Meet the Makers: Pingree Detroit

The brand is employing veterans to craft upcycled leather totes and journals


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Thousands of Detroit veterans are unemployed, while hundreds more are homeless. It was a problem that 30-year-old Jarret Alan Schlaff had no interest in simply complaining about — he wanted solutions.

In January 2015, with the help of veterans and community members, Schlaff co-founded Pingree Detroit, a brand that offers tote bags and journals made from hemp and upcycled auto industry leather.

The brand employs three full-time veterans who work out of a Woodward Avenue workshop/training space. On average, the team handcrafts three to five tote bags a day using mostly donated equipment. Pingree Detroit will soon add unisex footwear to its product lineup.

After a year of working with Pingree Detroit, the veterans are invited to be co-owners of the brand with Schlaff.

“We think that having everyone share in the success of our company is a powerful way to create ownership on every level imaginable,” he says.

The name pays homage to Hazen Pingree, a shoemaker who became Detroit’s mayor then Michigan’s governor. Schlaff says Pingree embodied the idea of service leadership and a commitment to community that he hopes to reflect.

For more information, visit pingreedetroit.com

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