Brick and Mortar Retailer Opens Thanks to Amazon
Estes Park's Black Lantern features outdoor gear from Colorado natives
While attending Metropolitan State University, Kevin Davis and girlfriend (now wife), Ginny designed posters and T-shirts for local bands as a side gig. After graduation, Kevin and Ginny worked different graphic design jobs but continued to do their own designs at night, hand printing their designs on apparel and glassware. They named their business Black Lantern, taking its name from their childhood memories of sitting around a campfire. In 2012, they decided to quit their jobs and fully invest in growing their business.
Their unique hand-printed clothing and goods – made individually and without the use of automatic presses – aim to bring the spirit of the outdoors to customers. Their product line includes a range of men's and women's apparel including T-shirts, hoodies, hats and socks; plus glassware (sourced from a Denver company), mugs, posters and bags emblazoned with images they see in the outdoors: trees, bears, elk or clever outdoorsy motifs.
The couple are avid hikers and campers, often trekking into nearby Rocky Mountain National Park for extended excursions. They feel that this devotion to the outdoors lifestyle is one of the company's core principles and where they draw their creative inspiration.
"No matter where or how you live, nature is for everyone and the wilderness still has a strong influence on the American character," Kevin Davis says.
In 2015, Kevin and Ginny were approached by Amazon before they launched the Amazon Handmade store to gauge their interest in being one of the first artisans to sell on the site. Amazon Handmade features handcrafted products created by artisans worldwide. The move made sense to the Davises as an opportunity to reach a large customer base.
“The first year we didn’t know what to expect," Kevin says. "When the Handmade store launched, sales started trickling in, and then by the second year our income had nearly doubled."
Currently, they’re creating designs that highlight the top eight National Parks as part of a partnership with the National Park Foundation, the official nonprofit of the National Park Service. A portion of sales from Black Lantern's product line are donated to the foundation to preserve the parks for future generations.
By 2017, Amazon Handmade represented over 50 percent of their sales. Thanks to their success, Black Lantern has been able to hire five employees and last year they opened a seasonal store in Estes Park. “Our physical store is open during peak hiking and camping season,” Kevin says. “The holidays are our busiest time of year on Amazon, so it really keeps us busy all year round.”