I recently interviewed the three co-owners of Twin Cities Leather, the new leather store in town. Karri Plowman is the head designer; Luke Wallrich handles finances, merchandising and event planning; and Tynan Fox is working with outreach, activism and education.
How did Twin Cities Leather come to be?
Karri Plowman: I had previously worked in another leather store and had left to open my own store and was having several difficulties. Frankly, there was just expertise and things that I needed to help me. And then, Luke—
Luke Wallrich: For my entire life I’ve been very entrepreneurial, always wanted to have a business of some kind. During discussions last year with some of the leadership of IML [the International Mr. Leather weekend], they said, your city really needs something that can put the community first, that can do something for the community that’s worthwhile.
Tynan Fox: Driving back from IML we had a long discussion in the car, and we realized that it’s only gonna happen if someone in the community steps up and takes leadership. And we decided that, you know, it’s time to be the grownups. It’s time for us to take some responsibility.
What do you want Twin Cities Leather to accomplish?
LW: I think our primary goal is “Community First.” One of the big ways that we’re doing that, of course, is with the Mr. Twin Cities Leather competition. But ultimately, it’s to help people discover, explore, enjoy, and fortify their kinky lives.
KP: This is a kink leather store owned by kink leather people for the kink leather community, and that’s important to us. And with that comes quality products and great customer service. When our clients come in—and we refer to our customers as clients, because that’s how we treat them—we can answer questions that just a sex store couldn’t answer. And that client concept means conversations, and purchases, are kept between us and our client.
LW: Our store and workshop are in a small basement location. You come in off the back side of this mixed-use property, a mansion in one of the oldest neighborhoods in Minneapolis. It’s also a community space—people can come in and sit and chat. The major hurdle is finding us, but once people know where we are, we’re easy to get to, and they like the privacy.
What can people expect when they visit?
TF: First and foremost, you can expect a friendly face. Our company motto is “Community First” for a reason—we want to make sure people are comfortable being able to shop and ask questions and get friendly answers.
LW: We’ve all been involved in this community for a very long time, even though we’re all relatively young individuals.
TF: Between the three of us we’ve got thirty years of experience.
You’ll have a store on the Web, too?
LW: Our current goal is to be online with TwinCitiesLeather.com, a full e-commerce website, by the end of January, 2013.
Talk a bit about the upcoming Mr. Twin Cities Leather contest.
LW: The reason we sponsor the contest, first and foremost, is that we believe the Twin Cities has a kink community that deserves representation and leadership. Contests are one of the ways we elect the leaders of our community, the people who get to go out there and be a focal point for the community.
Derek Harley, Mr. Minneapolis Eagle 2012, said in his speech at IML that you have to be a beacon. There are many different ways you can be a beacon in the community, and being a titleholder is certainly one of the ways. We wanted our city to have two of those beacons that people can come to and ask questions, so really we sponsor it for that community reason. And that’s why the store itself has the motto or the slogan of “Community First.”
(Twin Cities Leather is located at 300 Clifton Ave. in Minneapolis. Open seven days a week; more info at Facebook.com/TwinCitiesLeather or visit their new e-commerce site at TwinCitiesLeather.com. And check out all the events that make up the Mr. Twin Cities Leather contest weekend, Feb. 15-17 at The Saloon.)