I recently toured the facility—a small factory, really—where Occidental Leather makes what most tradespeople believe are the best tool belts money can buy. That's what I thought the first time I saw a a set of their bags on the Jobsite 20+ years ago, and my opinion hasn't changed now that I have seen how they're made and heard the unlikely story of how the company came to be.
Occidental Leather's tool belt systems are designed and manufactured in Sonoma County, California, a rural area north of San Francisco. The company was founded by Darryl Thurner, a building contractor who wanted a better tool belt than he could buy off the shelf. After seeing a fellow carpenter's home-made tool belt, Thurner convinced a local saddle maker to produce something similar for him. Other carpenters saw it and wanted to buy ones like it, so he went into business, designing and selling belts and paying the saddle maker to make them.
The saddle maker eventually lost interest in tool bags and went back to making horse tack. Thurner, with time on his hands due to a slump in construction, decided to learn the trade of leatherworking. The rest, as they say, is history—if history means spending 35 years designing and producing high-quality tool belts, converting an old lumber mill into a leather factory, and building a nationally known company that provides jobs to 40+ people.
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wait, I'm confused; which is it? "the best money can buy" or "the Mercedes-Benz of tool belts"??