Our Story

Who we are:

Hello, my name is Joe Meling, owner and designer. 23+ has been family ran since 2013 with my wife Marti. Our family grew with the addition of our son in 2014. 

Prior to starting 23+ I had a career in rodeo which led me to my love of leatherwork. I began riding calves and steers when I was six years old then stepped up to bulls at the age of twelve. Not satisfied with one event I continued adding more until I was competing in all six rodeo events in high school.

Earning college scholarships I attended UNLV in Las Vegas and BMCC in Pendleton, OR. After two trips to the CNFR (college national finals rodeo) my professional career started to take shape concentrating solely on bull riding. I represented the Columbia River Circuit twice at the Dodge National Circuit Finals and had personal best year in 2007 just missing the National Finals Rodeo by less than $1,000. 

In high school and college I wanted nice leatherwork, mainly chaps and belts. Like many people who start doing leatherwork, I couldn’t afford what I wanted so I had to learn to make them. Seeking help from a friend in high school I got my start.

During college I found a Tooling class being put on by Ty Skiver and loved it! The class was over but he didn’t get rid of me. He continued to mentor me and answer questions along my way of building into a part time income.

While I was still competing I started taking a small amount of orders and learned to build more and more items. I would take any order and then figure out how to build it. Trial and error led me along the way. 

After injuries slowed down my rodeo career, my tooling landed me a job at Ansur Saddlery in Camas, WA near where I grew up. While there I refined my finish work and learned more construction skills that I’ve been able to apply to other projects.

After being married, Marti and I moved to Pendleton where I started 23+ in a friends garage. Over the years the shop has migrated. Moving from the garage to a back workroom (no store front or windows) behind Joe’s Fiesta, the Mexican restaurant downtown. While there I helped supplement and build the business by taking on small orders and repair work from Hamley’s which was less than two blocks away. The short walk made it convenient for offering fast customer service.

Ready to expand we moved to our first store front location, splitting a shop with Stapleman Boots. Taking on more business and walk in repair work the business grew and two years later we were able to expand again and move into our own corner location downtown Pendleton.

That remained our location until 2019 when we closed that location and moved the shop out to our new house in Adams, on the outskirts of Pendleton. Not being tied to store hours now we are freed up to travel more. This helps with our busy schedule of Rodeo Bible Camps, bull riding events where I work on the production team, and adventurous traveling as a family. 
Throughout my leather working career I’ve had the privilege of working on a large variety of different projects for clients.

Over the years I’ve been able to narrow down the different types of orders I take and now focus on what I really enjoy building, only taking orders on custom belts.

Late in 2018 I signed on as a signature artist with Weaver Leathercraft where I can give back to the leather craft industry through different tutorials. Now I am focused on offering an incredible line of patterns and courses creating the ultimate online resource for beginning leather workers.

What does 23+ mean?

The name 23+ is reference back to my rodeo past. Traditionally, bull riding is judged by two judges. Each judge marks the rider 1-25 on how well he rides and the bull 1-25 on how well he bucks, for a total out of 100points. Any score over 90 is considered to be an excellent ride. If you were to score 23 on a 23 point bull you would be 92 points. The effort that it takes to reach that mark of excellence in bull riding is the same effort I put in my leatherwork, striving to achieve that same level of excellence in every product or service I produce.