WEST FARGO - Ruth Schepp opened her Ivory Leathers store in 1992, financing it on a credit card.
She charged up $2,200 and paid the debt off in a year, “and never looked back,” selling and repairing motorcycle leathers and accessories.
Now, the longtime motorcycle fan is ready to take a new road in her life.
After nearly 30 years, Schepp is selling Ivory Leathers. The first buyer with $120,000 can walk into a turn-key operation with a good reputation, according to the online listing.
At this point in her life, Schepp doesn’t want the commute from her home in Gardner and instead wants to start a sewing shop there.
“Sewing is my passion. That is what I am good at. That’s God’s gift to me,” Schepp said Friday, July 24.
As the name says, Ivory Leathers is filled with leather goods, the bulk of it black and designed for living with your knees in the breeze: chaps, jackets, vests, gloves, patches, bandanas and more.
“I cater to the motorcycle community. Always have,” she said.
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She was in her mid-30s when she arrived in Fargo on a motorcycle in 1987. She started attending school at North Dakota State University.
About 1989, she began working in an upholstery shop and had access to a heavy duty sewing machine. That’s when friends started bringing her leatherwear to repair.
She got the name for the store after she and a girlfriend went to the annual Sturgis, S.D., motorcycle rally. On the ride home, she thought about what she had seen. She didn’t want to wear black leathers and wanted a different color. White was too bright. Then she decided the leathers should be ivory. That’s when she knew she had a winner.
Ivory Leathers moved to a couple of locations in Fargo and West Fargo, before settling in 2003 at 901 Main Ave., where Schepp rents space from the neighboring Casey’s General Store.
For 11 years, she and her husband, Gene, also spent their summers as vendors at bike shows around the country. They quit selling on the road in 2014.
The showroom at Ivory Leathers comprises a bit more than half of the store. Her sewing and repair area, storage and other areas make up the balance.
By the register she keeps a 2015 photo of her own motorcycle - a metallic-white trike she bought in 2014. However, it hasn’t been ridden for a couple years because it needs repair, she said.
She made her a lot of friends running the business, and she hopes one of them will keep Ivory Leathers going.
If a customer mentions that they like to sew, “I’m right on them,” she jokes.
She has the inventory and equipment, plus she’ll help a new owner through a transition period, perhaps coming in to sew a couple days a week.
The store is listed with The Krabbenhoft Real Estate Team in Moorhead. She can also be reached at the store from noon to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.
If the business isn’t sold by next June, she’ll start clearing out her inventory and move on to running her sewing shop, she said.
When it’s finally time to leave Ivory Leathers, she’ll miss the customers.
“I have so much fun with my customers,” she said. “They’re kind when they come in.”