Great Made in Colorado puzzles, paddles, sake and sound

Colorado artisans carve out niches in recreation

AKZ Land Stand-Up Paddleboards

An avid stand-up paddleboarder, Keith Zaring wanted a way to train on solid ground when the water froze, but couldn’t find the means. “There was nothing that allowed you to stand up like you did on a paddleboard,” he says.

Naturally, Zaring came up with a prototype wheeled paddleboard in early 2015 and honed it by getting out and paddling the pavement himself. He now works with a local woodworking shop to craft the boards and a printer to offer custom graphics on his land stand-up paddleboards, or SUPs.

“The workout is unbelievable,” Zaring says. But don’t expect to fill a need for speed: He tops out at about 6.5 miles an hour. “It’s designed for flatland fun,” Zaring says, laughing. “I love the irony of snail races.”

$399 retail.

Made by: AKZ Paddle Co., Centennial

Gaijin24886 Sake

Named for co-founder Marc Hughes’ employee number when he taught English in Japan, Gaijin24886 is Colorado’s first craft sake brewer and one of only about 15 nationwide.

After returning stateside in 2005, he started brewing sake at home, recalling, “I needed a winter hobby, and everybody I knew was making beer.” Hughes and co-founder Keith Kemp launched the company in 2013, but had to navigate a maze of regulatory issues before selling their first bottle this spring. (“It brews like beer, but it’s taxed like wine,” Hughes says.)

Three years of legal wrangling later, Gaijin24886 has brought two varieties to market: the red El Colorado and Queen City of the Plains, a traditional table sake.

$15 to $20 for a 375-millileter bottle retail.

Made by: Gaijin24886, Denver

Kagen Sound Puzzle Boxes

With hidden buttons, compartments and locks, puzzle boxes are meant to be difficult to open. In fact, that’s what collectors seek.

“People love it when there’s something unexpected,” says Kagen Sound, reciting a history of sea captains using them as safes and Japanese artisans crafting intricate designs. “In the eyes of a lot of collectors, it’s a piece of art.”

Sound started making puzzle boxes from cardboard when he was a kid. “It was pretty clear I was into this kind of exact craft,” he says.

Access to woodworking tools at Colorado College elevated Sound’s game, and he started making the boxes professionally after graduating in 2000. He’s since garnered an international following by building an ever-growing number of increasingly tricky boxes in his shop in RiNo.

“I do about 100 a year,” he says.

$350+ retail.

Made by: Kagen Sound, Denver,

Sanders Sound Systems

Roger Sanders’ love of good audio is rooted in his childhood.

“Back in the 1950s, my father started building home audio equipment,” he says. “You couldn’t buy any, so you had to build it yourself.”

After retiring from a government job in the 1990s, Sanders dedicated himself to perfecting electrostatic speakers, which have “no moving mass and therefore no distortion,” he says.

He wrote a book and ran a manufacturer, then started Sanders Sound Systems in 2008. Beyond speakers, the company also makes high-end amps and other accessories.

“We developed a whole system – amplifiers, speakers, cables,” Sanders says. “We do the whole thing.”

His amps now outsell the speakers, but he’s still best known as an electrostatic innovator.

“My speakers are the finest sounding speakers in the world,” Sanders says. “I can prove it.”

starting price $12,000 a pair.

Made by: Sanders Sound Systems, Conifer,

Categories: Made in Colorado, Magazine Articles