers, owner, Ruth Schepp and her husband Gene were honored.
Gene and Ruth Schepp reside in the neighboring community of Gardner, North Dakota, a short 20-minute commute daily. Through the years ingenuity has been the key in the creation of a variety of original custom-made leather pieces, covering the gamut from chaps, to jeans, to bible covers, to knife holders, you name it. Her talents have also earned her varying recognition, including being honored as the recipient of an "Outstanding Woman-owned" business award in 1994 from the Small Business Administration.
Ruth Schepp started sewing when she was a nine-year-old growing up on the family farm near Gwinner, North Dakota. The talent was a gift from God, but one she didn't fully realize until many years later.
Schepp married right out of high school and for the next 17 years was involved with industrial sewing (including upholstery work) and a variety of sales-related positions. "That was my background besides being a domestic engineer," Schepp joked. All the while she denied her love for sewing, but something instinctively kept pulling her in that direction.
In 1987 she enrolled at NDSU to pursue social work or hotel, motel restaurant management but neither one felt quite right. "Iwas so frustrated and sad with my life," Schepp recalled. "I asked myself 'what am I supposed to be doing?' I went to the NDSU catalog and the answer was there staring at me - textile clothing."
Schepp graduated in 1992 with her one year goal to establish her own business. Right on target, she achieved that goal in 1993 with the opening of Ivory Leathers in a south Fargo location. She spent two years there before moving to a downtown Fargo address. In 1999 she relocated to West Fargo and has continued to thrive there, repositioning herself a year ago in a new spot at 901 Main Ave E.
Since day one her focus has been strictly leather, which coincides with her love for motorcycle riding and the fact "that there's a real need for leather repair," which has become a dying art because of the intricacy involved. "You find very few women that will sew leather anymore," Schepp said. "It's a scary thing. If you punch an extra hole, you can't just take a thread out and redo it."
Consequently, her business caters to leather repair and custom fit alterations. dry cleaning and a retail line of clothing for men and women, with sizeds ranging from triple extra small to five extra large.
Three years ago, Schepp decided to also take her "show on the road," setting up shop, mostly on weekends, at motorcycle expos and rallies as a vendor offering sewing services as well as selling her clothing and accessory line.
Husband Gene is her helper when time allows. "He loves to do the same things I do, including motorcycle riding," Schepp said. "I have a Honda and he has a Harley. they co-inhabit our garage and don't fight," Schepp added with a laugh. "All kidding aside, he's a great partner. I have arthritis in my wrists so I don't do much sewing anymore. He's learned the craft and does most of it on the road now. He's employed full-time at Case tractor and still finds the time to go with me."
The name of her business was also influenced by her affection for motorcycles. Schepp and a girlfriend had attended the Sturgis bike rally in 1989. Upon returning home she was pondering names for a future business and decided she wanted something a little more contemporary. Shopping around for personal attire, Schepp remarked she would rather have a set of 'ivory leathers' than the traditional black. She fell in love with the two-name phrase and the rest is history.
Today, Schepp is totally happy and connected in her position. "I was a late bloomer, but finally made the right choice. I like being my own boss and really love what I'm doing."
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