Duluth Pack Interview with CEO and president, Tom Sega

Words by Tom Sega

A century ago, a French-Canadian immigrant named Camille Poirer crossed the border into the US and set up a shoe store in Duluth, Minnesota. The harsh climate of Northern Minnesota inspired Poirer to branch out and create durable packs that could withstand the winter weather and handle the elements as locals canoed around the Boundary Waters.

Nearly 138-years later, Duluth Packs still exists and handcrafts their high-quality packs in the same place where the company began. It’s a pretty amazing story and their current president and CEO, Tom Sega would agree. Actually, he’d probably do more than agree, as he would say, he’d want to shout it from the rooftops.

So, why is there so much passion and enthusiasm around this company? We caught up with Sega to hear his take on Duluth Packs and to learn more about why he wouldn’t change a thing about this heritage brand.

On the heritage and history of Duluth Pack…

We are the oldest canvas and leather bag maker in the United States of America. No one else can say that. We boast about it a lot because it really is something that no one else has. In fact, we’ll turn 138-years-old on December 11th of this year. Our first packs ever made are still one of the best-selling designs at Duluth Packs.

On sticking to your values in an ever-changing world…

Our core values—quality, premium products, made in America, and a lifetime guarantee—won’t ever change. Everything that happens starts and ends with quality. We have a premium price tag for that high-quality, Made in America craftsmanship, and we don’t apologize for it.

We stick to who we are and we don’t change to please everyone. If you try to please everyone then you don’t stand for anything. Not everyone is going to like Duluth Packs, but those who do love it, and they are the most important people to us.

 

On their dedication to their customers…

Loyalty is high among customers. Those are the people we try to approach. Duluth Pack isn’t for everyone, we focus on the people who really care about those core values. We first started with outdoor gear with a big focus on the canoe and rugged outdoor market.

After some time, our loyal customers came to us asking for a specific kind of designs, like handbags, briefcases, and hunting bags. Our company has all these different kinds of lines today because of the requests we received from our loyal customer base. That says something.

 

President and CEO, Tom Sega on making your work your passion…

Coming to work is like coming to play. When you care this much about your brand, you just want to share it with people. I believe in this company from the bottom of my toes to the tip of my head.  Olive drab canvas is our signature color, and everyone asks me if I bleed olive drab, ha! I don’t yet, at least not to my knowledge…

 

On being a loyal customer who became the CEO…

There was one briefcase that started it all. I’ve been all over the world with it and it’s been everywhere with me—including an airplane crash!—but that’s a story for another time.

I was a really good customer of Duluth Pack for years. Then, I came to them and said you’ve got to sell this company to me. So I bought it in 2007 when there were only about 21 employees, now we have over a hundred people working here.

On their craftsmanship and sustainability…

Everything is done in-house. We have a great culture with some of the hardest working and most talented craftspeople who love where we live here in Minnesota. They are passionate about our company and so proud of what they make that they wanted to sign each bag they’ve created. Now you can go online and read about each artisan.

When it comes to sustainability, we throw almost nothing in the garbage. We source all our leather from the US, as a byproduct of the meat industry. After we’ve created the products, we sell our cotton canvas and leather trimmings to artisans. We also recycle our copper to the metal recyclers who pay us for that and we use that money to throw a party for our employees!

 

On why repairs are a huge part of their business…

We have a pretty cool repair shop. There are some bags that come in with so much wear and tear that we ask them if they even want it repaired, and the answer is always yes. If you only knew the histories, the stories, the adventures that this bag has gone on with them—it becomes part of their being.

We recently received one bag from this young lady that had about 15-20 patches on it from every country she had visited. TSA had damaged her bag while she was traveling so she sent it in to have it repaired. We fixed it up, sent it back out to her, and off she went traveling with it again.

 

On his favorite pieces…

That briefcase and the All Day Lumbar Pack is my favorite. I don’t go on a hiking, hunting or fishing trip without it. When Minnesota deer hunting season begins I love our bow-hunting and gun cases, too.

Share This Story:

Shop the Collection