by Chris Clemens
Growing up, the wisdom of “spend a few extra dollars on something made really well, and take care of it so it lasts” was deeply ingrained me. There wasn’t a ton of money to throw around carelessly in our family, so making a solid decision on the purchase was important. If you could spend $5.00 on something and have it break in a couple years, why not spend $15.00 on a similar item and have it last for decades–makes perfect “cents”, right??
There’s certainly something to be said about just plainly making a purchase based on build quality and not wasting your hard-earned money on poorly manufactured junk. But, to take it a step even further, there’s something more to be said about knowing that item was carefully crafted by an artist who has spent countless painstaking hours honing their skill not because it’s their job, but because it’s their passion.
Some of you know I spend a decent amount of time at Joe Bean Coffee Roasters, which is just a couple miles from my home in Rochester. Joe Bean is the type of ‘slow coffee’ shop where you can ask the barista about the Nicaraguan blend being brewed that day, and the description begins with knowing the name of the farmer who first grew the bean. Then a lengthy discussion about the science of soil quality, the subtle differences between the Hario pour-over brew methods versus the Chemex and the even subtler differences of taste and aroma. And, that’s precisely the kind of place you’d run into a guy like David DeMarte–which is how we first met. While sitting at the bar and chatting aimlessly, I marveled at the particularly noteworthy watch band around his wrist and was a bit surprised when he said, “oh, I made it!” You know me, I had to know more.
David is somewhat of a self-professed clotheshorse and discovered many years ago that he likes really nice things. Custom-tailored suits, aged Scotch, cigars from a little island south of Miami, pour-over coffee and many of the other things you’d expect to see in a carry-on packed by James Bond. To round out his adoration for nice stuff, a number of years ago he tried his hand at making watch bands.
He proudly showed his first watchband to his grandfather, a celebrated cobbler when he lived in Budapest, and was shot down and told it wasn’t good enough. Rather than accept defeat, he set forth in honing his skill, sharpening his tools and expanding his knowledge base. It didn’t take too long before he returned to his grandfather with an improved craft and received approval that he was now making something worthy of sharing with the world.
In 2007 when he was starting out, there were only about thirty or so people in the entire world who were hand-crafting fine, full-grain leather watch bands. As a full-time public school teacher, David spent nearly all his nights and weekends trying to fill orders. Once a few serious watch collectors from other parts of the world discovered what he was doing and starting making requests, he realized it was time to create a website and set up shop to keep up with their demands.
Now almost a decade later, there are thousands around the world attempting to produce a similar watch band by hand. While they remain a staple in his product line, he recently expanded to include other goods like keychains, wallets, Chemex collars and even a woman’s handbag. And, if you’ve been over to Joe Bean Coffee Roasters where David and I first met, you’ve probably seen a few of his exclusive items there as well, like the mason jar koozie.
If you’ve decided that it’s time to treat yourself to a one-of-a-kind, locally produced, handmade work of art, you can find him set up occasionally at Rochester area artisan sales, or in his 4th floor studio at the Hungerford Building in Downtown Rochester. Or, you can also order directly from his website right here. You should also check him out on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook to get updates of his newest creations!
And, if you order online, because you’ve read through this entire post you’ve earned yourself a 15% discount on your order!! At the checkout screen, be sure to use the code EXPLORING to redeem your savings before December 1st!!
Chris Clemens is the Founder/Publisher of Exploring Upstate. From his hometown in Rochester, he spends as much time as possible connecting with the history, culture, and places that make Upstate New York a land of discovery. Follow him on Twitter at @cpclemens