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Posted: April 01, 2009

Colorado Cool Stuff: April

Buffalo hide furnishings, effervescent drinks, reflective gear and sandals

Eric Peterson

The Buffalo Collection

Julie Littlefield’s family started commercially herding buffalo on their 8,000-acre Scenic Mesa Ranch in the early 1990s, and then they got into the recreation business by opening the ranch to hunters and anglers. Overnight lodges followed about five years ago.

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“We needed furniture, and we had plenty of buffalo hides,” Littlefield says. She put two and two together and started producing-high end couches, loveseats, chairs and ottomans from the hide, with the help of “a ski bum from a North Carolina furniture family.”

Soon she enlisted Paonia-based Kendall Custom Braiding to add some flair to the products, and the Buffalo Collection “put us in a whole different realm,” Littlefield says. High Western style aside, she praises the soft touch of the leather. “The secret is the buffalo leather — it feels wonderful.” About $5,000 to $10,000 retail. Made by Scenic Mesa Ranch, Hotchkiss, (970) 872-6031, www.scenicmesa.com.

PepPods

The minds behind the PepPod, Zach Zeldner and Skip Meador — whose business cards sport the respective titles of “Zookeeper” and “Head Cattle Brander” — met playing soccer in Boulder and discovered tablet-based effervescent drinks on trips overseas.

“Effervescents are really big in the rest of the world,” says Meador, noting that most are hydration-based or vitamin-based, not formulated as energy drinks like PepPods. The pair founded the company in 2005 and developed the product for three years, testing formulas on friends, perfecting both the flavor and formulation of their tablets. Ingredients included “real levels” of caffeine, taurine and guarana, and only one calorie — to be dissolved in eight to 16 ounces of water and quaffed.

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Featuring a lower price tag and foil packaging, the PepPod has taken the market by storm since its launch in late 2008, nabbing a distributor and 200 accounts in its first quarter on the market. “We’re having a blast,” Meador says. $1.49 for a single serving retail. Made by BLhUE Inc., Boulder, www.peppod.com. A retailer locator is on the website.

Vedante Pop Bands, Collars and Leashes

After a long career as a fashion designer and owner of Los Angeles apparel companies, Barbara Kantor “semi-retired” to Boulder in 1997. The avid walker often took to the Boulder Creek Path after nightfall, but thought most reflective clothing lacked style.

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One evening in 2006, she was walking with a friend, discussing the possibility of starting another apparel company making fashion-forward “super-reflective” wearables. A few blocks later, they witnessed a pedestrian get struck by a driver who didn’t see her black jacket, and Kantor knew her instincts were correct.

“I recognized a void in the market,” Kantor recalls. “I’m certainly not semi-retired anymore.” Vedante now makes arm bands (“Pop Bands”), leashes, and dog and cat collars in a variety of colors that reflect light up to 1,500 feet in all directions. Five percent of the gross of products bought without packaging goes back to charities supporting safety and the environment. $10.98 to $45.98 retail. Made by Vedante Corp., Boulder www.vedante.com. A list of dealers is on the website.

Vez Sandals

After designing and developing sandals for Chaco, Steve Chavez wanted to do his own thing. “I found myself going in a different direction artistically,” he says, noting that he’s “addicted to leather and women’s footwear.”

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After Chavez left Chaco in 2006, he came up with a business plan to make handcrafted leather sandals, his wife signed off on it, and Vez was born. Now he makes five styles of fashionable women’s sandals: the emotionally named Passion, Delight, Ecstasy, Desire and — new this spring — Euphoria. “I’m trying to keep it fun and convey it’s art and not mass-produced footwear,” Chavez says. “My main challenge is convincing people I exist.” $110 to $170 retail. Made by Vez Sandals USA (a dba for Vez Inc.), Paonia, (970) 372-5461, www.vezsandals.com.

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Denver-based writer Eric Peterson is the author of Frommer's Colorado, Frommer's Montana & Wyoming, Frommer's Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks and the Ramble series of guidebooks, featuring first-person travelogues covering everything from atomic landmarks in New Mexico to celebrity gone wrong in Hollywood. Peterson has also recently written about backpacking in Yosemite, cross-country skiing in Yellowstone and downhill skiing in Colorado for such publications as Denver's Westword and The New York Daily News. He can be reached at Eptcb126@msn.com

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