Made in Colorado: Boots, Bikes and Bags for an Active Audience
Check out Mountain Ridge Gear, Truman Boot Co. Boots, Emerger Fly Fishing Bags and Wallets and Proudfoot Cycles
Eric Lynn started sewing bags in 2009 and decided to make it his full-time pursuit when he retired from the Air Force in 2014. A contract to make duffel bags for Wheat Ridge-based Kifaru helped get Mountain Ridge Gear off the ground, but a focus on the equestrian market —specifically the donkey market — catalyzed its growth. “We changed direction and went all equine,” Lynn says. “It’s such a niche market, and it’s taken off.”
Most of Mountain Ridge’s competitors moved manufacturing to Asia, and the quality has suffered. Conversely, Mountain Ridge’s bags, packs and panniers are handmade in his workshop in Peyton. The focus on donkeys stems from Lynn’s own hobby. “I have 10 donkeys,” he says. “I pack with them. I’ve got four mammoth donkeys I ride.” The intersection of his hobby and career “is just a dream come true.”
$15 to $455 retail
After working in the dairy and cheese-making industries, Vince Romano turned his attention to boot-making in 2013. It started with a repair job on his own favorite boots. “They started falling apart,” Romano says. “I decided to rip them apart and rebuild them.” People starting asking for a pair of their own, and a business was born. “It just went crazy,” he says. “It’s not really a work boot, it’s not really a dress boot, it’s somewhere right in between.”
Going from one pair to manufacturing was difficult, because boot-making machinery is hard to find in the U.S. “It was a train wreck getting equipment together,” Romano says. The boots are made with nails and stitching, because boots made with adhesive are “only as strong as the glue,” Romano says. He moved the company, named for his dog, from Pennsylvania to Boulder in 2016, and now has five employees.
$450 to $1,200 a pair retail
A pastor and musician, Chris Freeman started Emerger as a side gig in 2014. The longtime angler was dissatisfied with the gear on the market. “I’d spend $100, $150 on a pack and, after a couple years, it would rip apart,” Freeman says. “I was looking for something I could pass on to my kids — real longevity.”
So he eschewed modern synthetic fabrics in favor of waxed canvas and leather, got a sewing lesson from his mom, and crafted his first product, the Elkhorn Side Bag. People asked about getting one for themselves, and the business “snowballed” into fly wallets and custom bags. “It’s slowly taking over my life,” says Freeman, who still finds time to go fishing. “I love the Poudre. It’s such a fun river to fish, but I fish everywhere.”
$50 to $250 retail
Location: Fort Collins
After working as an aerospace engineer in Southern California, Jon Acuff and his wife, Erin, opted to relocate to the cycling mecca of Golden with their two young children “for quality of life,” says Jon, a longtime mountain biker himself. With the move, the couple “dove in” and started Proudfoot. Jon leveraged his background to design full-suspension bikes, Erin takes care of the business side of things, and the company hired its first employee to build frames in 2017.
Every Proudfoot bike is made to order; there are eight base models, including mountain, road, fat and gravel designs. Instead of pricey titanium and carbon, Jon uses steel for the frames. “In my mind, steel ticks all the boxes,” Jon says. “If I can make similar-weight frames for half the price, it’s a no-brainer.”
Most bikes $5,000 to $8,000