Sgt. C’s Leathers in Wichita supplies motorcyclists with leather clothing and accessories, but beyond that it is a gathering place. Around owner Irona Cliver’s table and chairs, riders build community.
As a rider and Marine Corps veteran, Cliver wanted a place where people could hang out, warm up and visit. One popular service she offers is sewing patches on leather items, so she set up a table and chairs near her sewing area where vets can talk to other vets and riders discuss where they’ve been or where they’re going.
“We’re one big community that intermingles,” Cliver says. “We all try to support and help one another. The biker community is one of the most giving and charitable I’ve ever run across. My business wouldn’t exist without their support.”
Cliver started in 2010 with a 20-by-20-foot flea market booth. Her store now occupies 2,600 square feet and carries leather goods in sizes from XXS to 7XL.
“I’ve slowly expanded over the years by listening to what my guys want,” she says. Recently, she learned how to tool and emboss so she can make custom items. She also can embroider various products. She says customers want road names, dates they served and memorial pieces.
She has served customers from coast to coast. Travelers from Connecticut and Vermont have stopped in, and last year she sewed 35 patches for a man from Oregon. Although her products carry a two-year manufacturer’s warranty, she will do repairs on site if possible so customers don’t have to wait.
Sgt. C’s Leathers is a family business. Cliver’s mom helps a couple of days a week, and the store serves in memory of David Cliver—affectionately known as “Bubba.”
“My little brother was my right-hand man when I started the business,” she says. But on the store’s opening day in its new location, December 29, 2011, Bubba died by suicide. He was 26.
The shop’s motto is in honor of Bubba: “Keep it shiny side up and rubber side down.” And on her motorcycle, Cliver keeps her brother’s “sissy bar. She says he is with her every day.
Bubba’s death also inspired his sister to talk to people about suicide. Since the age of 16, Cliver has lost 23 people to suicide—including military friends and customers.
“Suicide has a big stigma around it,” she says. But she has helped people navigate through the VA’s system and find help when they need it. She says she understands how difficult things can feel. “When they get into that dark room there’s no way to find the light switch,” Cliver says. But Cliver wants people to know her shop is a place where they can talk and form friendships. People sometimes come in just to visit, and she has gone to see customers in the hospital after accidents.
SGT. C’S LEATHERS
919 W. 31st St. S.
Wichita, KS 67217
9:30 a.m.–5 p.m.
Friday, 9:30 a.m.–6 p.m.
Saturday, 9:30 a.m.–3 p.m.