Glad & Young bring joy to Atlanta
Words by Sarah Michael Hickman
For Anna Zietz and Erica Verges, kindness, community, and celebration have always been at the heart of their brand, Glad & Young Studio, based in Atlanta. These principles shine through in their designs, in their production and retail spaces, and in their workshops. Instead of the natural, organic pallets that traditional, handmade leather goods usually favor, Anna and Erica prefer bright and whimsical components. Even their more neutral options have a playfulness about them. But luckily, the “backbone of their decision making,” as Anna calls it, doesn’t stop there.
Anna and Erica started Glad & Young in 2015. They met working at neighboring bars, becoming regulars at one another’s workplaces, depending on who finished her shift first. Anna studied graphic design while Erica was a seamstress by trade. Erica did custom upholstery for local restaurants and had some experience with small leather goods but lacked pattern making and design knowledge. Anna grew up in a house of screen printers and sign makers and missed the tactile nature that computer design couldn’t give her. Anna described the friendship between the two “kindred spirits” with a complementary skill set as “kismet.” Their discussions of hopes and dreams became a reality when they bought their first hide. “I will never forget the feeling of us cutting up that first hide of leather, because it was hundreds of dollars and we didn’t really know what we were doing, so it was very scary,” said Anna.
Their business began to snowball—one hide grew into a few sales at a makers market, and with every sale they’d purchase more supplies. Both women, still employed, began to take advantage of the slow burn of their growing business. It gave them the opportunity to figure out what was working, what wasn’t, and to be diligent in their decision making. “Failure was not an option,” said Anna. They had to be conscious of the money they were spending at all times and learn how to develop a product that was both handmade and competitive in the market—a feat which is not easy, especially in today’s two-day-shipping era.
By 2019 they were finally able to quit their jobs and commit to Glad & Young Studio fully, and they moved their workshop out of Anna’s basement and opened a store at Ponce City Market in October of that year. They hired a team they are genuinely passionate about and purchased equipment they hadn’t been able to afford before. While running a small business required them to wear many unexpected hats, they were “finally getting to a place where some of those hats could be worn by other people.”
As soon as their store opened, Anna and Erica were eager to start offering workshops. To them it was an obvious progression—they both loved going to workshops themselves, and now these two women, who describe Glad & Young Studio as being founded on a celebratory culture, were able to host their own. COVID-19 brought an obvious blow to these in-person events, but they will be resuming consistently this fall. Workshops range from entry-level social hours, where you can personalize wallets or journals, have a drink, and meet some new friends, to more advanced, hours-long programs that teach intermediate skills such as marbling leather. With their backgrounds in the service industry, they crave a relationship with their customers. Their workshops and storefronts help develop a community that they yearn for—but as business owners, these also help them understand what their customers want and how they can provide that.
Their first big publicity came from a Refinery29 post on the 2017 Women’s March in Washington D.C., showing them confidently holding a banner they made reading, “WE WILL NOT FIGHT OTHER WOMEN FOR ONE OF THE LIMITED SEATS AT THE TABLE. WE WILL MARCH SIDE BY SIDE & DEMAND A BIGGER TABLE,” a banner that still hangs on the wall in their studio. “It felt important to us to be vocal, to use our platform for good,” said Anna—but they wanted a company that would do more good than just a social media post. Their newest way of giving back is through artist collaborations. They send an artist a rawhide and ask him to create something on it. One-of-a-kind pieces are then created with the artist’s leather, and every dollar from the sale of those pieces goes to a charity of the artist’s choosing.
When they received news of Glad & Young’s Ponce City Market shop closing due to a lease issue, their first thought was of their team. Anna said the news, “was really scary because we had all these people that we wanted to keep employed, and we were responsible for their livelihoods to a certain extent.” Fortunately, that didn’t become an issue. Anna and Erica found a new space, still within Ponce City Market. Instead of feeling intimidated by the change, they are excited for a new chapter and for opening a store that they describe as, “a cool, experiential, beautiful space for people to continue learning about our brand.”
Glad & Young’s future is bright and full of growth potential, but their roots are staying planted. “This will always be home for us. We love Atlanta, truly. I think that it’s a really magical place,” Anna said, “I’ve never experienced a community anywhere else like I’ve been able to experience here.” Anna and Erica have had real discussions about their future plans, trying to figure out Glad & Young’s place in the world. Their goal isn’t to become a big business, but they want to widen their community, build new relationships, and bring the joy they see on their current customers' faces to more people in the world.
“It seems so simple and so obvious, but it is very important to who we are as a brand that the people that interact with us in any capacity get treated with kindness,” said Anna.
Glad & Young’s newest location at Ponce City Market is due to be open when this issue of Good Grit comes out.