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The Roden Leather Company had its origins sometime between 1910 and 1920 when my grandfather, Michael Roden, and his brothers became hide dealers in Grand Rapids, Michigan. They bought raw hides from slaughterhouses, loaded them on trucks, and delivered them to tanneries where they were tanned into leather.

During World War 2, leather was in great demand. Most of it was being used by the military. Many veterans needed artificial arms and legs as well as braces to help them walk and function in life. Leather was a key component in these devices. Because my grandfather sold raw hides to the tanneries, he was able to buy some of it back in the form of leather. He began selling a small amount of leather to orthopedic brace shops around the state of Michigan.

After the war, my father continued his work as a social worker. My grandfather suggested to him that he might sell some leather on the side to make a little extra money. We got a small supply of leather in our basement.

During the week, my mom and sisters would get orders on the telephone. On Saturday, my father and I would go around the Detroit area, where we now live, and deliver the leather.

And there you have the origins of the Roden Leather Company. After several years, my father left his job as a social worker and went into the leather business full time. I was seven years old and he was fifty-two at the time.  I worked with my father until he was 92. He passed away at the age of 98. I never knew my grandfather.

image showing the entrance to the building
image showing leather on shelves in the building

I began working when I was thirteen, I went to college, and returned to the Roden Leather Company where I’ve been ever since. During the thirty-nine years the I’ve been here full time, there have been many changes. Literally hundreds of tanneries in the United States have closed and the leather market, like so many other markets, is an international market. We sell much more leather hides for upholstery than we used to. 

Things that have not changed are my devotion to selling the best quality leather available and my sincere effort to make sure that my customers are always satisfied.


Alan Lappin, President and Owner of The Roden Leather Company

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