Berger Company was founded in 1908 as the Atchison Leather Products Company in a manufacturing warehouse that stood against the tranquil banks of the Missouri River in Atchison, Kansas. After over 100 years, our history in leather manufacturing and distribution speaks for itself. Berger Company, a provider of fine leather products and excellent customer service, has stood the test of time.
Over the last 100 years, Berger Company has endured. Berger survived World War I, the Great Depression, World War II, several major floods, a raging fire in the 1950s, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the difficult economic times of the late 1970s and early 80s, the flood of 1993, and the current wars and difficult economic times that we presently face. Throughout the decades, Berger Company's perseverance and resolve have always won out over difficult times and will continue to show determination and progress during the course of the next 100 years.
The Beginning (1908-1918):
The first leather products produced were team harnesses, bridles, halters, horse collars and a variety of leather cut parts. Atchison was a gateway to the west and was the last stop for supplies for travelers before they headed further west.
During WWI, the company produced pistol holsters, knife sheaths, and strap-work for the U.S. Government. At the request of the Government, the company built a grease-extraction plant (known as Atchison Leather Products Co. Plant No. 2) along the river road to extract grease and oils from cattle hides for the storage and manufacture of munitions during the war. The foundation of this historical plant was preserved and still stands today with a Commemorative Sign of Patriotism and Freedom as part of Atchison's recently developed Riverfront.
The 1920s to 1940s:
As the horse and buggy days subsided, the company began to make leather straps for Henry Ford and the emerging automobile business. The straps were sold to dealers as accessories to the automobiles.
During the Great Depression, the company produced "ready-cut" cotton quilt patches – sold to major department stores including the May Company, Sears & Roebuck, and Montgomery Ward.
In 1939, when WWII started, there was once again a need for many leather products, pistol holsters, sheaths, ax covers, belts, and a variety of leather straps for the U.S. Government. The company ramped up production to meet the war effort.
After WWII ended, a major shift was made to produce leather, canvas, and nylon products for the Sporting Goods trade. Forty-five sales representatives sold baseball, football, golf and a great variety of other fine products to professional, college, and high school teams.
The 1950s to 1970s:
In 1951, A.C. Robert (Bob) Berger, son of founder A.C Berger, joined the company as a director and four years later became Vice-President of Sales. The company expanded the Government Contracts Department and became a major supplier to the U.S. Department of Defense, manufacturing aircraft safety belts and harnesses, parachute parts, pistol holsters, belts, aircraft carrier runway barriers, and other leather and nylon products.
The parent company, Berger Company, was formed in 1973 by Bob Berger. The company started as direct sales agents for major U.S. and foreign leather tanneries and textile mills in order to provide raw materials to major leather goods manufacturers.
In 1979, Richard N. (Rick) Berger, the third-generation Berger, joined the Company as Vice-President. During the 1980s, Berger expanded their operations by contracting into Mexico and China, as they focused on more international suppliers and customers. In 1986, Rick Berger became President of the Company and Bob Berger remained as Chairman.
In 1994, Robert M. (Bob) Adrian joined the Company as Vice-President and helped continue the expansion. Bob's legal expertise and technical background were instrumental in helping to set up Berger S. De R.L. De C.V. Mexico, in Leon, Mexico in 1999, as well as Berger Asia in China in 2003. The goal was to establish a controlled foreign production instead of working with contractors in those countries. Our major customers wanted control and protection of their products. Berger rose to the challenge.
In 2006, Reed M. Berger, the fourth-generation Berger, joined the company and became the Director of Supply Chain Operations, bringing an educational background in Business Management and Operations to the company.
Today, Berger Company is a leading leather and textile supplier that provides raw materials to major manufacturers. Berger is also a leading manufacturer of leather products through its three manufacturing divisions: Atchison Leather Products Co. in Atchison, Kansas; Berger Mexico in Leon, Mexico; and Berger Asia, LLC in China.
Major product areas for the Berger Company today include leather for the manufacturing trades, including saddle and tack leather, knife sheaths for all the major cutlery companies, leather for tool pouches and the construction trade, washable leather and branded labels for the blue jeans and clothing business, leather trim for backpacks and luggage manufacturers, and leather and synthetic parts and products for the U.S. Government and U.S. Postal Service.