Born from a desire to create simple, well-made artifacts that would last for generations, Lineage is the most recent creative endeavor of Harrisonburg’s Paul Hansbarger. What began in 2015 as a project of necessity—creating a diaper bag for his pregnant wife—has evolved into an entire product line and a full-time business. For Paul, it allows him the opportunity to sell not only his own bags, but a curated collection of handmade goods from artisans hailing from all over the country, about a quarter of which are Virginia-based.
Nestled in the heart of downtown Harrisonburg, Lineage’s retail space doubles as both a storefront and workshop. “I wanted to have more of a presence in the local community rather than just a website and a Facebook page,” Paul explained, sipping a to-go coffee and leaning against the front counter of the shop. “I wanted to have a place where people could come and see [the bags] being made and have a face to put to the business and the brand.”
The store is closed while Paul and I chat, but every few minutes, a couple of folks stop in front of the window, peering in with hands cupped around their faces, pointing to things that catch their eyes, sometimes reaching for the door before noticing the hours posted on the window. Lineage occupies the frontmost section of Agora Downtown Market, a retail community that houses a number of small businesses and startups under the same roof, including a coffee shop, a hardware store, and a nonprofit dedicated to ending human trafficking.
The large wooden racks displaying Lineage’s signature canvas bags are surrounded by tables and shelves full of other handmade treasures that seem to share the same rustic and timeless feel—things like hand-poured candles, all-natural solid cologne bars, ceramic beer growlers, and wool socks. The space is both modern and nostalgic at the same time, and the products share the same quality. Everything feels like it belongs together.
Prior to moving to the Agora space, Paul used his garage as his primary workshop. For almost two years, he sold his bags online and on the road at craft shows and artist markets. In February of 2018, the current brick-and-mortar chapter of Lineage came to fruition. But Paul’s personal history of crafting and curating dates back much further, experience that lays the groundwork for what would become his full-time career today.
A graduate of VCU’s art program, Paul has always been a creator. In addition to his explorations in various artistic mediums, Paul also ran a punk rock record label called Perpetual Motion Machine Records while in school. He attributes that experience as one that let him “cut his teeth” on how to successfully run a business.
After completing his degree, Paul discovered his talent for sewing via a class at the Visual Arts Center of Richmond, a community art center in Richmond. Crafting handmade things and working with different materials has always come naturally for Paul, and sewing proved no different. His first major projects came a few years later while he and his wife Jessica lived in Montana. He had taken up cycling as a hobby, and after going on a cross country trip with some friends, Paul was inspired to create his first bags. But rather than the everyday totes that Lineage sells today, these were custom bags for bike frames to be used while long distance touring and mountain biking. “That trip really opened my eyes to traveling by bicycle,” he said, “so I really started out just making bags for myself and my friends to use.” As he continued to produce more of these bags, demand for them quickly expanded beyond his personal network to cyclists all over the world. A few even made their way to riders on long distance races such as the Tour Divide, the annual race that travels the length of the Rocky Mountains.
After moving back to Virginia a few years later, Paul sold the cycling bag business and took a short break from sewing. It was not long, however, before family necessity got him back at the needle. In 2015, Paul’s wife Jessica, who was pregnant at the time with their first child, was searching for a diaper bag that could at once be both stylish and functional. Not finding anything quite right, she asked Paul if he could make one. The resulting bag was the catalyst for what would become the appropriately named brand, Lineage. “That really inspired it,” he said, “making something that’s going to last forever, that could even be passed on. Just the fact that I originally made it for my family is very much a part of the name.”
Paul created that first bag with a sense of legacy, and that same spirit is infused in his current product line, including choice of material. The heavy duty waxed canvas that Lineage bags are made of comes from a family-run mill, material originally developed to make tents for the Army during World War I. The leather Paul uses in his bags and wallets also comes from a family run tannery that’s been making leather for generations. All of his bags are still hand cut, sewn, and riveted in the shop using industrial sewing machines and hand tools, so no two are exactly alike. Every bag is created with materials that “will take on a patina and soften and darken over time.” That process adds a personal character to the item with each passing year, preserving the story for the next generation.
In addition to the main retail space in Harrisonburg, Lineage’s products are available in Richmond at Tiny Space and Jackson & James, and in Roanoke at Black Dog Salvage. Lineage hosts workshop classes; the next one will be Leather Belt Making on Saturday, December 8. See a full class schedule at lineagegoods.com.
Photography by Brandy Somers