Sisson furs and leathers credits industry innovation for survival

Sandwiched between a fortune telling business and a day spa is one of Red Deer’s oldest downtown businesses.

rank Kuny

Sandwiched between a fortune telling business and a day spa is one of Red Deer’s oldest downtown businesses.

Sisson Furs and Leathers has become a familiar name over the past six decades in the Red Deer region.

Frank Kuny is the man behind the counter of this business that began in 1948. This jovial man puts one at ease in his shop adorned with racks of leathers and various fur coats of different styles and colours.

Kuny relaxes in an easy chair as he talks about the early days of the fur industry and how Sisson Furs came to be. In 1948, Ted Sisson opened the business “in a ladies’ dress shop” in downtown Red Deer.

Eventually, Sisson moved the business to the location at 5013 Ross St. where it remains today. He continued the business until passing it onto his son Rand.

Meanwhile, Kuny was forging his own name in Saskatoon.

“In the early days, there were a lot of furriers around. In Saskatoon in 1960, there were 10 furriers in the city and now there isn’t a single one.”

Kuny managed the first fur business in Edmonton before becoming the regional fur manager for Hudson’s Bay Company in Calgary. He then travelled all over the country as the national manager prior to the Canadian department store getting out of the fur business.

The animal rights movement severely hurt the fur industry, especially after HBC closed its fur department, Kuny said.

“It almost gave the animal rights (people) the one-up,” said Kuny said.

A few years ago, big designers began putting furs back into their lineups.

“Furs are back because they are environmentally friendly,” Kuny said. “You’re using a totally renewable resource, totally biodegradable . . . the fur industry is back, but not like it was in the ‘70s.’”

In the mid-1990s, Rand Sisson sold the business to Kuny and two men he worked with from Calgary’s Benzing Charlebois Furs.

The three owned Sisson Furs and Leathers for two years before Kuny and wife, Jane, took it over in March 1999. Kuny left the name under Sisson’s name because the original owner had a reputable name.

Over time though, change was necessary.

The business expanded into more leather.

“To make the season last longer,” Kuny said.

Kuny remembers when there were only two styles of coats and now he can buy so many different fur coats from manufacturers.

“For us, the survival has been the innovation of the new furs,” Kuny said. “If you look around the floor, you would be hard pressed to see two the same. Girls don’t want to be meeting themselves on the street.”

The store can make coats from those who bring skins in. Customers can also have their older style coat restyled or repaired. The “flatter” furs are in style. Mink fur is one of the most popular.

Kuny’s staff of four are ready to unstitch and sew to make new creations.

Another growing part of the business is found in the vault downstairs. Furs are stored in the cold room that has 56 per cent humidity, so the hide doesn’t dry out.

“Honestly, I can’t say the recession has hurt us. We haven’t felt it yet.”

Kuny, dressed casually in a partially zipped bowling shirt revealing another shirt beneath, continues to love fashion.

The 70-year-old grandfather of four would like to step back in the business. One of his three children, Carrie Lou Kuny, works at the store and has shown interest in taking over the shop.

Kuny will be in Montreal this week to attend the three-day NAFFEM show, which attracts thousands of professional buyers of luxury furs, boutique furs, shearlings, leathers and accessories. He loves to see what internationally renowned fur designer Zuki has created.

He remains a fan of the fur industry.

“It’s too much fun — the people you meet, the product you’re with,” Kuny said. “You get the fur under your skin and you can’t let go. You’ve got a gorgeous product and what can a guy do better than making women happy?”

Sisson Furs and Leathers is open Monday through Saturdays from 9 to 5 p.m. It closes on Saturdays from the May long weekend to the Labour Day weekend.

Just Posted

WATCH: Central Albertans learn about farm life at Sunnybrook Farm Museum

Pioneer Days Festival in Red Deer Saturday-Sunday

Number of seniors who play bridge in Red Deer growing

Red Deer Bridge Club has been around for close to 60 years

PHOTOS: Buccaneers battle Wolfpack in AFL semifinal

The Central Alberta Buccaneers battled the Calgary Wolfpack in the Alberta Football… Continue reading

Raising awareness for Bikers Against Child Abuse

Second annual Raise A Ruckus Against Child Abuse was held at the Red Deer Radisson Hotel Saturday

Central Alberta Yogathon cancelled Saturday

Due to air quality concerns the fourth annual event will take place Sept. 15

VIDEO: Central Albertans learn about Icelandic poet at Stephansson House

Harvest Fair and Quilt Show hosted at Stephansson House in Spruce View Sunday

Trump says his White House counsel not a ‘RAT’ like Nixon’s

BRIDGEWATER, N.J. — President Donald Trump insisted Sunday that his White House… Continue reading

Wildfire moves closer to Glacier National Park’s scenic road

MISSOULA, Mont. — A wildfire in Montana’s Glacier National Park is forcing… Continue reading

Prime Minister Trudeau, Premier Couillard march in Montreal’s Pride parade

MONTREAL — Thousands of cheering spectators lined the streets of Montreal on… Continue reading

All eyes on Andrew Scheer as Conservative convention set for Halifax

OTTAWA — After a week of internal caucus squabbles, Conservative Leader Andrew… Continue reading

Canadians fear for relatives trapped amid flooding in Indian state of Kerala

In the wake of deadly flooding in the Indian state of Kerala,… Continue reading

Indonesia’s Lombok island jolted by multiple quakes

SEMBALUN, Indonesia — Strong earthquakes jolted the Indonesian tourist island of Lombok… Continue reading

Afghan president calls for Eid cease-fire, Taliban to reply

KABUL — Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has called for a conditional cease-fire… Continue reading

Montreal may have less influence after October provincial election

MONTREAL — When Coalition Avenir Quebec Leader Francois Legault recently dismissed the… Continue reading

Most Read

Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month