“That's the thing with handmade items. They still have the person's mark on them, and when you hold them, you feel less alone.”
― Aimee Bender
Before I walked through the front doors, the warm, inviting smell of leather warmed by the Tupper Lake sunshine filled the air surrounding the storefront of Leather Artisan. Co-owner Allison Guerette was kind enough to sit with me and discuss the history of the store, the decision to move Leather Artisan to a new store location in Tupper Lake, and her experience of owning the shop with her husband and co-owner, Broyce Guerette.
Meet Allison and Broyce Guerette, a lifetime of partnership
While it isn’t entirely unusual to meet a couple who own a business together, it is rare to learn they have spent essentially their entire lives together.
Allison and Broyce have known each other since they were children. “I lived on the outside of Tupper Lake, and Broyce lived in Piercefield,” said Mrs. Guerette. “We’d been bus mates since kindergarten. He was always around. I was always around. We’ve just always been in each other’s lives. There’s pictures of us attending each other’s birthday parties as kids growing up. He’s just my best friend.”
Allison and Broyce started dating when they were sixteen. He proposed two and a half years later, and they were married two years after that. The Guerrettes have two baby boys: Theo, who is turning three, and Archie who just turned one in July.
“Our customers know our boys,” said Mrs. Guerette. “They even know our big orange cat, Kylo!”
From lawns to leather
Although now located on Park Street in Tupper Lake, Leather Artisan originally opened its doors under the ownership of Tom and Donna Amoroso in Childwold, NY. Mrs. Guerette said the Childwold store location had originally been a school house. “My deed goes back to the 1800s, and the school ended in the 50’s,” she said. It was in Childwold where the Amorosos and the Guerrettes would ultimately cross paths.
As a high schooler, Broyce had been mowing lawns in Childwold to earn some cash, and he just so happened to mow near the lawn of Tom and Donna Amoroso. “Tom came out and asked if Broyce wanted to mow his lawn,” said Mrs. Guerette. “Then it was, ‘Do you want to know how to make a belt?’ And Broyce said, ‘Sure!’ We were dating at the time, and Broyce just fell in love with the business. He would just say, ‘Allison, you would love this place. He will teach you how to make bags!’ So then I went and learned how to make bags, and we just kept learning.”
When she first started, Mrs. Guerette didn’t have much sewing experience, but she had worked with a sewing machine before. Mr. Amoroso taught her how to make a bag, showing her the craft of working with leather and different sewing techniques. “I still have the first bag I ever made,” she said. “The entire beginning process of me learning is all in that one bag.”
The passing of the baton
After nearly seven years of working with the Amorosos, Broyce knew they were preparing to sell their business. He was interested, and he tried convincing his new wife for the two of them to become the new owners. “I was hesitant because it is difficult to make a living as an artist,” she said. “It just took some time for me to get comfortable with the idea. But once I was on board, it was just amazing. We split the tasks of figuring out how to do different skills, the business side of things, the paperwork…we just found a way to make it work. We learned forty years of a trade in a handful of years.”
The baton was passed, and in 2018, Leather Artisan found itself owned by the capable new hands of the Guerettes.
Moving to Tupper Lake
Broyce and Allison enjoyed successful early years as a business. In passing conversation, they would play with the idea of whether they would relocate to Tupper Lake or keep the business in Childwold.
Only a few years later, when Covid-19 arrived and businesses were forced to shut down, the Guerettes found themselves grappling with the location of their business. “We had a wonderful, loyal customer base in Childwold, but we had noticed we weren’t getting new customers,” said Mrs. Guerette. “Where it was located and the physical look of the building didn’t catch anyone’s eye as they passed through. I can’t tell you how many recent customers have said to us, ‘You were in Childwold? I’ve passed through there so many times and never knew you were there!’ The interest to come to us was there, but people just didn’t see us.”
The Guerettes' growing family also began to weigh on the decision to stay in Childwold or relocate. “Broyce and I had our kids, and Theo was getting more mobile. Our home actually shared the same space as the business, so it was really great at first when I had the babies. I could work with customers, leave to go be with them, and then come back to work. But after a while, I started to lose that separation between work and home. It just became too easy to back into work to go do a bit more here, a bit more there. Work was just right there.”
“We had been eyeing Park Street, specifically,” she continued. “There’s just so much natural foot traffic, and we really just loved Tupper Lake. We wanted to become a part of that community.”
In June 2021, the stars aligned, and the space that would ultimately become the new home to Leather Artisan went up for sale on Park Street.
The new kid on the block
The new location for Leather Artisan seems fresh and new, but it holds a long history in Tupper Lake. The space was first a men’s clothing warehouse before becoming a bike and skate shop and, later, an art gallery. “The art gallery was here for fourteen years. Around spring, it became available. My brother happens to live in the apartment next door and heard about it. We had a conversation with the owners, made the decision in June, and by the 4th of July, our doors were open.”
I asked Guerette if customers are surprised to see two people in their twenties as owners of a business involving such a mature craft. “Oh yeah,” she laughed. “Most people think I’m the daughter or granddaughter of the current owners. Having the sewing machine helps! Once I get behind the machine and start making new products, they say, ‘Oh! Wait a minute!’”
The decision to relocate the shop is paying off in droves. “We love being here. We absolutely love being here. This area is all about supporting each other. Things are finally starting to slow down with schools open, but we just had the busiest two months we’ve ever had,” Guerette said. And they are not planning to slow down anytime soon.
“We are still building our displays,” she said. “Every display in here is new, so what you see is really just the beginning. We have more coming and new designs coming out. We are building.”
Make sure to stop into Leather Artisan and say hi to the Guerettes during your next visit to Tupper Lake! While you're in town, explore our shops, museums, and galleries in between trying the delicious variety of flavors our restaurants offer. Craving some adventure? Enjoy a hike or a paddle while surrounded by scenic Adirondack views. Are you a night owl? You're in luck — Tupper Lake has some of the darkest skies in the Adirondacks, making our town the perfect destination to enjoy an evening under the stars. With so much to do, there are plenty of reasons to book a spot to extend your stay. So mark off your calendar and plan your visit to come out and discover Tupper Lake!