Stash Co is co-owned and operated by Cheryl Schulke and Paul Forde. Our production studio is based in a century-old mattress factory about an hour west of Houston. The Haynes Mattress Factory was built by Daniel Haynes in 1909 and is a Texas Historic landmark that still houses the original mattress building equipment. The factory was purchased mid-century by Schulke's grandparents who expanded operations to include an upholstery and decorating business. They continued to produce mattresses with the existing technology through 1976.
The business is a team effort. Though Forde owns and operates another company full-time, he serves as the CFO and IT department for Stash building anything from our custom ERP software to reclaimed wood tables to our bridge booth for various markets and dinner events.
Schulke, also known as Stash has been building her bags and company for about 5 years. Working initially out of a home studio, she accepted an invitation by her aunt and uncle to revitalize the family factory space and utilize it for bag production. On a particularly chilly January day in 2011, Schulke and her father began the work of excavating a studio space within the upholstery room of the factory. So began a journey of discovery that helped her realize that this drive to build was somewhat of a family legacy started in part when her grandparents purchased the factory.
Opening cabinets was like stepping back in time and though both of her grandparents passed years ago, she felt closer than ever to the spirit of them and this infused a new life into her business. Surrounded literally by hand-hewn technology, Stash continued to design and build to an ever-growing audience, traveling for trunk shows in California and establishing a retail presence at Houston's own Urban Market, and finally moving on to show exclusively in person at the Stash factory and in limited like-minded retail.
Committed to utilizing vintage hand-tools, boot-making equipment, and good old-fashioned American ingenuity to craft each bag, Schulke enlisted her father from the beginning to assist with leather shaping but the Stash team was at a cross-roads. Fiercely determined to retain mindful hand production in favor of mass automated production, Stash soon realized it was time to expand and enlist the help of several additional builders at various stages of the process.
In the last 6 months of 2012, several folks apprenticed as the Stash crew and the company has grown. Schulke still does a good portion of the sewing and design while carefully building every facet of her grass-roots business but she is working closely with project managers: Kelly Garcia and Justin Klein as well as a group of interns from the local AP art program .
Though it has been a terribly long time coming through what felt at times like excruciating solitude building bags alone at the factory, Schulke has finally assembled an incredible team. From artists, musicians, and documentary film-makers to AP art students getting their first real work world experience to mothers who crave nurture of their own creative fire.
Here we gather. You have been seeing this stamp, shown below. We call it our firebird. It represents the gathering of our creative community. It represents our hope to strive for true collaboration and support of one another. Collectively, we have risen from the ashes. Each in our own time. To come together and forge something new.
Our collective mission is to create a nurturing, engaging, positive collaborative environment in which participants embrace mindful production over mass production and reinstate history, legacy, and value to goods produced.
Remaining a fairly underground brand, Stash has simply let the product and her customers spread the word. This word-of-mouth marketing plan has put Stash on the arms of customers across the United States and as far away as Malaysia, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and France. The greatest majority of Stash customers are repeat. Collectors. Many coming back for three bags or more.
At the moment, Stash goods are all sold direct via the good new-fashioned rumor mill, a combination of web, email, and social media outlets. And all of that keeps Stash busy a solid 6 days a week. You can also find a limited selection of Stash at Helm Boots in Austin, Moth & Rust in Round Top, and coming this summer Saint Cloud in Houston.
Johnson had this to say after playing at the factory, "The factory has been preserved and nurtured to an extent to where I suspect it looks much the same as it might have a hundred years ago. It's a glimpse into an America that once was; a sacred fortress cherished by its owners, built with great care, and rich with soul. It's one of my favorite places to play music."
In addition to concerts, the Stash family has begun to open the factory space to collaborations with a variety of artists. J. Raphael Klein is working on an album that features sounds of the factory. Metal artist, Maurice Connolly built a round of his light and garden sculptures this past spring. And The Pinpoint Method crew kicked off their documentary project at the factory in April.
Come what may, the entire Stash family looks forward to continuing pushing the limits of what design and production is possible beyond typical borders.
A note from Cheryl
My goal in building these bags is to support local whenever possible and to recycle and save materials down to the last scrap for incorporation into future product.
When considering things to make, I always consider the greater impact. The idea of producing stuff just for sake of production has never appealed to me. I am committed to utilizing the highest quality materials to ensure longevity and whenever possible I source supplies from old stock and gently-used sources. This is a bag that should last more than one lifetime.
Special thanks to my family for supporting at every stage. Especially to my dad, my husband, and my daughter who all rise to assist whenever needed without question. Bringing three generations together to honor our past and blaze a trail into the future.
When I am not designing, you will probably find me behind a camera. My editorial, photography, and writing has been featured in a variety of publications including Tribeza - Austin. Follow my Stash Studios style journal, check out my photos on Flickr and Tumblr or get an inside look at my adventures on Facebook.