Leather is a material which is often used for its sturdiness, wearability and practicality. For those reasons, Robbie Parks uses leather to craft special, handmade designs the same way his father did many years ago.
Parks is a Middlesboro native who makes everything from keychains, belts and bracelets to personalized gun holsters and guitar straps from leather of all different colors and styles. His interest began with his father and was honed through trial and error.
He remembers his father, a knifemaker, going to a local shoe shop to have knife sheaths made from lather scraps. He decided to make some of his own and purchased the tools necessary for the job. When Parks’ father passed away in 2006, he took the tools and began teaching himself in 2007.
“I’ve learned that leather is an expensive medium and it costs a lot. Learning meant I made a lot of mistakes and had a lot of waste, but I can tell I’ve come a long way,” said Parks.
Parks incorporated his fathers makers mark on his knives, including a J and P, into his new trademark for his business cards and leather goods.
“I really like making holsters because I’ve been around guns my whole life. It’s something that somebody can use and use for the rest of their life and it’s a durable good,” said Parks.
After more than 20 years, Parks retired from law enforcement where he worked for the Middlesboro Police Department, Pine Mountain State Resort Park and Pineville Police Department at one time or another.
In his free time, he enjoys playing just about any bluegrass instrument imaginable and is a member of several bands.
He has been married to his wife Jill for 20 years. Together they live in Pineville and have three children — Chelsey, Eden and Olivia.
His leather goods can be found at The Palace on Cumberland Ave. in Middlesboro and on Etsy and Facebook by searching for Parks Leather Goods.
Reach Kelsey Gerhardt at 606-302-9093 or on Twitter @kgerhardtmbdn.