TAZEWELL, VA – March 29, 2024 – Functional and fashionable artisan-made leather purses, bags, wallets, belts and accessories are the primary goods manufactured and sold at Appa Bagworks LLC, a new business operating on Main Street in Tazewell. The retail store opened near the end of last year and also features a workshop where owner, Tanner Hale, crafts the leatherworks items. Additionally, Appa Bagworks offers leather repair services.

Appa Bagworks LLC was a recent recipient of a $10,000 Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority (VCEDA) Seed Capital Matching Grant. Seed capital grants are funded from regional funds received by VCEDA which are paid by the natural gas industry.

“Appa Bagworks LLC manufactures handcrafted leather goods as well as offers leather repair services, making it a truly unique business in Tazewell,” said Jonathan Belcher, VCEDA executive director/general counsel. “The business projects one full-time and two part-time employees within three years.”

The business mission is to create high-quality, long-lasting leather products reflecting commitment to sustainability, ethical production practices and timeless design. Lifetime warranties are offered on hardware and stitching.

“Our handcrafted products are unique and cannot be replicated by mass-produced items, which sets us apart from our competitors,” Hale said, noting that working with leather started as a hobby years ago and has grown from there.

“We had an extremely busy start where we opened before Christmas,” Hale said noting one of the most popular items sold has been the wristlet clutches he makes.

“The wristlets really exceeded our expectations and have really taken off,” he said. “Other items are also coming along and we are adding different style bags to include duffle and messenger bags.”

Currently, the product line also includes three different sized purses, two sizes of totes, four different styles of card wallets, leather notebook covers, two versions of a laptop sleeve and several small miscellaneous items like key chains and bookmarks made from scrap material to limit waste. Custom orders are also available, as is custom embossed lettering in silver or gold foil.

In the future, Hale hopes to partner with local farmers who harvest cattle for their meat to utilize the animal skins through an arrangement to have the hides tanned for use in making leather products featured at his store. Additionally, he plans to offer leathercrafting classes for the public.

Hale used the VCEDA grant to help with equipment needs as well as leather material and hardware pieces needed to manufacture the bags he produces.

“The VCEDA seed capital grant has been a massive help to get my business going,” Hale said. “We have a constant need for leather materials to work with and in addition to selling items at the shop, we are working with other businesses to locate our products in their storefronts as well. The grant absolutely gave us a leg up.”

Hale worked with the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Southwest Virginia Community College (SWCC) in developing his application to VCEDA and received a letter of support from the Tazewell County Industrial Development Authority.

“The talent that Tanner Hale has in taking raw leather materials and turning them into amazing works of art is simply awesome,” said former SWCC  SBDC Program Manager Margie Douglass.  “Appa Bagworks is such a unique business where customers can not only buy leather goods but can also see how they are made. Appa Bagworks will also enhance the tourism initiatives and encourage a more walkable community on Main Street in Tazewell. It has been a pleasure to assist Tanner as he applied for the VCEDA Seed Capital Matching Fund grant.”

“The Tazewell County Industrial Development Authority is pleased to welcome Appa Bagworks to the Town of Tazewell,” said Tazewell County IDA Chairman Kyle Hurt. “Appa Bagworks will provide a unique diversified business to downtown Tazewell. The IDA Board was pleased to offer its support of Appa Bagworks’ VCEDA Seed Capital Grant application and we look forward to providing continued support of our existing and new businesses in Tazewell County.”

Appa Bagworks LLC is located at 145 Main Street in Tazewell. The business is Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., as well as by appointment and may be reached at 276-701-7853. The business may also be found on Facebook.

About Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority and Southwest Virginia’s e-Region: The Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority, created by the Virginia General Assembly in 1988 to enhance and diversify the region’s economy and help create jobs, markets Southwest Virginia’s e-Region and its focus on electronic information technology, energy, education, emerging technologies, and entrepreneurship. VCEDA is a unique economic development organization that manages funds for economic development projects from a percentage of the coal and natural gas severance taxes paid by coal and natural gas companies that operate in the region. Located in southwestern Virginia, the region includes Buchanan, Dickenson, Lee, Russell, Scott, Tazewell, and Wise counties and the City of Norton. www.vceda.us or www.e-Region.org.

About the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority Seed Capital Matching Grant Fund: VCEDA region for-profit businesses, within qualifying business categories, one year and under with less than 10 full-time employees are eligible to apply for dollar-for-dollar matching grants up to $10,000 from the VCEDA Seed Capital Matching Fund. Applicants work with the Small Business Development Centers at Mountain Empire and Southwest Virginia community colleges to prepare the applications to VCEDA that include detailed business and financial plans. Businesses must be located in or plan to operate in the VCEDA region in southwestern Virginia that includes Buchanan, Dickenson, Lee, Russell, Scott, Tazewell, and Wise counties and the City of Norton.