Forward to the Past

I’ve been asked about my history and how I got my talents honed to become a designer and creator of bags and travel goods. I guess this is where I get to toot my own horn a bit…  I’ll try not to toot too loud or long.

I began my career in the 60’s (seems so long ago now) working with an old journeyman leatherworker in Rhode Island mostly doing equine gear for the Amish. Not quite the career my parents envisioned, they thought I was a classic “dropout” like most of my generation were proving to be, rebelling against the dreaded establishment. Remember those days? If you do, you’re a Baby Boomer like me! Welcome to the club…

After a bit of apprenticing and learning techniques from others in the leather trade, I migrated to Goshen NY to start a saddle shop for Western and English riders. I did mostly repair work on saddles and racing harness for the Trotter Horse trade. It was during these years (1971-1974) that my repair customers began asking me to make custom saddle bags, pouches and chaps, which started me on the road to specializing in bags… and incidentally ended my horse gear days.

In the mid 70’s I began to show my work in the prestigious American Craft Council shows and enjoyed a very successful following. It was during those show days that I perfected my use of the buttery-soft Upholstery Grade Full Grain Leathers, the very same leathers we use today at AmeriBag.

Around 1980 (hey-I’m 66 and dates can be a challenge) I opened Woodstock Leather Company in Woodstock, NY. I designed and made all the bags we sold and kept myself pretty busy and out of trouble most of the time building stock and doing custom orders.

For many years (lots of ’em) I did commission work designing and building soft-structured custom bags, briefcases and travel bags for Fortune 500 Executives, Artists, Actors, and many Musicians. While the list of notables is long and impressive, I won’t waste your time here. Let’s just say that I built bags for a lot of well known people in my custom order days.

In 1982 I drove up to LLBean (in Freeport, Maine), to try to sell them bags I had designed. Chutzpah! My presentation was to the head of Product Design in the Luggage Division. He asked me “Who designed and made these bags?”. I said “Me”. He said “Yes, but who actually made them?”. I said “I did”. He smiled, shook my hand and thanked me for the visit. Oh well…

3 Weeks later I got a call to ask if I could come back up to LLBean. You don’t have to ask me twice! At that meeting I became the first ever Freelance Designer and Production Consultant for LLBean’s  Luggage Factory, a title I held and enjoyed for 5 years. In 1987 they asked me to start my own company to provide production support and that’s how AmeriBag Inc. started!

Over the years I have developed a portfolio of many designs and my personal favorites for business, travel and life. Some of them have become classics in the industry along with the Healthy Back Bag. Now, as many of you know, we are bringing these timeless pieces back to the present with a little updating… and once again
Made In America
by us!

Now you know the roots of our bags, their designer plus a little history of their origin. Check out the Custom USA section on our web site. You will learn about the origins and development of each of the first 9 offerings that will be made to order for you. Yes, we have included special makeups of the Healthy Bag Back too!

Whew! I was hoping to keep this short and sweet, sorry ’bout that! Do check out the section and know that these designs are a legacy that I am proud to call my own… with a little help from my friends!


Irwin Gaffin, Circa 1960s

Irwin Gaffin, Circa 1960s

How My AmeriBag Saved Me

Maria Oakley of West Hurley, NY tells the story of  her  Healthy Back Bag versus a rabid fox:

As I was leaving the house to go grocery shopping one afternoon in late April, I was suddenly under attack by a very aggressive fox.  It came charging at me from around the corner of the house, about  ten feet away,  and was closing in on me FAST!  I had no time to turn and run, so I did the only thing I could in that split second… I began to swing my AmeriBag to hit it.  The instant realization that hitting it might do no good at all prompted me to throw the bag at the fox instead, in hopes that I would knock it over.  It was no more than two feet away from me when my AmeriBag connected soundly with the animal and did, indeed, knock it off its feet.

Immediately, the fox turned its aggression onto the bag and proceeded to bite it and claw it while snarling and growling, and then began dragging it towards our backyard.   I would have gone back inside the house, but since I had locked the door and the house keys were in the bag that the fox now had, I couldn’t.  The fox went under a high porch with my bag and continued to attack it.  After a few unsuccessful attempts to hit the fox with rocks so that it would run away and leave me and my bag alone, I decided to run to my car that was in our shed across the driveway.  I ran, the fox noticed, and it chased me.  I managed to get into the car before any contact was made.

The fox then attacked a broom hanging on our shed wall.  It clawed and gnawed on it all while growling for a number of minutes.  It then wandered around in the shed, went back to the yard, revisited the AmeriBag, came back into the shed to again attack the broom and came over to the car and proceeded to scratch and claw the driver’s door.  When it pulled itself up on the side-view mirror and tried to chew that, I began to believe that I was living in a Stephen King novel.  The sound of the growling and the sight of the sharp teeth –these are things that nightmares are made of.

I was thus trapped in my car for 2 ½ hours until our neighbors arrived and my husband got home from work (at about the same time).  I had lost sight of the fox after about 1 ½ hours, but I was not about to go retrieve my bag from under the porch when the animal could have been ANYWHERE. And remember, my house keys and my car keys were in my bag.

Once the excitement was over, I called some neighbors to warn them that there was a possibly rabid fox in our neck of the woods.  I learned that they had just shot an aggressive fox an hour or so before.  So that’s where it went when I lost track of it!  The Department of Health subsequently verified that the fox was, indeed, rabid, just as I had thought.

The rest of the story: After checking on-line, I determined that my AmeriBag was most likely safe to touch, but I decided to disinfect it with the bleach/water solution that was recommended and to put it through the washing machine, anyway.  My “Classic Distressed Nylon” bag certainly IS durable and has come through the experience unscathed!

AmeriBag Tees Off for the American Cancer Society

Margery Gaffin, AmeriBag Executive Vice President and Co-founder shares:

I am proud to say that this is the ELEVENTH year that AmeriBag has been the Major Sponsor of the annual American Cancer Society Michael B. Finnegan Golf Classic at Wiltwyck Golf Course in Kingston, NY.

Sadly, cancer has become epidemic.  Being a 5+ year survivor myself, I feel strongly about doing anything I can to help prevent cancer and to find better cures.  We all have been touched by cancer; whether it has hit us personally, or a relative or close friend.

My husband, Irwin, and I love this event.  Golf has been an enjoyable pastime enjoyed by me and Irwin for 11 years.  We have been Major Sponsors of this Tournament from the first year we began golfing. It is a fun filled day for an excellent cause.  Although most of the day is spent competing for ‘the win’, the underlying reason for the event is never lost. The silent and live auctions are filled with fabulous gifts and participants are incredibly generous, often bidding over the actual cost of the goods in recognition of the value donating. This year over $98,000 was raised to help the ACS in their fight against cancer.

Golf tournaments are an ordinary person’s way of making something extraordinary happen; stroke by stoke, green by green.   It is a way to connect to the cause; something everyone can do within their own communities.  We encourage people to seek out their local charity of choice and see what types of events are available for them to make a difference.  Every little bit helps to fight for this important cause.

This event brings such spirited generosity, as all are aware of the importance of supporting charities like the American Cancer Society. AmeriBag also sees this spirit at another extremely worthwhile organization, Breast Cancer Options, events here in the Hudson Valley.

Pictured left to right: AmeriBag Co-founder Margery Gaffin of Kingston, Sally Schofield of Barbados, AmeriBag Director of Sales, Beth Petramale of Saugerties, and Josephine Guest of the Bahamas and Barbados. Results: 68 Gross / 66 Net. WINNERS OF FIRST PLACE NET

Pictured left to right: AmeriBag Co-founder Irwin Gaffin of Kingston, Matt Kovner of Olivebridge, Danny Moss of New Paltz, and Dr. Gary Povill of Hurley. Results: 67 Gross / 65 Net.