When Howlett heard the owner of Lonsdale Leather planned to close the business, he bought it

When Howlett heard that the owner of Lonsdale Leather planned to close the business, he purchased it

Riley Howlett, 29

Owner, Trestle Investments (Lonsdale Leather

+ Precision Patterns)

Life Story: Riley Howlett is something of a globetrotter. After high school, when he started sewing and making his own skateboarding shoes, the White Rock native earned a footwear design certificate in Italy. Howlett then did two years of fashion design in San Diego before dropping out to work as a shoe designer for John Fluevog—a job that included six months at his boss’s factory in Peru.

Returning home in 2015, he noticed that Phillip Flintoff, longtime owner of Lonsdale Leather, planned to close his Vancouver store. Howlett, who often shopped there, took a loan from his mother and father and bought the business, which supplied leather to industries ranging from footwear to film and TV. “I saw the need for it in Vancouver and Canada, and even North America, as well as the potential to take what [Flintoff] had done and really build and grow on that.”

Howlett moved Lonsdale Leather to a new Mount Pleasant location and expanded its offerings to include products such as tools, hardware and sewing machines. Besides bringing in premium goods that weren’t available locally, he worked with top European suppliers to create a house line of dyes and other leather supplies that now sells worldwide. Howlett turned the store into a space for the city’s diverse maker community, too, hosting workshops and concerts. With two partners, he also bought Precision Patterns, a Richmond manufacturing outfit on the verge of shuttering as well, last year.

Bottom Line: Precision Patterns, which typically has 13 to 19 staff, does pattern making, custom clothing manufacturing and other work for Canadian and U.S. clients. “That business is absolutely booming now,” says Howlett, who champions local manufacturing for its high quality, quick turnaround and lower carbon footprint.

Lonsdale Leather’s online sales have outstripped those for its physical store, which employs five people. But Howlett has no plans to close up shop. “As long as it’s not losing money, I’m going to leave it there and allow it to keep a spot for the community.”