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157 King St E, Hamilton ON L8N 1B1
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"I've tried lotions and potions and dips in the oceans, and then I tried Leathers," Louie Petrou chants as he recalls an advertising jingle for Leathers, Hamilton's destination retail store specializing in off-the-rack and custom-made leather items. Louie stocks everything from fashion wear and motorcycle attire to hundreds of styles of Western boots by fourth-generation Canadian boot maker Boulet.

In December of 1973, Louie partnered with his father's shoemaker friend to open the store. Originally, they specialized in handmade platform shoes and boots, but when his business partner died, Louie plunged into entrepreneurship. "We opened in December. I married in March. My partner died in August and I had a baby. It was sink or swim. I swam," says Louie of the days when custom-made platforms with silver flames were fashionable.

After buying out a competitor — it was a heyday for hides in those halcyon days — Louie expanded to a second location and evolved to sell leather jackets. He amalgamated both stores after leasing a liquidated property in the 1980s. "I came to buy the hangers and mannequins and ended up buying it all," Louie recalls. When a fire at a neighbouring business forced Leathers to temporarily relocate in 1992 to Mary Street, Louie eventually reopened his 5,000-square-foot store while maintaining the Mary Street location as a discount leather warehouse.

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