Mark Balian by Robin Ladd
photography by Ron Cobert

LADD: Mark Balian…


LADD: I understand you are not new to this business.

BALIAN:  Dates back 3 generations.

LADD: You’ve been known as The Tannery, Tannery Leather Services, now Leather Pros, why?

BALIAN: Frankly, it’s a new chapter with the internet.  Since we were creating a new website, we decided to change the name to suit the market we were expanding to reach.  For years, we were a B2B type of business dealing mostly with large volume directly with the Brands, Retailers, Manufacturers, and Department Stores.  Now, we are looking to reach the individuals as well, people direct. Leather Pros  seemed like a logical transition.  Still, our B2B base knows me, maybe more by Mark Balian, The Tannery. I wasn’t convince my new clientele would associate what we do with their needs.

LADD: When did you start doing what you are so good at doing?

BALIAN: Thank you by the way.  A great referral is always valuable. I’m happy you feel that way.

LADD: Your customers are very loyal.  You know what you’re doing.  Why?

BALIAN: Well, this didn’t happen over night. Like I mentioned, leather is in my blood, 3 generations of leather technicians, refinishers. My grandfather built a tannery back home overseas after World War II; and my father and uncle helped run it until he passed away. When I was 23 years old, I got involved in the business. I was so fascinated, that I finished my college degree, started learning the business, and then running it. My dad taught me the entire tanning process; starting from getting the animal hides, treating them, tanning them to become leather, then refinishing to make them ready for use to make apparels.

LADD: How did you start your business?

BALIAN:  My first job was to refinish a red seat of a Ferrari. An exotic car rental called me, requesting my assistance in refinishing the car seat. I went there with my air compressor and my other equipments, and I refinished the red driver-side car seat on the spot. After, the same rental company referred me to a private owner of a 1967 Porsche and then a Rolls-Royce.

LADD: What did you do for the Rolls-Royce?

BALIAN: That one had a white interior at one time but it turned ivory overtime. They requested I refinish it to its original white color. The owner was going to ship it to Paris, France. When I finished he was so thrilled by my work, he paid me double than what I asked for. I will never forget that!

LADD: Who were your first larger clients?

BALIAN: Two large shoe repair chain stores called Shoe Wiz and Shoe Doctor got in contact with me. They wanted me to pick up all their work, refinish them, and deliver them to their 30 stores around Los Angeles.

LADD: I understand you’ve been the exclusive handbag repair expert for major brands for years. How did that come about?

BALIAN: While I was getting started with the shoe repair store-chains, several high-end handbag shops, department stores, and well-known handbag brands heard about my work. They wanted my expertise to work on their expensive product lines. I got super busy from then on refinishing and restoring, quietly, all types of high-end handbags, like Chanel, Hermes, Gucci, and Bottega Veneta, etc…  That was the turning point. That’s when business got good.

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