By Arden Spearman
Mississippi native Mitzi Galason is the CEO and designer of Oak River Company, which creates quality leather totes, wallets, purses, backpacks and other accessories. We spoke with her about her company and the creative process she goes through to bring the bags to life.
1. What ties do you have to Mississippi?
I am a Mississippi native, I was born in Greenwood, Mississippi, and grew up in Duck Hill where my entire family still resides today. I have the best memories growing up in Mississippi and my humble beginnings. I believe this is what carries me through this journey. I am often reminded of the spirit of generosity that flows through my motherland, Mississippi, and that generosity is what inspires me.
2. How was your company Oak River created?
Oak River Company was created from a heart that longed to make a difference in the world. Oak River was actually first launched into the market as Legacy, but we felt like the umbrella need to be larger and encompass a broader audience, both male and female. So after meeting with a group out of Texas and sharing with them the heart behind the vision, and the foundation upon which we stand as a company, we decided Oak River Company, as it encompassed the vision perfectly. Isaiah 61:3 states: “And provide for those who grieve in Zion, to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.” Our prayer and heart’s desire is that all who encounter us, encounter hope and feel a spirit of love in all that we say and all that we do. Do we miss that at times? Absolutely, we are human; but our desires remain in tact and we are forever thankful for grace and forgiveness!
3. How would you describe the style of Oak River?
The Oak River customer is laid-back, warm, with their priorities straight. They love their family and community. They are welcoming and hospitable. They love quality things, but they are not afraid to get their hands dirty, because they know that some things in life are worth struggling for.
4. What products do you offer for both men and women, and where can people find them in Northeast Mississippi?
Oak River Company launched as a women’s full-grain leather line in 2012. We offer full-grain leather products from weekenders, totes, backpacks, wallets, purses, bracelets, keychains, and even earrings and necklaces. We also have a few awesome T-shirt designs available for the ladies. We just recently launched the men’s line in 2016, and we offer them messenger bags, leather duffels, bracelets, bifold wallets, ID wallets, business card holders, passport holders for both men and women, and are about to release a men’s backpack and a few other goodies! We also just launched a waxed canvas and leather combo line in January that will be hitting shelves in April. Our products are sold at About the South in Tupelo, The Red Door in Pontotoc, Hinton and Hinton in Oxford, Bliss Boutique in Fulton, Lip Chic in Corinth, L.A. Green in Starkville, and The Wooden Door in Olive Branch.
5. How are your pieces created?
I design each piece myself, so it is quite an interesting process, to say the least. It takes about four months to take a hand sketched design and fully evolve it into a usable and functioning piece. Some of my work is self-inspired and sometimes it is inspired by someone I have met on this journey who has made an impact in my life. Each product has a story for sure!
6. What are some of your most popular pieces?
For the ladies, definitely the Oak River Exclusive Tote, which is a private label design that I did for The Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond. Second, would be the simple tote and all of the leather accessories. For the men, the leather weekender, men’s messenger, passport holders, and both the bifold and ID wallets.
7. What are some staff and personal design favorites?
A staff favorite is the Penninger and the new women’s hand-stitched leather weekender. Our customers love details, and both of these options are fully equipped with them. My personal favorite is the simple tote paired with a trinity wallet, a small cross body, and a simple pouch. I use each one of these to organize the inside of my simple tote. I leave my trinity wristlet attached at all times and keep the cross body strap in my car for trips inside stores or parks since it is the perfect grab-and-go for me. However, I have been using the small cross body as my grab-and-go lately, but you can’t go wrong either way!
8. How is giving back important to Oak River Company, and how can customers donate?
Giving is my life purpose, so when people see an Oak River Bag I want them to know that their bag is so much more than an article they carry on their shoulder. Their purchases are changing lives with a bigger vision in place right here in the USA as well as abroad. I want Oak River customers to know that they are Difference Makers! At Oak River Company we are devoted to serving others, whatever that may look like. We are head over heels for our families and are dedicated to helping the community where we live. We are people who believe, hope, and dream. We believe in strength that comes from deep roots, and hearts wide enough to stretch across the ocean and love people we have never met. Anyone can donate to any of our givebacks by visiting our website at: www.oakrivercompany.com and clicking on “Our Legacy” page. From there, those interested can also read about our involvement and what each branch of the Mighty Oak is doing.