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Posted: March 01, 2009

Small biz: Colorado cool stuff

Growing Spaces, Mock Stars, Solar Roast Coffee and Elisabethan LLC

Eric Peterson


Growing Spaces

In the late 1980s, Udgar Parsons was inspired by a pair of geodesic-dome greenhouses that grew vegetables year-round at John Denver’s Windstar Foundation outside Aspen. Setting out “to make an affordable version” for a broader market, Parsons tweaked the design and launched Growing Spaces with his wife, Puja. Colorado’s climate is too extreme for traditional greenhouses developed in the United Kingdom, Parsons says. “It doesn’t work — it’s either too cold or too hot.”

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Ranging in diameter from 12 to 51 feet, Growing Spaces have a fossil fuel-free design that captures the heat of the winter sun and stores it overnight, thanks to excellent insulation. In summer, fans and automatic windows keep things cool. A 1,000-gallon water tank stabilizes the temperature year-round. “That’s the power of water,” Parsons says. Today, Growing Spaces has domes installed in 11 countries, but Colorado is the top market in terms of domes per capita. “Pagosa Springs has a population of 10,000 people, and we have 75 growing domes.” $4,000 to $40,000 retail for a do-it-yourself kit with instruction manual and DVD. Made by Growing Spaces LLC, Pagosa Springs, (800) 753-9333, www.growingspaces.com.

Mock Stars

Denver Post scribe John Wenzel dives into the frenetic, surreal world of indie comedy headfirst with his sharply written “Mock Stars.” Wenzel melds his own first-person take and dissects a scene that sits squarely at the intersection of traditional standup comedy and punk rock, interviewing and profiling innovators like David Cross and Patton Oswalt as he traces the history of indie comedy back to HBO’s “Mr. Show” and other whacked-out cultural touchstones.

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Wenzel says he laughed most during research “hearing certain jokes told four or five times,” noting, “It’s this weird hybrid of narrative, rhetoric, implied conversation, and mad babble.” $16 retail. Written by John Wenzel, Denver; published by Fulcrum Publishing Inc., Golden, (800) 992-2908, www.fulcrumbooks.com. Available at numerous bookstores throughout Colorado.

Solar Roast Coffee

In 2004, brothers and Oregon natives Michael and David Hartkop devised a business plan. With five years in the coffee business under his belt, Michael wanted to buy a roaster. David, who was in the solar energy field, wanted to build one. The latter plan won out. David’s patent-pending solar roaster worked splendidly, but Oregon’s winters proved too gray for year-round production. “There’s no sun for months and months and months,” Michael says.

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The brothers Googled the country’s sunniest cities and sifted through the results looking for mountains, a river and no sprawl. Pueblo, the sunniest city in Colorado and 13th-sunniest in the U.S., won out, and the Hartkops relocated from Oregon in 2007. They’ve since opened a coffee shop in downtown Pueblo, installed their largest roaster yet (capable of roasting 30 pounds at a time) and grown to employ eight people. “I wanted to make sure we could keep the shelves stocked this year,” Michael says. $10 to $14 per pound retail. Made by Solar Roast Coffee LLC, Pueblo, (719) 544-3515, www.solarroast.com.

Elisabethan: “Clothes with a History”

In 1996, Elisabeth Delehaunty moved to Colorado from the East Coast and launched her clothing company, Elisabethan, from Crested Butte. Sourcing her fabric from the racks at thrift shops, the “recycler/designer” started patching together and repurposing old clothes into entirely new wearables. “I started buying stuff for the fabric instead of the garment, and it just snowballed,” she says. Relocating to Paonia in 2000, Delehaunty today typically employs a staff of two or three people to make all sorts of shirts, skirts, hats and scarves from used and damaged clothes.

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“As we get bigger, it’s less realistic for me to do individualized products,” she says, noting that her primary “ingredients” are now T-shirts and wool. “It also makes me feel I’m making more of an impact recycling — T-shirts, there are just zillions and zillions of them!” $15 to $215 retail. Made by Elisabethan LLC, Paonia, (970) 527-4073, www.elisabethan.com. Also available at numerous stores in Colorado; a list of retailers is on the website.

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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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