Made in Minnesota: Leather forecast

Near the headwaters of the Mississippi, Itasca Leathergoods makes moccasins and more

By Ali Lacey

In the tiny town of Lake George, near the headwaters of the Mississippi River and just outside of Itasca State Park, is the factory of Itasca Leathergoods.

A small but rapidly expanding company that started as Itasca Moccasin in 1986 (hence the web address, it takes pride in handcrafted moccasins designed for the whole family. Subdued tones characterize the men's lines, while bright colors and fun designs are the signature look for women, children, and infants. All the footwear is made with traditional soft leather soles and is intended for outdoor use.

Of the 10 styles for women, the front-runner is the ever-popular Cota Canoe Style shoe in the Groovy color, which is a combination of jade, aqua, and loden. "That color combination just seemed to get it right," says Paul Kirkman, a designer and the company owner as of April 2012. "We introduced it last year, and we've had a hard time keeping up production with it."

If you'd like a pair, you'll have to act fast — Itasca Leathergoods changes the colors of its moccasins seasonally. The company now also sells belts, handbags, and iPad cases, and it's planning more items for holiday-season shoppers. Turns out Kirkman changed the company's name for a reason.