Chad Hickman fondly remembers playing baseball as a kid with his brother. There were times they would do anything to get a game going.
Today, Hickman still dabbles in baseball, creating handcrafted leather products through Sandlot Goods, his company in Kansas City’s Crossroads District. Sandlot offers 20 different products, including journals, wallets, handbags, belts and additional accessories that are designed in-house.
“We are designing products for those who have a love for baseball and sports, (but) we do try to keep it subtle and classy,” Hickman said.
Hickman is majority owner with partner Hannah Johnston holding a minority interest. Others involved include Ryan Hill and Neil Ryan.
The name “Sandlot” came from a very personal place for Hickman.
“Right before we decided to do Sandlot, my brother died in a tragic way, and it kind of made me really think of my priorities in life,” Hickman said. “It brought back a flood of memories and emotions of my childhood and my brother was always there …
“All we ever did during our childhood was try to figure out how to get a baseball game together so it is a daily reminder of the enjoyable moments of my childhood.”
Sandlot started off slowly, but by 2015, Hickman signed a new lease for the leather goods business. That’s when he made the decision to leave his advertising photography business and go full time with Sandlot.
With a total of five employees, Sandlot produces its products in a 3,200-square-foot space. Sandlot purchases leather hides from two different tanners. Designers choose what part of the hide to use for different products, then employ computer-aided design (CAD) to create a die for press-cutting the leather. Everything is sewn on machines, and Sandlot’s logo is hand-stitched or stamped on its products. Johnston manages production with three full-time employees sewing and one to two doing leather finishing.
The company’s most popular item is its journals, but up-and-comers include coasters designed for Major League Baseball parks.
Hickman runs the overall company but keeps an artistic finger in the operation.
“Those moments I get to do something creative is what keeps me going,” he said.
In 2016, Sandlot added a line of canvas duffle bags and backpacks with leather accents.
“It has been a material we have used for a long time, and backpacks are something I really wanted to make,” Hickman said. “They’re selling pretty well. We’re hoping this holiday season they come to light.”
Hickman sees Sandlot’s product line as attainable luxury, with products priced from $15 to just under $400. Sandlot sells its products at its factory store and various retail partners, including Made in Kansas City. Hickman said the bulk of its products are sold through its online store. Made in Kansas City manages Sandlot’s growing wholesale business.
The company’s secret weapon of sorts was a Made in Kansas City T-shirt it sold during its first two years in business.
“For a while, we couldn’t keep them in stock—we sold thousands,” Hickman said. The T-shirt is no longer listed on Sandlot’s website, but is available in its store.
Sandlot is continuing to hit new mile-stones. Just this year, it received a Corner-stone Award from the Economic Development Council of Kansas City. And the company’s revenues have doubled every year.
Recently, Cerner hired Sandlot to produce its employee anniversary gifts. “We provide the five-year gift for every employee worldwide,” Hickman said.
In the future, Sandlot is looking to expand both its lineup of products and its distribution. Hickman hopes to add a baseball cap to the mix and develop more wholesale relationships. Though Sandlot is looking to sell outside Kansas City, Hickman said the heart of America is a great place to do business.
“I am a Kansas City boy through and through,” Hickman said. “It is the down-to-earth people here. It is that hard-working Midwest mentality.”