Dormie Workshop is a leather goods manufacturer based in Halifax, Nova Scotia.Dormie Workshop
Alex, Todd, Jeff Bishop recall the trick that helped them sell their first prototype leather headcovers in 2014 at the Atlantic Canada PGA Show.
They provided free drinks.
The brothers officially launched Dormie Workshop in Moncton (New Brunswick) with a play of words and a boozy invitation that allowed fellow PGA of Canada Professionals learn more about their leathergoods company. “Dark & Dormie” replaced Dark & Stormy cocktails (rum and ginger beer with a squeeze of lime) and they were off to the races after that.
“That was the secret to our success,” says Jeff Bishop with a laugh about their slapped-together prototype that year. “If you were at a car show, it would be like you were just looking at the transmission and the axle. But that car would run like hell, and you wouldn’t believe it.
“By the end of the show we wrote three orders.”
From cocktails to a global business
Dormie Workshop is now an award-winning creative workshop that produces headcovers for more than 300 golf clubs around world. It’s been named “Best Leather Headcover” by Golf DigestThe magazine has been published six consecutive years, and in 2021 the brothers moved into a Halifax facility of 10,000 square feet. They now have a team that is 58 strong.
The trio has never been more creatively inspired.
“I think if you had just one widget and you were doing the same thing over and over that would get boring,” says Jeff, the lone PGA of Canada Member at Dormie Workshop. “We set the bar high but that allows our passion to keep growing.
“We’re having a blast.”
The brothers’ coming out party, if you will, happened at the 2016 PGA Show. Todd and Jeff were returning from Orlando when Todd realized that their two-year old company had received orders for almost 2,000 leather headcovers. That had exceeded their sales from the whole of 2015 – at an event that was only three days long.
Since graduating with degrees both in English (Todd), and business (Jeff), Jeff and Todd were serial entrepreneurs. They had been successful in selling an alignment aid, as well a ball-marker. Todd was a teacher at a school, and Jeff was a caddy in the U.S. when he saw more and more leather headscarves at the club he was attending. His curiosity was piqued, but he was disappointed by the offerings.
The coolness or ‘wow’ factor just wasn’t there.
“There was something left on the table in that niche market,” says Todd. “We’ve always had the entrepreneurial spirit but (the previous ideas) may not have been the cash cow we intended.”
The brothers had no money early in their journey – not unlike so many who start with just an idea.
More from PGA
How a former college golfer is changing women’s golf apparel
A look at America’s Oldest Courses of Golf
Five Tips to Increase Your Swing Speed
“It’s embarrassing to say we even had two grand saved up because that was like a month’s rent. I forced (Todd’s) hand and went over the top and said, ‘Let’s do it’ and now we’re here,” says Jeff with a smile.
Fashion Week Research
The initial Dormie Workshop prototype was “literally a bag of leather shaped like a sock” but that’s where expectations were at with headcovers, admits Jeff. They had an idea and a vision for something different and they brought it to the first show. They saw a great opportunity in the space. You are welcomeThey were creative and they didn’t know that sewing technology existed.
They ended up visiting Kijjii, a Canadian brother to eBay, in order to find local tailors, seamstresses, and to ask about prototypes.
“It was a matter of, if we do it, what machinery did we need? We had visions but we had no talent for the execution of it,” says Jeff.
These days, the brothers can do almost anything with their headcovers – even turning an old baseball mitt into a driver cover. They’ve attended fashion weeks in both Milan and New York to see what designers are doing with leather, and it’s expected they’ll head back to those shows again soon.
Todd recalls with a laugh trying to speak to the Italian folks – with an obvious huge language barrier – and doing a fake golf swing to show what they were trying to do with their product.
“We still got to go and see and feel (the new leathers) and if we were lucky enough to talk to someone who had heard of the sport of golf … they might know it,” says Todd. “If we could just catch one-tenth of the fashion sense of what everyone was touting in Milan and New York, we could light the world on fire.”
Keep an eye on the future
Dormie has more than just headcovers. They also have a wallet and a stash bag. They’re not currently selling a weekender bag, but they have a model for one, and they are working on a shoulder-bag model, too. They’re thrilled that a box of their goodies recently landed at St Andrews in Scotland.
“If eight years ago they said you’d be selling there, well, something went really right,” says Todd.
The sock-adjacent prototype days have now passed us by. A perfect example? These days when they’re at a tradeshow they’ll put a custom headcover they made for Florida’s revered Seminole Golf Club in the centre of the table. There’s the iconic pink clubhouse. It’s made of high-quality leather, of course. Embroidery. Laser etching. A French seam. Multiple colours and a custom-made liner. They make custom pieces that reflect the culture and unique features of a club – anything goes, and they’re excited to do even moreDespite the few features that are already in their current headcover offerings.
“Once you find out about laser etching and embroidering you’re like, well, what else is next? What else exists out there that we don’t know about and how can we update it or create something that isn’t already out on the market,” says Jeff. “We don’t rest. We take (the). Golf Digest) prize and then we’re like, ‘What are we doing this year to win next year?’ We’ve had that attitude right from the get-go and we’re just trying to improve the process and make things look as cool as possible with the best techniques as possible.”