May 2009

From the President
Take 5
Cover Story
Feature Stories
An ounce of prevention
Patent power
Butterfly dreams
Colley CAN
Paying it forward
Around the Arch
Best of show
UGA and CDC partner to fight disease
Musical treasure hunt leads to a gem
Grammy winner!
Ad research again at top of field
Landscape architecture leads the field
Blast from the past
More honors for Faust
UGA gets its first Howard Hughes award
Terry among top in licensing exams
Yoculan’s last bow
Age is just a number
Equestrian wins again
Athletics funding bolsters academics
Let it snow
UGA honors Dooley
Warnell School gets $6.7 million to study Appalachians
Students get Udall, Goldwater scholarships
“All Pro Dad” program extends to UGA
Watching history unfold
President Emeritus Henry King Stanford dies
Going Green—Sustainapalooza
Going Green—Recyclemainia
Going Green—Recycle to win
Going Green—Clean and green
Going Green—Sustainable recreation
Hold the phone!
UGA gets $8.3 million boost for stem cell research
Uga leaves his “papers” to UGA
Alumni News & Events
2009 Alumni Award Recipients
Letter from the UGA Alumni Association Board President
Alumni chapters
Alumni Profiles
On Broadway
Reviving the craft
Lights, camera, action!
Class Notes
Class Notes
Grad Notes
Class Notes Extras
A bulldog’s view of the inauguration
Alumnus, former GM editor, recovers from war injuries
Dancing with the (Athens) stars
Where are they now?
Why I give
Back Page
Arvin Scott

Reviving the craft

Irvin Alhadeff keeps his family’s leather-working tradition alive just steps from the Arch

Reviving the craft

Photo by: Andrew Davis Tucker

It pays to do what you love. Just ask Irvin Alhadeff (AB ’71), owner of Masada Leather & Outdoor, who has turned his interest in leather-working into a successful retail business for more than 30 years.

As a leather craftsman, success means being able to “change with the times,” says Alhadeff, recalling the leather-fringed halter tops of the 1970s, the Western wear craze of the 1980s and the sophisticated European styles that are popular today.

Change has also meant selling outdoor apparel and footwear from brands such as The North Face and Patagonia alongside Alhadeff’s custom handmade leather products, including belts, handbags and sandals, at the downtown Athens store.

Masada’s floorplan combines Alhadeff’s leather workshop and traditional retail space, allowing him to observe new trends first hand.

Customers can watch as Alhadeff “tools” a design onto a leather belt (a process that involves striking a thin metal stake with a wooden mallet) as they shop. Alhadeff can design, cut, stitch, oil and dye a complete piece—from hide to handbag—in as short a time as 45 minutes. Some take several hours.

Visiting the workshop is a nostalgic, sensory experience. You hear the rhythmic click…click…click of Alhadeff’s mallet and smell the buttery soft English calfskin.

A framed photo of a 1982 Sports Illustrated cover featuring Herschel Walker wearing blue jeans and one of Alhadeff’s custom belts hangs near an old-fashioned stitching and finishing machine.

Alhadeff enjoys sharing his craft with others.

“It’s in my blood,” he says. Literally. Alhadeff’s ancestors were Jewish immigrants who brought the leather trade to Atlanta in the early 1900s.

Alhadeff earned his bachelor’s degree in history at UGA and was pursuing a master’s degree in medieval history at Florida State University when he sought an apprenticeship with a leather belt- and sandal-maker in Tallahassee, Fla. It was there he developed an interest in his family’s craft.

He gave up his dream of a life in academia—and the offer of a post-doctoral appointment at Duke University—to pursue leather-working as a career.

His first job was hand-tooling leather belts, wristbands and wallets on the streets of Gatlinburg, Tenn., but it was not long before Alhadeff returned to Athens and opened the small 500 sq. ft. “70s hippie leather shop” that became Masada, which is named for a historic battle site in Israel.

Since then he has been a fixture in the ever-evolving downtown Athens retail mix, serving as president of the Downtown Athens Business Association.

In the future, Alhadeff plans to open a studio separate from Masada to allow him space to work on new designs and continue his age-old craft for years to come.

—Kali Justus is a freelance writer living in Atlanta.