Bethany Clough

After 47 years in Fig Garden Village, this locally owned store is saying goodbye

After 49 years, Aporjon Leather & Luggage in Fig Garden Village is closing and its owner is retiring.

The store has been a mainstay in Fresno, an example of a small business that has weathered a changing economy and an evolving city.

Owner Craig Pokorny, 66, started the business with a friend while they were in high school. They made leather belts and handbags in a barn.

Two years later, in 1972, he opened the store in Fig Garden Village. It stayed in that shopping center ever since, though it has bounced around to a few locations within the center.

Aporjon’s lease expires in September. With his wife retiring last year, it seemed like the right time for him to retire too, Pokorny said.

“I’m sure it will be quite a change,” he said. “I’ll miss seeing all these great customers.”

There’s no closing date set yet.

He needs to be out by the end of September, but will close the store when all the merchandise is sold.

A sale has already started to clear things out. It’s going fast, with customers coming in droves to say goodbye.

Pokorny said he looked for someone to buy the business, but couldn’t find anyone.

Fig Garden Village has had some major changes in recent years. New ownership of the center was followed by the loss of some community favorites, like Uncle Harry’s New York Bagelry & Coffee House.

But popular new favorites have also moved in, like Jack’s Urban Eats and workout wear seller Lululemon.

Pokorny said the shopping center offered to renew his lease, but he decided against it.

“This is totally my choice,” he said.

Aporjon itself has changed over the years too.

Leather goods evolved, with sheepskin seat covers getting popular in the 1980s, for example.

The business eventually came to focus less on custom leather work that Pokorny did and more on sales of luggage, gifts and other products made elsewhere.

The store began carrying luggage in 1995, after the closure of another store that sold it in the center next to La Boulangerie.

In recent years, the store sold lots of Brighton products, the sought-after high-end brand of handbags and jewelry with lots of filigree details.

“The retail part is really what kept it going,” Pokorny said of the business.

Soon, there will be more time for skiing, grandkids, traveling and yardwork.

But he’ll miss the customers.

“I would like to thank all of them for the loyalty they’ve shown me and the kindness … (they’ve) really made this all possible,” he said.

Bethany Clough: (559) 441-6431, @BethanyClough

Bethany Clough covers restaurants and retail for The Fresno Bee. A reporter for 20 years, she now works to answer readers’ questions about business openings, closings and other business news. She has a degree in journalism from Syracuse University and her last name is pronounced Cluff.