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Scott M

Uber Buckskin Co.

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Scott M

Saw a story about the Uber buckskin company in Owatonna. It was at Pioneer Press' website. I can't get into my account, can somebody post the story?

If you google Uber buckskin, their web page comes up.

Anybody ever send in hides to them? Looks like they do pretty nice work and you are providing the materials so they aren't too expensive.

Looks like I might be sending some business their way next year, would like to hear from somebody that has dealt with them though.

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Scott M

Nevermind, got it to work

Chris Niskanen

St. Paul Pioneer Press

OWATONNA, Minn. - The caller at the other end of Jared Rinerson's phone line was a hunter in Montana. He had four elk hides. And he wanted to turn them into a jacket and maybe some handmade gloves.

"Salt them down and send them to us,'' said Rinerson, 35, owner of Uber Glove and Tanning Co. He hung up the phone.

"He had saved his elk hides in the freezer and wanted to know what jacket colors we had available,'' Rinerson said. "He heard about us from another hunter."

It is the fall hunting-season rush for this 103-year-old niche leather company.

Send your deer or elk hide to Uber Glove and Tanning, and Rinerson's employees will tan it and make it into a couple of pairs of supple buckskin gloves, a pair of fleece-lined slippers, a purse or a gun case.

Send four or more deer hides and Uber will fashion them into a sporty buckskin jacket or vest made to your specifications.

"I've looked around and I think we're the last company in America to do it,'' said Rinerson of his hides-to-leather-products company. "Other companies will make deerskin gloves, but they won't use your hide to make it."

Rinerson, who lives in Ham Lake, bought the company in 2006 from the Uber family, which had been running it for six generations. He describes it as an Old World company operating in a new global economy where cheap Chinese-made goods dominate retail shelves.

And that's where the former computer programmer sees a business opportunity.

"There are still plenty of people who want to buy a U.S.A-made product,'' Rinerson said. "And I think this sheds hunting in a positive light."

Many of his customers already know that.

At the company's tannery last week, employees unloaded dozens of boxes containing salted deer hides sent in by customers from across the nation."We get hides from every state but Hawaii,'' Rinerson said.

After skinning their animals, Uber customers cover their hides in coarse-grain salt, let them dry for a few days, then box them up and send them to Uber, along with an order form. Hunters are also welcome to drop off their hides at company headquarters in a residential area of Owatonna.

Then the hides are numbered, tanned, dyed and fashioned into products by Rinerson's sewers. All the products are made on the second floor of the company shop, where workers hand-cut the leather and sew it on aging Singer machines. The entire process takes four to six months and is laid out on the company's Web site,

"I think we make the best chopper gloves around,'' Rinerson said. "The price will be a little bit higher than the Chinese stuff, but you get much better quality.''

A deer hide makes two to three pairs of Uber buckskin gloves, which sell for $25 to $30 a pair. The base price for a men's bomber-style jacket is $143. A western-style jacket with fringe is $149.

Globetrotting hunters have sent Uber giraffe, Cape buffalo, warthog and other exotic hides to turn into gloves and jackets.

And if you don't have your own hides, Uber sells jackets, gloves, slippers and other products made from its own leather.

"Buffalo has a very unique grain,'' Rinerson said, running his hand over a bumpy bison cape. "We do a lot of stuff in elk, too."

The company also sells buckskin gloves wholesale to L and M Supply, a discount chain in northern Minnesota, and Sheels, a Fargo, N.D.-based sporting goods store. Rinerson hopes eventually to sell products in the Twin Cities as well. In addition to the 15,000 to 20,000 deerskin gloves it sells wholesale, the company operates a tiny retail store in its headquarters, which was built in 1938.

In 1904, Adolf Uber, the son of a German immigrant and leather tanner, moved to Owatonna from Wisconsin to start his own tannery. (The Uber family leather tanners can be traced back to the early 1800s in Prussia.) Adolf's son, Harley, began making leather gloves in his basement in 1931.

When Rinerson bought the company from the Uber family, he had no experience in tanning, leather manufacturing or running a company. He grew up on the Iron Range in a hunting family, but spent his career as Microsoft computer programmer.

"I'd been a computer guy for 15 years and I was tired of working for other companies,'' he said. "I've been a hunter all my life and, after looking at other companies, this really appealed to me."

Rinerson said his biggest challenge is marketing his products to a new generation of hunters who have never heard of the company. He hopes the notion of recycling deer hides will appeal to the environmentally conscience crowd.

"I know a lot of hunters just say, "Ah, I leave my deer hide for the coyotes,''' he said.

"By using every part of the animal,'' Rinerson said, "I think it accentuates a positive side of hunting."

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Our group has been taking hides here for years. Many since the 60s! Everything they make is very high quality and knowing it came from your deer is very rewarding. I think it costs about $40 to tan a deer hide, then they will turn them into whatever you want. Cost are not cheap, but not overly expensive either.

Very highly recommended!

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Grant Pearson

also, if you drop off your deer skin, they will give you a pair of gloves. It's a nice little trade if you ask me.

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I have a friend that has taken his hides there for many years and has everything from a gun case to a jacket, very good quality worksmanship. I have been saving my hides to take in atleast 3 or 4 at once so that I can decide on anything that I want to have made. Some of the items require more than one hide.

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I grew up in Owatonna and my family has been taking deer hides to them for years. The quality and selection of items is great. You can also just have the hide tanned, take it home, and decide what to get later. Nothing like that fresh leather smell.........

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Grant Pearson


Nothing like that fresh leather smell.........

I totally agree

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I live about 6 blocks north of them... I highly recommend them.

The new leather smell is great but boy does it stink in the neighborhood when they dump their tanks...!

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