By Kim Fuller Published in the Vail Daily Weekly
Vail Valley locals love to play, and the growth of small businesses shows how some make their work, play and passion are one and the same.
“I do think the valley is a conducive place to start (a business),” said Tim Stubbs, partner and co-owner of That’s So Rado lifestyle and apparel company. “There are so many like-minded people here who are so supportive of one another. There are many entrepreneurs and small businesses around, I feel, because everyone wants the scheduling freedom that it provides you to go out and enjoy the activities (here).”
While the entrepreneurial spirit of the valley is ever-emerging, here’s a look into some of the local companies that are happy to share their homegrown goods with residents and visitors:
Nate Picklo started working at a bike shop his freshman year in college, and he has been a gear geek ever since.
“Cycling has become such a passion of mine, and it was the bikes that originally captured my attention,” he said. “I enjoy the rich culture and long history of the sport, of which, the bikes and equipment play a major role.”
After a Stage 3 melanoma diagnosis and aggressive, bio-chemo therapy treatment in 2008, Picklo said any obstacles in the way of launching his dream bike company “seemed tiny” in comparison to his fight with cancer. He started Lov Bikes in April 2012, and the first bikes were released a year later. Picklo’s hand-built, hand-painted bikes are visually larger-than-life.
“We do crazy paint work and design to stand apart,” he said of Lov Bikes within the industry. “I am the painter, which we all have a chuckle at — I surprised a lot of people including my family, my wife, even myself with what flows out of me when I focus on the bikes.”
Lov Bikes currently offers steel hand-built frames and the customer has a choice of almost any style — road, mountain, cyclocross, touring, track, tri — and design. Picklo said the company is in the process of offering its own hand-built carbon fiber frames that will be manufactured in-house in Eagle. He said the timing is probably six to eight months away from prototypes.
“I was always artistic, but I never did anything that would even find its way into an art gallery,” Picklo said. “Now, our bikes are rolling pieces of art — something individually made for each customer and painted to be uniquely their own.”
Kari Bangtson, co-owner of Kabbage & Hugs, started the business with Hailee Rustad in the fall of 2013 with their participation at the Minturn Holiday Market.
“We both love to create and don’t sit still well, so starting a crafty, small business seemed fitting,” Bangtson said.
By trade “Kabbage” (Bangtson) is a middle school teacher, and “Hugs” (Rustad) does marketing work and wood working. They started by picking up sticks from a local logging project and began to create using the readily available scraps of beetle kill pine. They began with ornaments, wine holders and wine stoppers and have experimented with more products such as beer openers, candle holders, birch vases and s’more sticks. The s’more sticks are currently the No. 1 seller.
“We love spending time with friends around a campfire and wanted to create a product that would bring people together, hence the s’more stick,” Bangtson said. “(They) have a beetle kill pine handle that we hand-crafted with a stainless steel piece long enough to roast a s’more without roasting yourself.”
The company has “grown substantially” and now sells at both the Vail and Minturn markets every week, as well as many holiday markets in the area.
“The tourism industry is thriving,” Bangtson said. “The markets are full of people every weekend. We see returns and locals, but (it’s) mostly new faces … helping our business thrive.”
Part candle, part body butter, Sweet Mana candles are great, year-round gifts. The company was started in 2009 by Jamie Tatreau, of Avon, who was inspired by the beauty, philosophy and healing traditions of the Polynesian islands after her time living in Maui, Hawaii.
“My candles are really two products in one,” she said. “Both a plant-based, eco-friendly candle and a naturally rich and hydrating moisturizer for the skin.”
Light the candles and allow the natural wax to soften into a smooth and creamy body lotion. Sweet Mana also makes body scrubs, roll-on oils, reed diffusers and lip balms.
Tatreau explained how skin in Colorado is often very dehydrated and harshly effected by sun exposure, wind burn and oxygen deprivation.
“Being a local company, Sweet Mana products really focus on treating and healing Colorado skin with ultra-rich ingredients,” she said.
Purchase the candles online or at a number of Vail Valley retailers like the Four Seasons Vail Spa, Spa Anjali at The Westin, Bloom Spa in The Sebastian, Luca Bruno and others.
APPAREL AND ACCESSORIES
Matt Holmes and Elise Reynolds, of Minturn, started Double Black Designs when they moved to the valley from Boulder in the fall of 2012.
“We make a number of different items of apparel, and all are unique,” Holmes said.
The company’s hand-painted trucker hats are designed and painted by Reynolds.
“We use a very classic trucker hat and Elise paints on them using permanent acrylic fabric paints,” he said. “Once the paint sets, it will not bleed or fade.”
The other hats Double Black Designs makes have hand-stitched embroidery on the front, using different fabrics, patterns and textures to make mountain landscapes.
“The hats are very rugged and durable, so wearing them on long hikes is fine,” Holmes said, “but they are also really beautiful and look very classy in formal situations.”
The company also sells a number of shirts with prints designed by Reynolds, screen printed on soft fabric by a local company, Trick Threads, in Avon. Recently, Double Black Designs launched a new product line — of hats and stickers, for now — called “I Mile Minturn,” for those in the valley who identify with the backcountry run, the Minturn Mile. New items in the line are set to come out this fall and winter. Also, don’t miss the company’s signature ski resort jigsaw puzzles, made from ski maps of Vail, Beaver Creek and Breckenridge.
Locally, the best place to purchase the products and see them up close is at the Minturn Market on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. The company also ships anywhere in the U.S. and Canada.
Brothers Tim and Chad Stubbs, with friend Jay Bowers, started That’s So Rado from a playful saying they created while out adventuring.
“We would always joke with one another on the slopes, river, wall, etc. When someone did something awesome, we would say, ‘That’s so Rado!’” explained Chad.
It was Tim Stubbs who suggested making shirts.
“That’s all it took,” Chad said. “Fast forward about six months and we had our first design and the business set up.”
The mission of the company is to exemplify the Colorado lifestyle.
“We want our fellow Coloradans to celebrate our great state by rocking gear that expresses their favorite activities, such as our Gears and Beers shirt,” Chad Stubbs said. “Seriously, what’s more ‘Rado’ than drinking craft beer and cruising around on your bike?”
This apparel company also has a booth at the Minturn Market, and their products are in a couple of stores in the Colorado Mills Mall in Golden, as well as online.
Jana Iankova, of Avon, started her jewelry company, Fast Love, in 2013. Each of her pieces is one-of-a-kind. Ten percent of all Fast Love profits go toward helping orphaned kids in Iankova’s home town in Bulgaria.
She said it’s the “asymmetric details” of each piece that makes her jewelry stand out, as well as mixing different materials together, like silver and gold.
“The opportunity to create something beautiful every day, being inspired by the beauty of my surroundings, the ability to love and be loved in return, greatly influences my life and the dedication to my craft,” Iankova said.
Purchase Fast Love online, and find some select pieces at the Luca Bruno store in Vail.