Leather's in the family.

Working with leather has been a family tradition for Carol Fry and Eric Payne since their father Norris opened Payne’s Leather Shop in Felton some 42 years ago.

Nowadays, Fry said, it is almost impossible to find a store that specializes in custom-made leather such as wallets and bags and also repairs leather jackets.

Payne’s Leather Shop offers this and more.

Norris Payne died last year, but Fry and brother Eric have kept the family business ticking. They started working part-time alongside their dad during the summertime in their youth.

It grew into a passion. Carol pursued a career in horticulture and Eric entered the Army after graduating high school, but they both found their way back to the family business.

To them, the leather shop is home. They joked that they are certainly not in the business to get rich.

“We have great customers,” Fry said. “Some are like family because they have been with us from the very beginning. Some have watched us grow and become adults.

“I don’t believe either one of us knew how this would turn out but here we are 40 years later and still growing. We want to thank all the bikers, hunters, police, firefighters, pastors and everyone else for their support and friendship all these years.”

Kent County SUNDAY and asked Fry about the family business.

What kinds of work do you do at Payne’s Leather Shop?

We do repair work on leather jackets and lots of other different things. We make stuff, such as knife sheaths, gun holsters, wallets, belts. If it’s leather, we probably work on it because there’s not many people around that will still work on it.

What makes your work so unique?

There’s a lot of people with machines and stuff and a lot of other people that sew, but they won’t sew leather. You’ve got to have the right kinds of machines to work on something that’s leather or really thick and nobody else can do it.

Is the Delaware motorcycle community a large part of your customer base?

We’re members of ABATE [American Bikers Aimed Towards Education] and all of the clubs, it doesn’t matter who, they all come down from the Christian motorcycles or the one-percenters. It’s hard to explain to a non-biker what it feels like when you’re riding, but freedom, peace and exhilaration come close. Usually, once someone tries it, a biker is born.

What’s the best business advice you’ve ever received?

Our dad always taught us to treat people with respect and to treat them the way you wanted to be treated.


      ♦ OWNERS Carol Fry and Eric Payne

      ♦ LOCATED Felton, down Peach Basket Road

      ♦ HOURS Weekdays 9 a.m.-6 p.m., Sat. 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

      ♦ SPECIALTIES Leather jackets, vests, helmets, gloves, boots, saddlebags and patches. Leather repairs and some custom work.

      ♦ PHONE 302-284-4223