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Staff Report

TAZEWELL, Va. ÔÇö A downtown Tazewell retail store offering artisan-made leather purses, bags, wallets, belts, and accessories is now the recipient of a $10,000 Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority (VCEDA) Seed Capital Matching Grant.

Appa Bagworks LLC opened near the end of last year and also features a workshop where owner, Tanner Hale, crafts the leatherworks items. Additionally, Appa Bagworks offers leather repair services.

Seed capital grants are funded from regional funds received by VCEDA which are paid by the natural gas industry.

“Appa Bagworks LLC manufactures handcrafted leather goods as well as offers leather repair services, making it a truly unique business in Tazewell,ÔÇØ said Jonathan Belcher, VCEDA executive director/general counsel. ÔÇ£The business projects one full-time and two part-time employees within three years.”

The business mission is to create high-quality, long-lasting leather products reflecting commitment to sustainability, ethical production practices, and timeless design, VCEDA official said. Lifetime warranties are offered on hardware and stitching.

ÔÇ£Our handcrafted products are unique and cannot be replicated by mass-produced items, which sets us apart from our competitors,ÔÇØ Hale said, adding that working with leather started as a hobby years ago and has grown from there.

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ÔÇ£We had an extremely busy start where we opened before Christmas,ÔÇØ Hale said noting one of the most popular items sold has been the wristlet clutches he makes.

ÔÇ£The wristlets really exceeded our expectations and have really taken off,ÔÇØ he said. ÔÇ£Other items are also coming along, and we are adding different style bags to include duffle and messenger bags.ÔÇØ

In the future, Hale hopes to partner with local farmers who harvest cattle for their meat to utilize the animal skins through an arrangement to have the hides tanned for use in making leather products featured at his store. Additionally, he plans to offer leather crafting classes for the public. VCEDA officials said.

Hale used the VCEDA grant to help with equipment needs as well as leather material and hardware pieces needed to manufacture the bags he produces.

ÔÇ£The VCEDA seed capital grant has been a massive help to get my business going,ÔÇØ Hale said. ÔÇ£We have a constant need for leather materials to work with, and in addition to selling items at the shop, we are working with other businesses to locate our products in their storefronts as well. The grant absolutely gave us a leg up.ÔÇØ

Hale worked with the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Southwest Virginia Community College (SWCC) in developing his application to VCEDA and received a letter of support from the Tazewell County Industrial Development Authority.

Appa Bagworks LLC is located at 145 Main Street in Tazewell. The business is open Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., as well as by appointment and may be reached at 276-701-7853.

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