Article and photography by Fitz
Lead photo of Aaron McLellan at North End Bag Co.
Growing up, Aaron Hubert McLellan was the son of a seamstress and a mechanic, and the grandson of a furniture designer. To this day, McLellan draws inspiration from his grandfather, Malcolm McLellan, whose design notes he inherited and covets. You might say working with one’s hands is in McLellan’s blood. You might also say he was destined to open North End Bag Co.
McLellan comes from a family of, as he put it, “tough people, fighters, who used their hands to make a living.” Along with his designer grandfather (also a veteran of WWII), members of his family were boxers, mechanics like his father, and from right south of Boston in Abington, Massachusetts where McLellan grew up.
At North End Bag Co, in the Vibe District of Virginia Beach, McLellan set up shop 4 years ago after moving from Abington to Newport News. At North End, McLellan produces Chef’s aprons, knife rolls, travel bags, and a myriad of other assorted apparel. As he explained to me, “I took what I learned from my mom, and made it my own.”
When McLellan makes plans for fabricating, let’s say a travel bag, his design approach is rooted in regard for the function of the product. He considers what purpose it serves, who’s buying it, and the reason the purchaser needs it. He’s going to take his time making it, and without profit motives in the front of his mind, as is the case with larger businesses seeking to produce products cheap to maximize profits. Ultimately, his bag will cost a few dollars more but it will be crafted better and last longer.
McLellan, at age 35, and his wife Sarah McLellan, both in their approach to making North End’s products and in appreciating life, like it slow. As McLellan explained, “Slow living is an art. These days, people click and buy everything for cheap. They fill their lives up with so many things that they aren’t able to appreciate them.”
At North End, his approach to living is applied to each and every project so as to create enduring wears for the buyer. The time and the care he insists on is what makes McLellan’s creations unique. His creations are as much a testament to his skill as a craftsman as they are a product of how he chooses to live his life.
North End Bag Co. is located at 607 19th St Unit B in Virginia Beach