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Made in Colorado: Repurposed Ski Lift Seats and Adventure-Proof Dog Leashes

Check out Colorado Candy Company, Ski Lift Designs, Sloppy Chops Co., and Tailgate n Go



When John Buoniconti first moved to Colorado in 1997, his first job was making candy.  “I answered an ad in the newspaper that said, ‘Do you like candy?’ I said, ‘Yes, I do.’” He made old-fashioned candy for six years before moving on to work in the nonprofit world and the courier industry.

In 2014, Buoniconti jumped at an opportunity to launch his own candy manufacturer with two partners. Beyond the cotton-candy machine, all of the gear is vintage. “Aside from that, our newest piece of equipment is mid-1940s and our oldest piece of equipment is late 1800s.” The catalog includes everything from pineapple hard candy to bourbon pecan bacon brittle, but ribbon candy is a house specialty. “We’re one of a half-dozen companies in the country that hand cranks ribbon candy,” says Buoniconti, noting that it’s as beautiful as it is fragile. “That cannot be shipped. I deliver it all over the state.”

$6 to $15 retail

Location: Fort Collins


Co-founder Jacques Boiteau started repurposing old ski lift seats as chairs and benches with friend Matt Evans and fiancee McCall Perry in 2016. “We found it was a little bit more complicated than we first thought, and nobody was filling that niche,” says Boiteau, who by day works as an engineer in the oil and gas industry. “We took a passion project into a line of employment.”

The trio sources raw materials from decommissioned chairlifts from such resorts as Ski Apache in New Mexico and Snoqualmie Pass in Washington state to make semi-custom seating for mountain homes, offices, bars and other locations.

“We’re all skiers to begin with, so we had a fun time with it,” Boiteau says. “It’s not drudgery.” 

$1,200 to $2,800 retail

Location: Denver


A full-time nurse, Laura Aquilina started making leashes on the side in late 2016. “This started as a hobby business,” she says. “It got pretty popular.”

Aquilina expected one sale a month, but it’s been closer to 100. She started with “adventure-proof” rope leashes, then moved into collars made from heavy-duty Biothane. “It’s used a lot in military gear,” Aquilina says. “It’s stronger than leather, but it’s lower-maintenance.”

The products are rooted in her passion for canines. Aquilina has three rescue dogs: Brutus, a quadruple-amputee Rottweiler; terrier Winston; and mutt Lambert, who she has trained to compete in obedience trials.

$20 to $60 retail

Location: Loveland


The father-daughter team of Ron and Taylor Johnson came to be after a 2017 family fishing trip; chaos overtook the cookware and food en route. “Dad said, ‘Where’s your storage box?’” laughs Taylor. The experience led to the concept for a movable kitchen with all the bells and whistles.

Ron describes it as a hitch-mounted “outdoor kitchen” with cutting boards, cold and dry storage, a butane-fired stove and a sink. “It’s a modular design,” he says. “We can add anything a person wants.” The Johnsons work with several contract manufacturers in Colorado and assemble the finished product in Grand Junction.

Notes Taylor: “It’s good for camping, fishing and hunting. It’s even good for the soccer game.”

$1,200 to $1,500 retail

Location: Grand Junction

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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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