For Cindy Sheppard, good leather is an experience: the rich smell, the supple feel, the natural blemishes and wrinkles that make each piece unique. A handbag made of high-quality leather holds memories in its buttery texture, in its soft sheen; it can be slung over a shoulder easy as a breeze and protects its contents with style.

Sheppard, a leatherworker who crafts handmade shoes and handbags at her Concord shop, ShoeBeeDo, makes just this type of purse — and the design won her first place in the Style category of the 2018 Made in NC Awards. Her winning piece, the Ginger Handbag, is a slim cross-body bag made of durable bull hide that’s perfect for adventures. The bag comes in a range of colors — black, brown, pink, red, blue — and its wide, adjustable straps make it comfy and customizable.

The bag’s design was inspired by Sheppard’s travels: The Ginger’s dial-lock clasp is eye-catching and secure, yet easy to use, and the cross-body strap gives the wearer more control — features she first found useful while exploring Denmark.

And while Sheppard uses a variety of clasps on her handbags to achieve distinctive looks, she keeps her overall designs clean, simple, and timeless –– which is necessary, because each bag is made to stand the test of time. Handbags that Sheppard made for friends more than a decade ago look as good now as they did when they were new. Better, even, as the leather develops a rich, beautiful patina.

Sheppard has worked with leather for most of her life. “I got into it because I have rather large feet,” she says, laughing. Unable to find the shoes she liked in her size, Sheppard decided to make her own. After high school, she apprenticed at a shoe repair shop, where she learned the characteristics that make accessories durable. “I repaired quite a lot of handbags and things, and I saw where their weak points were and where they broke over and over,” Sheppard says. “Whenever I make my handbags, I make them stronger to begin with.”

Years later, Sheppard is still passionate about working with leather, and has owned her business for more than a decade. In the first few years, she worked from her basement. Now, she has her very own brick-and-mortar store in downtown Concord. In addition to handbags, she makes baby moccasins, Mary Janes, sandals, backpacks, and tote bags. “A lot of inspiration comes from my customers,” Sheppard says. “I love to take somebody else’s dream and turn it into a reality. I’m like a kid in a candy shop.”

With a Made in NC Award under her (leather) belt, Sheppard is looking toward the future of ShoeBeeDo. “I think there’s a trend toward handmade,” Sheppard says. “I think it’s important to support small businesses and to recognize the quality, the time, and the effort that goes into handmade items.”

And a handbag stitched together with love is certainly worth shoppers’ attention: It completes an outfit, expresses personality, and spurs a woman to stride through the world, confident that, tucked under her arm, there is a bag that holds everything she needs.

17 Union Street North
Concord, NC 28025
(704) 793-1155

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Piper Anderson was one of Our State's fall 2018 editorial interns.