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Double T Leather and Gift opens doors in time for tourism season

As a tourism destination, Mitchell is serving as an opportunity and fresh start for Kerry Wilcox. Wilcox opened Double T Leather and Gift on Mitchell's Main Street earlier this month and offers a wide range of handmade items from a leather Bible ...

Owner Kerry Wilcox chats inside his store Double T Leather and Gift on Monday in Mitchell. Double T is a new business on Main Street, where most of the items are handmade by Wilcox. The store was previously located in Belle Fourche. (Sarah Barclay / Republic)
Owner Kerry Wilcox chats inside his store Double T Leather and Gift on Monday in Mitchell. Double T is a new business on Main Street, where most of the items are handmade by Wilcox. The store was previously located in Belle Fourche. (Sarah Barclay / Republic)

As a tourism destination, Mitchell is serving as an opportunity and fresh start for Kerry Wilcox.

Wilcox opened Double T Leather and Gift on Mitchell's Main Street earlier this month and offers a wide range of handmade items from a leather Bible cover to cow skull decor.

His shop - located at 304 N. Main St. - contains approximately 90 percent of his own handiwork from leather belts, concealed-carry holders, chaps, rifle cases and scabbards, brief cases, horse tack of any kind, biker wear, cell phone cases, sheep skins, saddle pads to rope art.

"I've been doing this as a glorified hobby for so many years, it was time to do something with it," Wilcox said.

Wilcox first opened his shop in Belle Fourche in 2013, but business died down after the 75th Sturgis Rally. And then the business "flat busted" trying to stay open, he said, before finally closing in May 2016. After that, Wilcox decided it was time to explore a new part of South Dakota and he stumbled across Mitchell.

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With the World's Only Corn Palace just blocks away, Wilcox hopes to profit from the tourism season, which is one of the reasons he opened this month.

So far, business has been slow, but Wilcox remains confident that once word gets out and people learn of what Double T has to offer, business will pick up.

"I'm hoping to get to the point where I'm making a living. Anybody that gets into leather business and thinks they're going to get rich into it, is sadly mistaken," Wilcox said. "They said most leather shops had a wife that had a good job."

Wilcox is from Duluth, Minnesota, before moving to Wausau, Wisconsin, when he was 12 years old. He lived there until 2010 when he discovered the Dakotas. He moved to Bowman, North Dakota, and then tried out Belle Fourche in 2013.

And for the last 35 years, leather work has been his hobby. It made sense four years ago to open up a shop to display his work. But he's not in it to get rich, but for the craft itself.

"Leather work is something I really enjoy doing, and there's something about the texture, the feel, the challenge, and I do so many different things I never really get bored," Wilcox said.

Wilcox has a work station built into his space on Main Street, where he perfects his craft, and also makes customized orders. The challenge, he said, is to make every item to the best of his ability and of the highest quality.

But another challenge is "sticker shock," Wilcox said, or the surprise many customers have when they see prices of the handmade leather items in his store. This price is set because of the time it takes Wilcox to craft the items, as well as the cost of supplies.

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"Customers should know when they walk through that work, they will pay fair price for top quality work," Wilcox said.

On top of the many handmade items Wilcox makes, he also is not opposed to having other crafters bring in their work. Wilcox added he's open to the idea, but the quality needs to be high.

Wilcox said one of the most popular items in his store is a plain, black leather belt. The quality and simplicity of the item appeals to many customers, he said. And while it might not be as "unique" as other items in his store, Wilcox said, he just wants his customers to be happy.

"We like to be unique. Some just call it crazy, but I like the word, 'unique,' " Wilcox said. " ... That's one of the reasons I make so many different things is because there's so many things out there to be made. There's a big interest."

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