South Shore Leather Company

In the basement of a home in Milton, Mass. that once bore witness to the dreams of Dropkick Murphy frontman Ken Casey, a whole new passion is being fostered. 

Nick Mantia, who bought the rock star’s childhood home with his wife three years ago, isn’t learning chords on a guitar or writing songs about the plight of Boston’s working class. Instead he’s stitching, hammering and hole punching leather as the owner and craftsman of the South Shore Leather Company. 

From keychains to card holders and money clips, Nick Mantia of Milton finds creative outlet in South Shore Leather Company.

Mantia has found room for his new hobby in the cellar of his house, tucked into a corner surrounded by storage boxes stacked taller than he is. The scent of leather hangs faintly in the air, and on a small table he traces, cuts, hammers, punches and sews leather goods like card sleeves, money clips, key chains, wallets, cell phone cases and more. 

“I really like being able to make something with my own hands and say ‘I know exactly how this was made,'” he said. “I know what leather was used, what products, what materials.” 

Artisan Nick Mantia of Milton started the South Shore Leather Company in his basement. He makes card holders, wallets, phone cases and more from leather.

The designs of his products are simple and minimalist — there is no room for extra items or bulky shapes. The leathers Mantia uses range in color, pattern, style and thickness, and 90 percent of what he uses is sourced from Italy. He hand stitches every edge, hammers every hole and brands each item with his logo: a simple black and white buoy. 

“I’d rather make something I really want and would like to carry, and then if it’s popular that’s just a bonus,” he said. 

An IT professional at a law firm by day, Mantia does not have a history of being crafty or particularly handy, he said. His interest in working with leather first peaked when a wallet he bought started to fall apart and he looked to the maker’s YouTube to learn about the processes. From there, he fell down a “rabbit hole.” 

The coronavirus pandemic presented a perfect opportunity to learn something new, he said, and he ordered a few cheap pieces of leather and a simple tool kit to get himself started. 

“I really made some mistakes,” he said with a laugh. “Poor choices of leather, bad tools. One of the things I learned was to really invest in good tools and material from the get go.”

Most of the products made through the South Shore Leather Company are from patterns Mantia designs himself in Adobe Illustrator, and the first thing he ever made was a card wallet with a thumb hole for easy access. 

“It came out awful. The stitching was bad, it was crooked. So I just tried again.”

Encouraged early on to start an Instagram account by his wife, Mantia started sharing his pieces and part of his process online. Within three months he’d opened an Etsy store, and friends and family who bought pieces started to leave reviews. He’s sold pieces to buyers in other states and even overseas, and people have reached out for custom pieces like checkbook covers and knife sheaths.

Artisan Nick Mantia of Milton started the South Shore Leather Company in his basement. He makes card holders, wallets, phone cases and more from leather.

A simple card holder can take an hour to make, and more complex money clips can take up to three. It’s a slow process that takes patience and precision, something Mantia says customers appreciate over similar, mass-produced products. 

 “This is built to last. It’s not something cheap that will fall apart,” he said. “It’s meant to be used and it will age and wear, but in a way that will still look great and natural.”

South Shore Leather Company company products are available on Etsy. Minimalist card sleeves start at $20, card wallets are between $20 and $45 and money clips are $50. 

“I never thought ‘Oh, I want to make a ton of money on this,'” Mantia said. “I just loved the hobby and I thought ‘If I can somewhat break even, I’ll be happy.'”

Photos in this post were taken by the wonderfully talented Greg Derr. They were originally published in The Patriot Ledger.

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