When temperatures dip below zero and the cold seeps into your bones, Glacier Wear of Greenville has you covered — with fur, if you’re not opposed.
The family-owned and -operated company is home to a giant inventory of fur, from silky rabbit hides to rough grizzly bear pelts. And with these furs the company crafts a wide variety of products for an even wider variety of customers, from superstars to the hunting guide down the road.
“We carry the largest inventory of tanned furs and leathers in North America,” said Randy Richard, who owns the company with his wife, Colleen Richard. “We get furs from all over the world.”
Since moving from Montana to Maine three years ago, Glacier Wear has continued to grow and thrive in a region where trapping and fur trade is not only historic, it’s also a tradition that continues to this day.
On Wednesday, Dec. 20, Randy Richard was busy in the company’s sewing room, cutting a bobcat hide destined to be made into a warm winter hat. Nearby, his grown daughters, Jessica and Beca, were busy with their own projects: a hand-stitched beaver blanket and a fox fur hat.
“We’ve worked with a lot of movie people, singers, entertainers, that kind of thing,” Randy Richard said.
In the company’s main office, posters are on display from the many movies and TV shows for which Glacier Wear has created fur pelts, costumes and props, including HBO’s “Game of Thrones” and Fox’s “Sleepy Hollow.” There also are posters for “Magnificent Seven,” “The Ridiculous 6,” “Night at the Museum,” “Cowboys & Aliens” and “The Hateful Eight.”
“We made Kurt Russell’s hat in ‘The Hateful Eight,’” Colleen Richard said. Set in the dead of winter in post-Civil War Wyoming, the film naturally required a lot of traditional fur attire.
For “Game of Thrones,” the company provided fur pelts to the show’s award-winning costume designers. Glacier Wear also provided the grizzly bear hide used in the award-winning 2015 film “The Revenant,” starring Leonardo DiCaprio. The company has decorated the home of singer Celine Dion, and created a blanket as a Christmas gift for Michael Bloomberg, former mayor of New York and one of the richest people in the U.S.
“You just never know,” Randy Richard said of his wide variety of customers. “It could be a billionaire, or it could be this guy from Guilford who just wants a skunk hat.”
Once a trapper, hunter and whitewater rafting guide in the Moosehead region, Richard moved to Montana in 1988 with Colleen and continued to work in the outfitting business leading guided horseback tours. Then, in 1991, after a family health crisis, the Richards purchased a local wholesale fur company and established Glacier Wear. Since then, the company has steadily grown, and in 2014, the family decided to return to live and work in the Moosehead region.
“All of our family was still here,” Randy Richard said. “Probably about 70 percent of our business is east of the Mississippi, so it was easier and less costly to ship. And I buy most of the fur in the Northeast.”
The business now has eight full-time employees and three to four seasonal employees. Randy and Colleen continue to be a part of the entire process, from selecting and buying the furs to designing new products and crafting them to marketing and shipping out orders.
“We’ve always done all of it, the sewing, all of it,” Colleen Richard said.
One of the goals at Glacier Wear is to offer lower prices than its competitors, and one way to do that is to buy fur in bulk. At any one time, the company holds between 50,000 and 75,000 individual tanned hides in stock at its warehouse and offices on Spruce Street in Greenville. Fox, skunk, sable, sheep, wolverine, buffalo, elk — the list goes on and on.
“We carry a lot of inventory and we price it at a volume basis,” Randy Richard said. “So instead of trying to sell, you know, one item for a lot of money, we try to sell 10 items at a lesser cost. Of course, it took a while to get to the point where we could buy in this kind of bulk.”
Prices range greatly, depending on the type of fur and the time it takes to produce the item. Glacier Wear’s cowhide rugs, for example, are typically $150 to $170, while a specialty item such as a hand-stitched coyote fur comforter is listed just under $7,000.
While most of the fur the Richards buy comes from trappers in the Northeast, they also purchase furs from countries such as Finland and Russia. And all of their furs are “Origin Assured,” a label developed by the International Fur Trade Federation that essentially tells customers that the fur comes from a country where national or local regulations or standards governing fur production are enforced.
“There are strict guidelines set up internationally to assure the consumer that the animal was either raised humanely or trapped in the wild using the most humane methods available today,” Randy Richard said.
To match the variety of materials they work with, the family is constantly designing new products. On the company’s website, it currently offers various fur hats, throw blankets, comforters, scarves, vests, teddy bears, rugs and more. Glacier Wear even makes “ruffs,” the little strips of fur that line jacket hoods.
“We make them for a lot of different coat companies,” Richard said.
One popular item they currently sell is a variety of bomber-style beaver hats dyed the colors of national football teams, including a navy, red and white New England Patriots hat.
Whether dyed bright colors or kept in its natural hue, none of the fur goes to waste.
“This is from a lynx blanket that we shipped yesterday,” Richard said, pausing at a pile of fur scraps. “All the pieces are taken and they’re sewn together, then we make scarves out of them.”
Moving past the holiday season, the company anticipates a dip in online orders, but who knows? It could get a call from another major motion picture. Or a famous actor might want to redo their house in Western-style decor, cow rugs and all. Or a neighbor may just need a nice, warm, fox fur hat to bundle up against the long Maine winter. Whatever the order, they’ve got it covered.
To learn more, visit www.glacierwear.com or call 207-695-0940.
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