Posted: April 01, 2012
Made in Colorado: Toys, games and pet productsBy Eric Peterson
Itzadog LLC’s Quiet Spot
Pet Tag Silencers
Quiet Spot pet tag silencers are named for Itzadog “Lead Dog” Scott Schaible’s late dog Spot, whose noisy tags led Schaible to cut up an old wetsuit to make an anti-clinking sheath in 1999. Using local cut-and-sew networks, Schaible has since expanded into Zuka Bowls, colorful collapsible dog bowls small enough to stow in a purse, and bumper stickers touting dozens of breeds’ intelligence (“My Great Dane is smarter than your honor student,” for example).
Most recently, Itzadog has started making Ecollargy collars and leashes from retired vinyl billboards (the leashes’ handles are made from old bike tires), and Schaible started another company, Billboard Ecology (billboardecology.com), to make bags from old billboards. After the infamous Chinese pet food scare of 2007, “There was never a better time to have ‘Made in the USA’ on your packaging,” Schaible says. “That was a wakeup call.”
Today, Itzadog has 3,000 retail accounts nationwide, and has typically enjoyed double-digit sales growth every year. “In the pet industry, having a little niche has been a great place to be,” Schaible says . “It feels like a giant home run.”
Apogee model-rocket kits
Formerly with Estes Industries in Penrose, Tim Van Milligan bought model-rocket manufacturer/retailer Apogee Components in 1994 and moved it from Minnesota to Colorado.
“First I was in my house, then another house,” he says. In 1999, the onetime aeronautical engineer moved Apogee into its first commercial building in Colorado Springs. Now he’s on his third “progressively larger” location as Apogee continues to make and sell model-rocket kits, model-rocket simulation software, model-rocket altimeters, and other model-rocket components.
The company’s top seller is virtual – the aforementioned RockSim software – while Apogee’s kits are more visceral, ranging from the easy-to-make-and-fly Apprentice to an authentic replica of the Saturn V that carried Apollo missions to the Moon, measuring over 5 feet in height. Apogee “has been on a steady growth path,” Van Milligan says.
“Every year is a little bit bigger than the year before.” And the company has emerged as a clearinghouse of information for the entire industry: “We get technical calls from other vendors all the time,” Van Milligan says with a laugh.
BeginAgain Green Ring
After co-founding Sprig Toys in 2007 then selling it to Wham-O in 2010, Chris Clemmer and David Bowen decided it was time for a fresh start. That fresh start, aptly named BeginAgain, came to be last fall after Clemmer and Bowen came up with fictitious inventor Benjamin Barlowe to communicate their message of “a wish for well balanced play,” Clemmer says.
Centering on Barlowe’s story – which Bowen calls “a narrative about how we do business as well as the science of child development” – the duo makes toys for aspiring artists, writers, inventors, sportsters and heroes (which collectively become an acronym for “a wish”), with an emphasis on natural materials and no batteries. (“Kids are the true noisemakers!” proclaims BeginAgain’s website.)
Designed by Bowen and Clemmer in Fort Collins and manufactured near Chicago and in China, the company’s 40-product catalog includes art kits, puzzles, yo-yos and games, as well as what Clemmer dubs the “world’s first fully compostable toy” in the Green Ring, an infant toy made of a brand-new corn-based polymer, a.k.a. Green Dot P.U.R.E.
“We call it the new rubber,” Clemmer says. “We really think it’s the future.”
Sqwuggies dog toys
Katie’s Bumpers, Golden,
Fractiles Magnetic Tiling Toys
Kid’s Kitchen Center
Knightweaver Games, Boulder
Sphero robotic ball
Orbotix , Boulder
Honey Jar Kaleidoscope
Henry Bergeson Kaleidoscopes, Conifer
Modular Robotics, Boulder
KONG Company, Golden
Sony PlayStation game, Idol Minds,
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