Writer Amanda Christmann
Photographer Scott Baxter

[dropcap]J[/dropcap]ed Frost likes a good story, but as he sat on the patio of his parents’ Platte County, Missouri farmhouse, he wasn’t quite sure where to begin with his own narrative. We both happened to be visiting this wholesome corner of the Show Me State, so he’d invited me over for a glass of sweet tea.

Normally confident with an easy grin, he still found himself fumbling with his words as the chill of fall swept over the rolling green pastures that surrounded us.

As a fellow Missouri native, I understood. Even though he now calls Arizona his home, Frost’s Midwest roots run deep. Folks in these parts know it’s not good manners to talk themselves up. As much as this former Mizzou Tiger basketball standout has found himself in the spotlight through the years, he’s short on practice when it comes to self-promotion.

“Let me show you instead,” he said, rising from his chair. A twinkle appeared in his eyes, and he disappeared inside the house. A short time later, he re-emerged holding a handsome leather messenger bag.

“This is where it all began,” he began, opening a brass clasp with a grin as big as Texas.

For a moment, my mind fixated on the leather in an almost primordial appreciation for its full grain and beautiful patina. As Frost went on, I began to see more.

“My wife Beth had this bag made for me when she completed medical school,” he explained. “Everything about it was her concept. When people see it, they know that it’s a beautiful bag and they ask me all the time where I got it—but what they don’t know … well, that’s what makes it different.”

He ran his hand across a stamp burned into an outside pocket that I hadn’t noticed before. “This number 25 was branded into the cowhide she chose. Ironically, that was my number when the Tigers won the 1994 Big Eight Conference title.”

He continued, “All of the hardware used in this bag is from horse tack,” he said, pointing out a saddle cinch and halter brass. “That’s because Beth, my wife, was doing her residency in Lexington, Kentucky. Lexington is the horse capital of the world. She wanted me to take that part of our story with me everywhere I go, because that’s part of who we are.”

As Frost pointed out more thoughtful personal touches, his goal became clear.

Everything about the bag was created by hand. The liner was made from a pair of pajama pants—the first gift Beth gave to her would-be husband when they were dating. Inside are compartments and holders for Frost’s iPad, phone, and other items he uses every day, made specifically for his needs. There were other personal touches, too.

“This elephant represents the difficulty we endured together when Beth was in medical school,” he said, pointing to a little pachyderm embellished into a corner. “It’s something that’s meaningful to us that no one else would know.”

The gift his wife so thoughtfully created for him at the beginning of their lives together was the start of something much bigger. It was symbolic of their story, but it was also the start of a legacy for both them—and for many other people.

“This is something I wanted to share with the world,” Frost said.

He held up the bag’s underside to reveal a bold sigil. “My signature is here,” he said. “That’s now the mark of our company.”

That company, FROST, has taken the idea of personalizing the everyday in such a way that not only are no two purses, wallets, messenger bags, travel bags or any other of their many creations alike; they’re sentimental in ways that only Frost and their owner can truly comprehend.

It’s not so much the “once upon a time” or the “happily ever after” that Jed Frost is interested in preserving; it’s all the moments in between that make each of us who we are. FROST weaves the mementos and memories into one dare-I-say amazing piece that reminds its owner, but that can also be passed down from generation to generation as a cherished keepsake.

FROST’s genius is in the gorgeous purple fabric, brought home from a life-changing trip to Mongolia, which lines the travel bag owned by international publisher and Cake & Whiskey editor-in-chief Megan Smith. It’s in the built-in umbrella storage that she uses for rainy New York days, and in the Chapstick pocket created just for her.

It’s in the colt tag and horsehair tail braid used in the design of the FROST bag created for thoroughbred rescuer Diana Baker, and in the liner fashioned from the jacket her husband was wearing the day they met. It’s in the attached embroidered piece of denim from the overalls her daughter wore as a little girl, and in the affixed brass nametags representing some of the many horses Baker has rescued.

It’s in the messenger bag created for revered Fox sportscaster Joe Buck, whose father Jack was also legendary in the business. FROST used Jack’s worn leather NBC Sports jacket to line his son’s bag, repurposing the pockets to hold pens and electronics. (“Imagine reaching in to those pockets every day, knowing those were the same pockets your dad reached into every day!” Frost told me with the excitement of a child at Christmastime.) And it’s in the sewn-in leather pieces of two World Series baseballs, one from a series the elder Buck announced, and the other from when Joe manned the microphone.

“I love that we create one-of-ones,” Frost said. “When you get a bag, it’s yours. Nobody can ever recreate that bag.”

Frost takes great pride in using hand-picked artisans who appreciate the artistic process of design as much as he does. They have to be dedicated to do this work; in one case, hand-stitching alone for a bag took an artisan 97 hours to complete. Each bag can take anywhere from 30 days to many months to create, depending on the story the bag will tell.

The price tag is commensurate. A FROST bag begins at $6,000 and can come in just about any material, from standard, high-quality cowhide leather to exotics like alligator, ostrich, snakeskin or crocodile leathers. They’re guaranteed for life, and will likely last long enough to be handed down for many generations to come.

Now that Frost, his wife, and their two children are hanging their hats in Scottsdale, he’s beginning to understand what a fateful hand he’s been dealt. After all, the Southwest was founded on hard work and adventurous enterprise, and Arizonans in particular seem to appreciate FROST’s brand of top-notch quality and individualism.

Still, there’s something else to it—something less about selling high-end bags and more about finding purpose in the process—that satisfies Frost.

Leaning back in his chair, his thick, red plaid shirt rolled up at the sleeves and a pair of crocodile boots crossed in front of his outstretched denims, Frost looks decidedly more Los Angeles than Kansas City. But looks can be deceiving.

At the heart of it all is this land, where the likes of Samuel Clemens, Maya Angelou and Laura Ingalls Wilder honed their words. He is just one in a long line of storytellers to be inspired by a childhood here.

“Everyone has a story,” Frost said thoughtfully as the shadow of an oak tree grew longer and the glow of the sun turned the western sky orange. “At the end of the day, when I can help create something so beautiful and so, I don’t know, intimate ….”

His words trailed for a moment before he found a way to fit them together just right.

“When I can be part of creating a bag that reflects the story of who someone is, now that’s special.”