Townsend Leather featured on National Geographic

Townsend Leather's main plant in Johnstown is seen Wednesday. (The Leader-Herald/Michael Anich)

JOHNSTOWN — The importance of a local leather company as a supplier for a major sneaker manufacturer, and the “Made In America” label, has been highlighted on a national TV program.

Townsend Leather Co. — located at 45-49 Townsend Ave. and 4 Grove St. in the city — is part of a featured segment of the National Geographic Channel’s recent “Made in a Day” program, now airing on demand. The “Sneakers” show already aired nationally, and is also due to be aired Sept. 10 in the United Kingdom.

The Johnstown company is a key supplier of leather for New Balance sneakers – the focal point of this particular episode of the 12-episode “Made in a Day” series.

According to Townsend Leather Senior Vice President Tim Beckett, Nat Geo taped some of the “Sneakers” segment at his company all day last Nov. 4. The segment was meant to illustrate the importance of the leather that Townsend provides New Balance – one of the major American sneaker manufacturers in the world.

“They go through how they make the leather and what goes into a day,” Beckett said. “They moved around the building, started around 6 a.m. and left at 6 p.m.”

Johnstown Ñ the home of Townsend Leather Ñ is showcased in the National Geographic Channel's "Made in a Day" episode about sneakers. (The Leader-Herald/Michael Anich)

The promo for the show states: “In the series exploring cutting-edge manufacturing in America, the New Balance flagship factory in Lawrence, Mass. is featured. They are one of the few big brand sneaker companies still making their shoes in America. A combination of high-tech machinery, hand crafting skills and global logistics come together to make and distribute their best-selling sneaker and bring it to the world.”

Beckett said New Balance “chose one supplier to showcase with making the shoe” and the company selected Townsend.

The show is available to be viewed online.

Beckett noted the show is about 22 minutes long and the part involving Townsend is about five minutes. He said that in addition to being On Demand on Nat Geo, the “Sneakers” program will also be on Disney plus.

The program notes, “There are more sneakers in the world than people.” Various Townsend employees take the viewer through the leather process.

A worker for Townsend Leather works on piece of pig leather during a segment of the National Geographic Channel's "Made in a Day" series. (The Leader-Herald/Michael Anich)

“I was there when we videotaped,” Beckett said.

He noted that the original “Made in a Day” series was made by National Geographic Network in the United Kingdom, but the idea was to spotlight American businesses as well, he said.

“They wanted a U.S. version, they wanted to find iconic brands still manufacturing in the U.S.,” Beckett said.

The show indicates there are 3.5 billion pairs of sneakers produced annually – a $240 billion business.

“The last decade has seen a revolution in [sneaker] manufacturing,’ the show says. “Sneakers aren’t just big business, they’re huge business.”

The show notes that Nike is the biggest sneaker company, followed by Adidas and Asics. But when it comes to sneaker companies exclusively with an American brand, the show says New Balance is at the top. One major brand is the “990” running shoe, with 200 people in Massachusetts turning out 6,000 pairs daily. The show notes that presidents and entertainers worldwide have worn New Balance sneakers.

It was mentioned that 70 percent of the New Balance sneaker made from materials sourced in the United States.

“The Nubuck Leather comes from New York,” the program notes, launching into the Townsend segment.

The program says Townsend uses pigskin leather, emphasizing “This is Townsend Leather.” The process involving the leather shown on the program includes cleaning, processing, buffing and raising the height.

“The tannery has more than 60 colors in their lab that can be combined to make any shades,” National Geographic says. The narrator said Townsend produces 120 colors for New Balance.

After the leather is dyed and put through drums, it is piled up before a toggling process. The pigskin is stretched to produce elasticity, it is noted in the segment.

It was also noted that leather from Townsend routinely is trucked in a four-hour journey to the New Balance factory in Massachusetts.

Townsend produces 2.8 million square feet of leather in a typical year, the program noted.

National Geographic used a graphic to illustrate how that amount stretched along is akin to half of Central Park in New York City.

Beckett said he is proud that Townsend was featured on national TV, and the fact that it gives this area a “little positivity.” He said the area can dwell on negatives, but Townsend is an example of the still-proud leather producing heritage of Fulton County.

“Most of what we produce is that pride,” Beckett said.


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