Sometimes the future happens when you’re looking the other way — and sometimes a business is born in that fortuitous moment.
That’s what happened to Alfons Mayor, who found himself designing and making leather wallets after years of doing other things.
First, he decided he wanted to write a book, but more than that, he wanted to make the whole book — leather cover, binding, printing — everything.
Working on the cover is what got him. He discovered he loved handling the leather — designing, cutting, stitching — and his literary venture rapidly disappeared into the mists.
But he’s gone way beyond that first infatuation with handcrafting and has moved toward perfecting his product and producing a line of handsome wallets totally handmade — bifold, trifold, slim, chunky, bearing credit card slots — all shapes and sizes, vibrant colors and trims, some embossed, some plain, but all distinctive and attractive.
Except for a few years in Houston, Alfons, a Jersey boy, has lived in Holland Township since 1999 when flood waters invaded his family’s home in Bound Brook and they moved to safer ground.
He’s worked as a mechanic and auto body repairman and detailer, but also spent a lot of spare time delving into Norse mythology. He also excelled at drawing and was particularly adept at creating exceedingly complex geometric patterns.
Alfons considered himself to be very analytical until the art of fine leather crafting struck him with a raging intensity and revealed his artistic talents.
“I saw myself as a hobbyist at first,” he said. “I bought leather, I bought tools, but then I started to buy better leather, better tools—just kept going.”
The tools now cover a workbench in his basement workshop. It’s a place he finds himself each night after he goes home from his day job with a landscaping firm. Nature inspired him, he said. “I love being outside. It’s always the same, but it’s always different.”
He said, “I really am a perfectionist. Even if I’m halfway through a wallet and I see something I don’t like in the leather or in the design, I just discard it and begin again.”
Kyle Mayor is his older brother’s No. 1 fan and very supportive of his move into the business world. Kyle said, “I even bought him a machine to stitch the leather but he doesn’t use it. He prefers to do all the work by hand.”
“I really wasn’t thinking of a business,” Alfons said. “It was more a stress-reliever after a long day. I’d make a couple wallets and I’d be happy. Then my family started asking me to make wallets for them, and my friends started asking.”
He’s now embarked on his first commercial venture and has placed his wares for sale in Country Chic, a boutique specializing in new and recycled clothing and accessories on Bridge Street in Frenchtown.
Morgan Taylor, Country Chic’s owner said, “Alfons is very talented, especially for someone who’s new to leather. He aims to please, wants to know what’s selling, is constantly asking for feedback from my customers and wanting to improve his work.”
She said, “I helped him with pricing. I have a good eye for that, so we set the wallets’ price from $12 to $32.”
Kyle, who works in the IT department at the Easton-based Victaulic Co., is currently designing a web site for his brother’s business. The web site, norhide.com, will soon be up and running, introducing Alfons’s leather craft to a wider market.