JUST LET THE ESPINOSA`S, KNOW THAT YOU SAW IT HERE..
Gilberto, Joe, Gilbert Jr. and Eric Espinoza of Espinoza’s Leather tell their story: one of sacrifice and hard work that spreads over three generations.
The vest is sacred throughout the biker world and without saying a word it communicates who we are, where we come from and whom we ride with whether in a group or solo. When Gilberto Espinoza started making leather bracelets and belts after a farmer strike in 1971, he had no idea that it would eventually lead him, and later his three sons, down a path to becoming one of the industry’s most respected makers of biker vests and leathers. But the story of this family-run business goes far beyond leather hides and sewn-on patches. Their story is of one man making sacrifices for his family, only to have his family do the same in return to take care of him. This is the story of Gilberto Espinoza, a quiet and humble man, as told by his three sons, Joe, Gilbert Jr. and Eric.
How did you start making leather goods?
My dad left his home when he was only 8 years old. He made his way from his childhood home near central Mexico to Tijuana. After some diffucult years he made it into America where he started working as a meat cutter and that’s when he met my mom. My mother’s father was dabbling in belts and leather goods and my dad saw an opportunity to start his own business. He started out making berrets, key chains and bracelets with individual’s name stamped in them. We have pictures of a huge mountain of bracelets where people would come, pick one and we’d stamp in their name. The cost was one dollar and the stamp was free. That’s how my dad’s business first started in ’71.
My dad’s first customers were at the La Mirada swap meet. A guy named Popeye introduced us to the biker scene. We started with only one table and a Dodge Charger. My parents would have to sit in the Charger because we didn’t have a canopy for shade. My dad would always say “I know it’s tough on you guys but in the end it will benefit you.” Sure enough my dad has proven that to be true.
As you can see it’s always been a family business so it doesn’t feel like work, just spending time with the family. Eric is 100% like my dad. He has that type of personality that makes people want to come in and talk to him for hours. He acts exactly how my dad does by spending a lot of time with customers, but now my dad gets on his case for doing the exact same thing! (laughs). Two years ago I tried to figure out how to launch a Web site for a mass market. You can’t. How do you show a 100% custom experience to a mass market? The way I try to appeal to the public is to explain why it’s worth it to take a ride here whether you’re in San Diego, San Francisco or other surrounding states. Whenever you’re in California, come on in. I’ve been trying to get the word out that to wear an Espinoza cut is to have something special. We must be doing something right because we realize it’s more than a business when my dad shows up to an event and a crowd surrounds him. They all want to say hi to my pops. That’s when you know it’s more than making cuts for riders. Funny part is, my dad hates crowds and usually tells me ‘Mijo get me a beer’. They love you, huh dad?
I went with them just for moral support and sat on a Softail. I bought it that same day also. Two months later my brother ( Gilbert Jr.) bought a motorcycle and eventually, his son Gilbert III, bought a bike–now all three generations ride.
Gilberto - Final Thought...Thank you all for your business.
In September of 1985 the first retail store was opened just two short blocks away from the first shop. Espinoza’s Leather Goods retail was born and the offering at the time was the same inventory of wallets and purses with some samplings of import products from Mexico.
That summer the first motorcycle jacket was made and Gilberto never looked back. Leather jackets, vests and chaps are his passion coupled with customer satisfaction.