January 20, 2022

10 Years at the Seattle Factory

1 comment
The TOM BIHN Crew outside of 4750A, our factory space in Seattle.

We recently renewed our lease at our 16,000 square foot factory space (we call it 4750A) here in Seattle, which reminded us that we’ve been here for a little over 10 years now. Time goes by quickly when you’re busy designing bags, making bags, managing a website and customer service and shipping; clearly, we’ve always been the do-it-ourselves types.

Some of you know our factory space because you’ve visited our Seattle Factory Showroom — maybe you’re a local who visited the showroom on a regular basis, or maybe you visited while on a layover from SeaTac airport.

Prior to working at 4750A, we rented the second floor of a building just up the road for about 10 years. That was a great building, though being on the second floor and receiving large deliveries of materials and boxes had its challenges. When we moved to 4750A — a one-story, open warehouse space with our very own loading dock — we were a little nervous and a lot excited. It was a big increase in square footage, though we knew we’d make good use of it.

We've made such good use of that square footage that our Seattle Factory Showroom was in the same space -- a small area of the factory with bags on display and a History wall. In 2020-2021, that space morphed into additional production space but we’re thinking of various ways to maximize space in other areas of the factory so that we can reopen the Showroom later this year, and we look forward to inviting you all back to come visit us then.

Lately, we’ve been thinking about how weird we are. Or perhaps a more professional way to describe that would be… unusual. When people ask what we do, they say: “Backpacks and bags? That’s cool.” Then we tell them that we not only design our bags, we manufacture them right here in Seattle, our entire company works together in the same 16,000 square feet, and they say: "Really? Wait... really?"

Manufacturing here in Seattle is not the most expected way of operating a business, but it’s what we know how to do. Some challenges arise because sewing factories aren’t all that common anymore here in the United States. Finding a qualified sewing machine mechanic used to be tough before we had one on staff (shout out to Tam!) Manufacturing in one of the country’s most expensive cities presents its own challenges as well.

The thing is, we wouldn’t have it any other way: our work isn’t only about *what* we do, it’s about *how* we do it. It’s about the process as much or even more than the goal. That’s what keeps our work fun and gives it meaning. We believe that, if we’re having fun and we find meaning in what we do, you’ll see that in our design, construction, support, and everything else we offer up to all of you... it's a necessary ingredient in making a better product and being part of a better world.


Nicole - March 1, 2022

I hour at some point you are able to re open the factory showroom. I love coming there and seeing the work in progress. And to see before I buy the products.
TOM BIHN replied:
We’re hoping to reopen the showroom at some point in the near future!

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We're the TOM BIHN crew: we design bags, make bags, ship bags, and answer questions about bags. Oh, and we collaborate on blog posts, too.