Lorraine and Steve Davy set out to create American Seat and Saddle Co. in the hopes of bringing more locally made bicycle gear to the US. Their Honest Abe saddle is the ideal fit, embracing modern simplicity and classic construction.
Where did your business name come from? Is there an interesting history behind it? American Seat and Saddle Co. is a name that was classic and self-explanatory. It is what we do. We believe in locally made products that use local materials. We also believe a business should be transparent to its public. Our business is all about American made leather bicycle saddles, so the name was a no-brainer.
Have you always been passionate about design?
Definitely! We both grew up around the arts with older siblings, and our parents/grandparents and extended family were involved in the arts. Steve (Davy) continued to pursue the arts professionally with an undergrad from MCAD and MFA in Sculpture from MICA. He worked for different metal and theme fabrication companies before opening his own ornate and custom metal business called Alloy Custom Metal Designs in 2010.
When/Why did you start working in this particular craft/field?
For my birthday in 2011, Steve built me a bicycle and went shopping around for accessories only to find that many bicycle accessories, seats, and bikes, in general, are made overseas. Knowing that it was our preference to only buy locally made products, this search set the wheels in motion and we started to think about making an old-time looking saddle from really beautiful materials.
What do you think sets your designs apart from others?
While leather saddles are nothing new, our materials and production have their own character. We value our health and the health of our riders, which is why we start with environmentally conscious materials, like untreated vegetable-tanned leathers. Our process is no different. We cut, form, and assemble all our saddles by hand. For finishes and color variation, we hand-dye and patina with eco-friendly dyes and solutions.
Have you had any major failures?
Yes, of course, and they were expected. Manufacturing can be very trial and error and that is why we had riders on our seats for 3 years before we even started selling them. We went through a variety of shapes, molds, and forming processes before we settled on our current design. As more and more riders give us feedback, we continue to tailor our design. We have learned that this process may never officially be done. We continue to improve and better understand the variety of things our customers are looking for to improve their comfort when riding.
Have you sacrificed anything to create your business? If so, what was it, and do you have any regrets?
It’s impossible not to sacrifice when running your own business. Many of our own personal projects get put on the backburner to make room for this second family business – un-weeded gardens, unfinished bathrooms, you name it.
But we do not have any regrets. We have a young family and now is the time to build, take risks, and establish a business for our sons to perhaps take over one day. We also love that they get to be part of the process and see how things are built, help out, and learn that if they have an idea they love and work hard, they can see it become a reality.
What has been your proudest/favorite moment since creating your business?
When our oldest son came to his first trade show with us, it was a joy. He jumped in to help settle up our booth, polished the seats, and eagerly greeted anyone who wanted to talk about the saddles. We get very excited when other riders are interested in our seats, but getting our son excited, who complains we work too much, meant perhaps we were on to something!
How does the city you live in influence your work?
Chicago is many things, and thankfully, right now one of them is investing in alternate transportation and extending bike paths. Being on a bike is the best way to experience this city, and now it will be even safer to do so. We love our city and all the new industry it is producing, and are happy to be a part of it.
What valuable experience/knowledge did you have before starting your business?
The very many ups and downs of starting prior businesses, and knowing that it’s an incredible amount of sacrifice and hard work before it even remotely starts to pay off. Having that perspective reduced the let downs and made all of it seem “normal,” and that helps us keep going.
What made you take this leap into being your own boss?
Knowing that our economy and our government has been changing so drastically from when we were kids and that there really is no longer a “safe route” to financial security, forced us to ask, “So why not jump in and go for what you love?”
What are some inspirations for your work?
American and European-made bicycle and motorcycle saddles from the 1920-1940s are always really beautiful and inspiring.
What are some tips or suggestions you’d like to offer to fellow makers?
If it is truly what you love, keep going and you will figure it out. If you don’t love it, find something you do and then figure that out.