What started as a need for a practical diaper bag eventually transformed into a passion for creating meticulously crafted leather goods. This dedication resulted in the founding of Lineage, a company that sells leather bags and wallets, all of which are handmade in Harrisonburg.
“The name Lineage was inspired by that, by family, and the idea of making something that’s well-made and built to last that can potentially be passed on,” Paul Hansbarger, owner of the company, said.
According to Hansbarger, he and his wife were far from the only ones searching for a diaper bag that wasn’t overly feminine or purse-like. Upon seeing theirs, the requests started rolling in.
“I had a lot of friends who wanted one, and it just kind of snowballed into starting a business,” Hansbarger said.
After traveling around Virginia and Maryland, as well as taking a road trip to Colorado to visit craft shows and get the word out about Lineage, Hansbarger started a website and later secured a space inside Agora Downtown Market. On Feb. 1, Lineage opened its doors alongside other local artisans and vendors, some of which have been in Agora since its opening.
“So far, there’s been a lot of energy and I’ve been able to connect with people who already were aware of Lineage from following me online or seeing me at a local market,” Hansbarger said. “I’ve met a whole lot of people that are just intrigued at what I’m doing and love what I’m doing in my shop.”
Hansbarger isn’t the only one who’s pleased with his short time in the market. Jill McMullan, co-owner of Broad Porch Coffee Co., mirrors his enthusiasm.
“I think it’s been really awesome,” McMullan said. “I think it’s a benefit to the market and I feel like his space really complements everybody else’s space really well.”
However, the decision to move into Agora wasn’t made hastily, despite Hansbarger’s persistent desire to open a storefront. According to Allie Motyka, owner of Heartworn Vintage, many of Agora’s vendors spent the better part of a year convincing him to join them.
“We’ve known him for a little while, I guess through friends, but when we started searching for businesses last January, he had come to some of our meetings,” Motyka said. “He’s been a topic of discussion since then. It took him a year to make the decision and we’re glad that he made it.”
While many of Hansbarger’s designs are reminiscent of the diaper bag he made before his daughter’s arrival, he’s also branched out to include wallets, key clips and other accessories. Lineage’s small space is lined with soft leathers in neutral hues, ranging from olive to charcoal. Alongside the rustic surroundings, the smell of freshly roasted coffee from Broad Porch Coffee Co. wafts through his studio, creating a peaceful atmosphere.
In addition to browsing Lineage’s merchandise, customers can also watch Hansbarger create the items he sells. Right behind the sales counter, Hansbarger designs, cuts and sews his bags together, giving passersby an up-close look at his creative process.
“I think there’s a lot of appeal in seeing something being made,” Hansbarger said. “But I think on a deeper level, I feel that — retail and products in general today — there’s a big disconnect from the product you buy off a shelf to where it’s made.”
After moving to the area four years ago for his wife’s job, Hansbarger has become rooted in Harrisonburg. This appreciation has encouraged him to be active in the downtown community, especially in supporting other local businesses.
“We’ve fallen in love with Harrisonburg, and it’s a great community and I think it’s great for artists and small businesses,” Hansbarger said. “There’s a lot of support and passion for that type of venture.”
Contact Carrie Domenic at firstname.lastname@example.org For more on the culture, arts and lifestyle of the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the culture desk on Twitter @Breeze_Culture.