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Made in Colorado: Four great picks for the gift-giving season

Chose from alpaca socks, bison koozies, unique print and everything in between


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Ranchlands Mercantile Leather Products

The Phillips family has been ranching for four generations and now manages five ranches across the West, including their headquarters, the 97,000-acre Chico Basin Ranch southeast of Colorado Springs. Beyond its conservation-focused cattle operation, the ranch has a leather shop Ranchlands founder Duke Phillips III started in the name of self-sufficiency. His daughter-in-law, Madi Phillips, has taken it to the next level. “It’s morphed into a way to reach people in urban settings,” she says.

Beyond goods for the ranch, the shop now makes belts, bags and other products from leather largely sourced from two U.S. tanneries. “Our Bison Koozie is our weirdest item, but people love it,” Madi Phillips says. The fuzzy beer-can cover is made from fur from one of
the ranches managed by the family.

  • Price: Belts start at $125, bags $250 to $475, Bison Koozie $135
  • Made by: Ranchlands Mercantile, Colorado Springs

Moo Woodworks Boards and Coasters

Lee Moroz says he would call for help changing a lightbulb at his New York apartment before he got married and moved to Denver about six years ago. But a $1,000 estimate to fix a $400 coffee table got him interested in woodworking. He scoured YouTube for instructional videos and took a cheeseboard-making class at I Made It Workshops in Denver.

A paper salesman by day, Moroz turned his hobby into a full-fledged side hustle when he launched Moo Woodworks in 2018. He uses a wide variety of wood for his cutting boards and coasters, but little else. “There are no stains, no dyes – it’s all natural wood,” Moroz says. The finish is mineral oil and beeswax, because “when you’re cutting into something, you’re cutting into the board.”

He works at My Own 2 Hands Makerspace in Littleton when he needs access to certain tools, but his main woodshop is in his garage. “My workbench is actually on a piano hinge that goes up every night,” Moroz says.

  • Price: $26 to $119. Custom laser engraving available
  • Made by: Moo Woodworks, Denver

Phoenix Fiber Mill Alpaca Socks

Michael and Karen Dietrich moved from California to Colorado with their three biological children, then became foster parents and ended up adopting six more kids. The family runs a thriving sock manufacturing operation from their 40-acre ranch in southeastern Colorado, with the help of 20 alpacas and three llamas. They shear the herd every year and send the fiber to an industrial mill to get finished into yarn, which returns to the ranch as raw materials for a colorful catalog of socks.

The family made a big investment in computerized sock-making machines when it launched in 2012 and now makes socks for clients across the U.S., says Trintje Vounov, co-owner and one of the Dietrichs’ daughters. “My brother [Josh Dietrich] can program any type of sock,” she adds. “We’re here to support Colorado and Colorado growers. We really appreciate business for my home state.”

  • Price: Alpaca socks $27 to $75 a pair retail
  • Made by: Phoenix Fiber Mill, Olney Springs

Avec La Vie Art

Rebecca Lefebvre put her career as a registered nurse on hold in 2014 and “started exploring art as a way to do some self-healing and personal introspection.” She created a series of 57 animals with watercolors accompanied by “metaphorical descriptions.” Her menagerie includes dragonflies, bees and elephants. The effort turned into her Fauna wall art and decks of cards, followed by a Flora series of 57 plants in 2019.

Inspiration came from her experiences with patients at the end of their lives expressing deep connections with nature and dealing with unresolved issues. Animals, Lefebvre says, “are very happy to be who they are. As humans, we should be happy with who we are and not try to be somebody else.”

  • Price: $20 prints; decks of cards $35
  • Made by: Avec La Vie, Broomfield
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Eric Peterson

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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