Jodi Rave: Man finds calling in buffalo robes
"Jason Erickson was serving up beef burritos when he decided he would rather be delivering buffalo - and not as a meal.

“I didn't know it, but I absolutely love tanning, love it to death,” said Erickson, owner of The Tannery, a hair-on-hide tanning company in the Bitterroot Valley. Now he processes animal hides for businesses and individuals across the United States and Canada.

He's quickly earning a reputation as a premier buffalo robe tanner.

“The quality is second to none,” said Nella McCaskill, a catalog retailer for CNF Marketing in Winnipeg, Manitoba, who described the robes as “absolutely beautiful.”

Erickson never expected to tan hides for a living. He has paid his bills as an antique dealer and more recently as a caterer. But all was not going well in the food business.

“My catering business was falling apart, not by any means of my own,” said Erickson. “It was just one thing after the other. The Lord was shutting that down.”

One day while delivering burritos to a tannery in Stevensville, the then-owner told Erickson his business was for sale. He suggested the caterer buy it.

“I said, ‘You teach me how to tan and I will do it,' ” said Erickson. “I worked for one week and fell in love with it. I said, ‘I want to do this.' ”

The Tannery, located in the Creamery Building in Stevensville, has been growing ever since. The production floor space has nearly tripled in the last four years. Erickson sells hides wholesale and retail, charging customers who come into the business $650 for a buffalo hide. The typical retail price is closer to $850, or higher."

Get the Story:
Jodi Rave: The Tannery: With serendipity and prayer as his guides, Bitterroot man switched careers from burritos to buffalo robes (The Missoulian 7/27)

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