Anhaica was the capital of the lands the Apalachee Indians occupied, where the present-day capital of Florida now sits. Anhaica Bag Works is also located in Tallahassee, where Marina Mertz makes really sweet bike bags and other waxed canvas goods.
I first met Marina in person a few weeks ago at Due South, but I “met” her on Instagram even before then. Marina is such a sweet, kind person, and the care with which she makes her hand-waxed canvas bike bags and accessories is evident. I fell in love with her bags and the faint, sweet smell of honey that comes along with them immediately, and we immediately made plans for me to visit her in her Tallahassee workshop. Housed in her parents’ basement on the north edge of Tallahassee, Marina, joined by her family dog, Max, her cat, Today, and her part-time employee Adriana, crank out an impressive supply of Anhaica bags.
Though filled to the brim with canvas, nylon webbing, thread, sewing machines, flowers, bags, and more, Anhaica doesn’t feel the least bit crowded. It’s full of odds and ends and beautiful things. It feels collected, not cluttered.
Marina started out selling her bags by opening a small sewing shop called Community Fabric out of a warehouse in Railroad Square a few years ago. Fresh out of college, she sold needles and thread, taught sewing classes, and made all manner of bags. Her bike bags really started to take off, so she shuttered her little shop and began sewing bike bags full time.
Marina and Adriana, first cut bag patterns from cotton canvas and wax them. Marina purchases her canvas locally, and she sources her beeswax locally, too – from my parents’ neighbor in Bristol, who also owns The Bee House where I get my beekeeping supplies. It’s a small, small world.
Marina recycles as much as possible for her shipping materials, and she frequents The Sharing Tree on Railroad Square for both supplies and inspiration.
The beeswax is melted in a pot and brushed on the canvas with a paintbrush. Then a hot iron is run over the wax, melting it deep into the fabric. The beeswax makes the canvas water-resistant while smelling sweetly of the honey bees who made it.
Once the pattern pieces are waxed, Adriana “re-squares them,” as sometimes the waxing process causes them to be a bit misshapen. Then, Marina begins sewing.
Marina waxes first, then sews her bags together. She double stitches everything and takes care to test all her prototypes rigorously before offering them in the shop. She is meticulous and painstaking and it shows in her work. And sometimes it makes her a little crazy – especially when it comes to a certain bag.
She tells me that her most popular bag is actually her tool roll, and I can see why and at least eight different reasons I need one, too. I can also see why stitching those small pieces of velcro over and over and over might make one a bit crazy. It makes me appreciate her work (and the tool roll) that much more.
The final step on every bag is to stitch on a hand-printed Anhaica tag.
Making bike bags isn’t just a livelihood for Marina – it’s a lifestyle. She doesn’t own a car, and she commutes across Tallahassee daily to her workshop on her bike. Her bags stand the test of time because they have to.
Marina is passionate that biking could change the world if we’d just let it, and her enthusiasm is contagious.
I rode my bike almost exclusively when I was in college in Gainesville, and it was so liberating (not to mention, figure friendly). I obviously can’t bike from Bainbridge to Thomasville for work, but listening to Marina preach the virtues of bicycle culture made me want to try. Her line of bags would sure make it an easier – or least, better looking – commute. Maybe one day I’ll be able to ride my bike to work again. I look forward to the day I need one of her backpacks.
And she doesn’t limit herself to bike bags (even though they are her thing). She is having a limited run on some amazing bucket tote bags at the moment, and she makes the occasional tote, purse, clutch, and wallet. The flap cross-body purses pictured below aren’t online, but actually may still be available – email Marina ASAP if you want one!
Even if you don’t ride a bike to work every day, you can appreciate the high quality of Anhaica Bag Works. The waxed canvas ages beautifully – I can fully vouch for that, as that last tote bag came home with me. They are just as stylish as they are hard-working, and they will see you through bike rides and road trips and everything in between for years to come.
Shop Local. Support Small Businesses. Ride Your Bike.