Founder Michael Lyons explains how the Standish shop keeps its designs relevant — and its production high-quality. A Down East Shop maker spotlight.
When Michael Lyons asked his doctor about some back pain, back in 2007, his doctor suggested he stop sitting on a bulky wallet. Not long after, he was doing laundry and realized that a front pants pocket is actually curved — and an alternative vision for a wallet suddenly clicked. “I’ve always been interested in innovation and design,” says Lyons, who’s now in his 60s. “I like to look at things and imagine how they can be improved.” So, with minimal leather-working experience, he started creating a prototype of what would become Rogue Industries’ patented, best-selling front-pocket wallet.
“Nature drives design, if we create the space to listen,” Lyons says, but customer feedback has a role to play too. As soon as he made the first prototype, he set out asking friends and family for opinions — and more than a decade later, he’s still incorporating their comments. Recently, he flipped the wallet’s design upside down, making it so when it’s taken out of a pocket, it’s upright and bills are more easily accessed. Customers have also influenced Rogue designs on a new line of leather belts. “They wanted high-quality leather and a durable, rugged design,” Lyons says. “It took us over a year of testing leathers and buckles to get what we wanted.”
Lyons is proud that “we are unapologetically obsessive about quality.” All Rogue’s partners in the leather-working process, he says, share his company’s commitment to sustainable hunting and tanning practices. That includes Tasman Leather Group, in Hartland, just a two-hour drive from Rogue’s solar-powered Standish workshop. Rogue also buys free-range American bison leather from a tannery in Chicago, moose leather from Canada, and salmon leather from Iceland.
As for Lyons, he’s starting to carve out a bit more time away from his company. He still works closely sourcing materials and designing new products, but he’s always loved to travel and hopes to make more time for it. After seeing much of the world, he’s now hoping to focus his wanderlust on his home state. “After traveling to 40-plus countries,” he says, “Maine still calls out.”