Macy Pryor is the founder, owner and maker of Crossbow Leather, a little store in Telluride, Colorado with a big story!
Have you ever been to Telluride, Colorado? Well, us either but our hats sure have! It seems that our hats are a lot more well-traveled than us but we can hardly complain knowing that some of the most unique, small businesses across the globe, like Crossbow Leather, stock our hats. But this is hardly about us and totally about the wonder woman behind this incredible brand; Macy Pryor is her name. Macy started Crossbow from what seems like the perfect combination of chance, a little luck —undeniably the bi-product of really hard work— and a few (many) mishaps along the way.
A tiny little mountain town southwest of Colorado is a box canyon called Telluride. Surrounded by the San Juan’s (some 13,000ft of rocky mountain) and known for its many annual music festivals, Telluride is a quaint yet bustling tourist town where the masses flock during seasonal peaks for action sports, activities and all-round adventure. Growing up in such an outdoorsy/adventurous lifestyle cultivated a constant driving force for Macy which translated into creativity and a love for being hands-on, no matter the craft.
She remembers asking for a sewing machine one Christmas when she was 12 and skipping school just so she could stay home and sew. Two years on and the only thing on her Christmas list was a power drill and saw so she could begin building things from wood instead. Fast track to that ripe age when crucial decisions begin to be made and Macy found herself studying metal and woodwork, receiving a degree in Studio Art with a focus in Sculpture from her College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
After Graduating, Macy decided to pack up and move to Santa Barbara, California on a whim with a depleted sense of direction and no real idea what she was doing (do any of us?!). So there she was, working as a waitress with a Studio Arts Degree hanging on the wall, a lack of storage space for her copious amounts of woodworking / sculptural tools and a friend in the leatherworking world with a basic home-setup.
Keen to have her hands busy with creative tasks again, she got straight into leatherwork and dropped back into her intrinsic notion of designing, building and creating again little did she know, this was the birthing of Crossbow Leather.
2015 was a terrible year for some, great for others and a bit of both for Macy. Macy landed a job as Production Manager for local leather Business ‘Make Smith’. It was here she began accepting custom projects to work on after hours to get extra cash to make ends meet. The list of custom projects got so long after a year and a half, that when an opportunity arose for her own small studio space, she quit her job and the very first Crossbow Leather head-quarters.
A tiny garage space surrounded by palm trees in Santa Barbara became Macy’s second home and Crossbows first where days were long and spent crafting one-of-a-kind custom leather pieces with the roller door up, allowing passers-by to peek in. But the charm of working 16 hour days, 5 days a week suddenly became a total grind, finding herself in a serious rut, not knowing which direction to take next or how to expand and began questioning the entire business itself.
“I thought, maybe I should just quit and go and get a real job”.
And then it happened, a pivotal moment in so many lives; the 2017 Santa Barbara fires roared through and thousands were evacuated, including Macy. This left her no choice than to return home to Telluride to set up camp in her parents' garage which felt like a huge step backward in every direction. Pile this on top of every previous directionless thought and it leaves you yearning for an escape, for her this was to travel.
Just 2 weeks after returning home (and feeling like she had hit rock bottom living in her parents’ basement) a huge order came flooding into her inbox that felt near impossible to complete in the short timeline they were working from but was sure to flood her bank account too. This was a crucial time for Macy where the decision to take on this order meant all hands on deck (we’re talking friends, cousins, siblings and parents) and finally felt like Crossbow was getting the big break it needed with a serious foot in the door. Like the determined woman that she is, she got it done, of course, and finally, things were looking up!
Just shy of a month later, word of Macy seeking a space to become Crossbow’s first-ever shopfront spread around town when a lifetime opportunity arose with a retail store downtown Telluride. With only having a guaranteed 6 months in this store, and a yearning to migrate from her parents’ garage, she jumped on the opportunity and when we say jumped, we really mean it.
Only 5 days later the doors flung open and Crossbow Leather began officially trading to the public with Macy’s workshop down the back as the main focus, and a small range of 25 products for sale in the front. As time went on friends came by to help out, the inventory grew and the demand for new products reached an all-time high.
“It was beginning to feel like a real retail store.”
Crossbow quickly developed a community-based reputation with a strong loyal customer base from Telluride locals to the plethora of foreign travellers. This confirmed Macy’s next step when 6 months had passed by and the lease was up, it was time for a permanent space, something to cement the Crossbow brand and legacy, so she snapped up her dream shop just across the road (literally).
Every piece of Crossbow Leather takes on an incredibly special process that is unique for each design, all the while being designed and handmade by Macy in her Telluride retail store and workshop. What begins as a mental note or image gets transferred onto paper as a quick sketch with dimensions, angles, and hard-to-read scribbled notes. From there, Macy evaluates the type of leather needed taking into consideration the size, shape, and function of each individual design.
The rest is purely instinctual; from drawing, tracing and cutting to stitching, embroidering and adding hardware Macy’s process is slow and considered with no compromise of quality. Most of the leather used comes from tanneries in the midwest, and Mexico. And whilst Macy acknowledges the contrary of using animal products, the waste from the (incredibly large) meat industry means they can repurpose it into leather and in-turn, create high quality, durable, handmade pieces.
Now, no one likes to play favourites but sometimes you just can’t help it! The Weekender Bag is her top pick for a few reasons, one being the pure joy of knowing someone, somewhere is preparing for a trip, getaway or a little adventure every time they pull out their bag and two because each one features her own freehand textile work, making each one super unique.
Now just 3 years on, Crossbow sits on the sunny side of town looking over at — what seems like a daily reminder of immeasurable growth — the old crossbow space, among other shop fronts on the shady side. You’ll find Macy at the back of the shop (with her 3 incredible female employees) nestled in amongst the huge cutting table, sewing machine, and massive pegboard covered in hardware, working meticulously at leather hides, measuring, cutting, sewing and stitching.
The front-row-seat views of San Juan’s that sit just outside the window above her workstation doesn’t distract Macy from giving a warm, welcoming hello as you enter her haven. From displays of thrift goods collected throughout the years to brand new, high-quality products from far and wide, there is something to marvel at in every corner and nook including our proudest Will & Bear Pieces!
“I want people to leave feeling like they still haven’t seen everything in the shop despite how long they’ve just spent in there and when they see us working at the back making everything with our hands they make the connection and go “wow someone really made that here?!”
From acquiring a skill by a complete chance to owning a store and running a successful business from it feels a little surreal for Macy some days. As leatherwork was never on the cards for this creative soul, Crossbow feels like a complete accident that persistently out stood all the hardships whilst placing opportunity after opportunity along her path.
She’s proud of the slow, organic growth and development of Crossbow Leather and applies this same process to each and every piece from design inspiration to adding the final touches. So if you’re in the Telluride neighbourhood, allow yourself a little time to wander along the sunny side of town, stopping in to say G’day to Macy, grabbing yourself a brand new handmade bag and your new favourite hat from yours truly!