For the last 14 years, the former mechanic has been forging harnesses, chaps, gags, floggers, collars, and wrist cuffs in a small Pittsburgh storefront.
Don Harris is like Morgan Freeman’s character in the Nolan Batman trilogy for hundreds of people whose nighttime alter egos are also intense, brooding and glad in black rubber. For the last 14 years, the former mechanic has been forging harnesses, chaps, gags, floggers, collars, and wrist cuffs at Harris Sales and Services, a non-descriptively named business run out of a Pittsburgh storefront. The fetish store’s central component is a back chamber deemed the ER Room, for “everything rubber.” Harris’ greatest lust being the lust for making things, his business also produces carbon copies of house keys.
You were once a mechanic. How did you make the transition to your current line of work?
I had a garage for 26 years. I did major repairs, bodywork, customized cars. I was known as “The T-Bird Kid.” I painted and restored Thunderbirds. I always made things. I was raised to repair, not replace, even though we live in a replacement society. I started the first ER Room in the office in my garage where I did used car sales. Over time, I did more and more rubber and fetish stuff. This girl I was running around with wanted to move to Pittsburgh. So, I sold the garage and moved to Pittsburgh.
Was this an interest of yours?
My fetish was rubber clothing. It was always a turn on. The feeling of being encased in rubber is always unique.
What in here do you make by hand?
Anything that’s not stitched. I make the rubber outfits. I make the leather wristbands and chokers and harnesses. I customize belts. Everyone wants one to match their tastes, so I can make it with spikes or rings or dots or whatever they want. I also have all different colors of leather. It’s not just the normal black. I make chastity devices made out of neoprene rubber, and I designed a couple of dildo and butt plug harnesses. I made ones both a male or female can wear, and they are adjustable. You can put different dildos in it or put a slider in the back. I made those to adjust. Most of them you buy retail, the butt plug just goes in one place and that can be a pain in the ass! [laughs]
I can tell that’s your favorite joke! How do you know how to make this stuff? I imagine they aren’t kits for them at craft stores.
It’s a skill I have. If someone can show me a picture of something and give me a few measurements, usually I can make it.
So, what’s selling well?
The top harnesses. They were called English harnesses and then bulldog harnesses and now they are “English bulldog harnesses.” Then you have your crisscross harnesses and full-body harnesses. I make those custom so they fit the person.
And you buy your raw material wholesale?
I get my rubber from England and Germany. Right now, there is an excess of $20,000 worth of leather and suede hides upstairs. I have a regular provider out in Indiana. He knows what I make to a certain extent. He doesn’t ask for too many details. I also go out to auctions in Ohio. They don’t know what I make.
What is your relationship with your customers like? Obviously, you know a lot about their sex lives. How do you determine what is and isn’t appropriate to talk about?
Usually, when they come in the door, they open up. I know a lot of personal things about a lot of people.
Someone told me you had made stuff for priests.
I have made a lot of things for priests, especially one in particular. Let’s just say if you would lift up his gown when he’s giving the sermon or whatever, you would see what I made for him.
Please be specific!
Well, have you seen Indians in movies where they wear the loin cloth? I made that for him. A lot of jocks and thongs, too. Cock and ball toys, chastity devices, things like that. He’s into corporal punishment. There’s a lot more I’d like to say but I can’t, not on record.
What about these punishment tools? Did you make them?
I do slappers, floggers, keychain whips, cat o’ nine tails. You also have your ball gags, penis gags, inflatable gags. [The gags] are made with rubber straps, not leather, because then you can clean them and sanitize them. They’re neoprene. You can soap up and scrub them and it won’t hurt them.
What about the bullwhips I saw?
I don’t make those. Some of them come from out west.
Are they actual bullwhips — for, like, bulls?
Yeah, some of them, they’re for whipping on animals.
And the wooden paddles?
Those are my design, but I went to a woodworker, but then his wife found out what they were for and made him stop. She’s one of those religious nuts. I had their daughter making them for a while but then she went to college.
Wait, you had a teenage girl making bondage toys for you?
Yeah, a while ago. She was there in the [woodworking] shop. You know, daughters never care what their mothers say. He’s doing it again, though. I guess he’s keeping it from his wife. It’s just money coming in for him.
Tell me about an unusual need you fulfilled.
Well, I do these harnesses where a dildo comes out then there is a hole below. I did that for someone who has sickle cell anemia which means he can’t take Viagra.
How many people do you have walking through here a week?
It’s gotten bad. Really, business has never been as good as it was before 9/11. Most of my business came from out of town and out of state. It’s a very unusual store. I had people come to Pittsburgh just to come here. When the gas went up to $3 or $4, it slowed people down. I used to get people from Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland. But it’s slowed down. And the economy is so bad people don’t have the money for their extracurricular activities. I do have a side income; mistresses send me rubber and leather clothing from all over the United States. A lot of them bought from me, so when it needs adjustment or repairing, they send it back.