Behind Every Store, There's a Story – Will Leather Goods
The life and times of an actor turned retailer.
What happens when you’re forced to make a dramatic career change? When Will Adler was faced with this monumental decision, he chose a path he might have never considered – selling belts. While a total departure from his previous work, he found a way to use his past experience to guide his future choices. The result was success that extended well beyond his initial beachside stand.
Will Adler, who was used to a life in front of a camera, became the creator of Will Leather Goods. Their products can be found in stores all over America, including in their own flagship stores in Venice Beach and Portland. The Will Leather Goods stores reflect the brand’s rugged west coast roots with an excess of natural materials, high ceilings and wooden beams, all of which culminate to evoke America’s western frontier heritage. As the name suggests, they specialize in high-end leather products such as bags, wallets, belts, and other accessories that feature beautiful beading and woven designs. With their expanding brick-and-mortar presence, eCommerce operations and wholesale business, it’s clear that this retailer has a formula that works. The founder, Will Adler, didn’t derive this formula from generations of retail experts in his family, but rather from a series of life-changing choices.
Will was a Hollywood actor from 1973 to 1981. His busy career came to a screeching halt when the Screen Actors Guild went on strike – just in time for the pending arrival of his new baby. While scrambling to figure out how to make ends meet, his brother suggested he look into the accessories business, as he had noticed colorful web belts selling like hot cakes in New York City. After a trip to fashion trade show MAGIC, Will bought some belts to sell on Venice beach, launching him into a career in the accessories industry that few could have predicted. From his first humble stand on the Venice beach boardwalk, Will built and sold his branded Billy Belts, followed by another leather goods business that was also successfully acquired by another company. Additionally, he started Spirit Leatherworks and his own Will® line of leather products. His passion for craftsmanship and design and the compounded success of years in the business led to the opening of his first Will Leather Goods store – back in Venice Beach, where it all began.
Will’s achievements might stem from a combination of catching the right trend at the right time and his tenacious hustle, but he credits so much of his success to his first passion: acting. “Being an actor was the key to my success as an entrepreneur.” Will describes how acting taught him to be able to listen, to speak, to adapt to dynamic environments and to read people’s body language. It also gave him a sense of sheer determination, as he closely follows the actors creed: the show must go on.
Today, Will Leather Good’s products take the spotlight at the stores Will crafted to be their stage. While the goods are remarkable on their own, having them displayed in an environment that tells their story is a game changer. “It’s the difference between seeing and animal in a zoo and seeing them in their natural habitat.” Will understands the leather business, but he also understands what it takes to achieve star quality. His commitment to high-quality goods presented within their own context is catapulting his products into the upper echelon of the world of premium accessories.