Made in Colorado: Leechpit Hobo Nickels, VonMod, Backyard Soda
Handcrafted nickels, furniture, mocktails and fishing gear
Leechpit Hobo Nickels
“I say it all the time: ‘There’s no wrong way to deface a nickel,’” says Adam Leech, who’s been whittling coins into hobo nickels since 2008. Buffalo nickels are his preferred medium: He often carves away the metallic flesh and leaves a bison skeleton in its wake, using a microscope and tiny hand-tools. When he’s not crafting nickels into images of Stephen Hawking, dogs playing poker, and Star Wars Stormtroopers, Leech makes a line of rings and pendants cast from his creations, takes custom orders, and runs the Leechpit, a vintage store on the west side of Colorado Springs, with his wife, Heather.
$100 to $350 retail
Made by Adam Leech, Colorado Springs, leechpit.com or theleechpit.etsy.com
An architect and designer, Jordan Vaughn takes a small-batch manufacturing approach to furniture from his space in north Denver. In late 2014, he upgraded his furniture-making operation for the 21st century with CNC machines “and a bunch of really cool software,” says Vaughn. “That’s allowed us to create a catalog of stuff we can make on pretty short notice.” Workstations have emerged as a forte, with a modern mix of wood and laminates that “can double as dry erase boards,” says Vaughn. “Our tagline is: ‘For designers, by designers.’”
Workstations start at
$1,800 in volume
Made by VonMod Ltd., Denver, vonmod.com
Backyard Soda Co.
Patrick Creager started making simple syrups infused with fresh fruit and herbs for cocktails as general manager of since-shuttered Denver eatery Olivea in 2008; but patrons loved them even without the booze. “The biggest surprise was how well the sodas sold on their own,” he says. “People would come in for brunch and have a flight of sodas.” Creager started Backyard Soda Co. with his wife, Ari Murdock, in 2011, as a cart that offered cold drinks and snow cones. They soon began bottling their cane sugar-based syrups – which are mixed with soda water to taste (or used as marinades) – in flavors like lemon-rosemary, strawberry-mint and mango-jalapeno. The couple has plans to eventually open “a modern-day soda shop,” but one thing at a time, says Creager. “We’re in phase one of our business. We’re looking at bottled sodas in phase three or four.”
$10 to $15 retail
Made by Backyard Soda Co., Denver, backyardsodas.com
Ski-mask purveyor Phunkshun had a sales rep using its winter-oriented product while fly-fishing on the river. That provided the spark to smooth out its seasonal manufacturing with a warm-weather product, says CEO Jason Badgley. “We had to make a product that was longer and could be tucked everywhere.” The resulting Fishmasks keep the bugs and sun off an angler’s face with breathable, moisture-wicking materials. Phunkshun, which has nearly doubled its staff to 15 employees since moving to Denver from Silverthorne last year, offers custom designs for retailers and corporate customers.