Outfitters optimistic over summer in the Rockies

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Mike Mazzola of Mountain Equipment Recyclers is in his third year at the consignment store’s South Tejon location. A portion of the proceeds go to help local charities.

Mike Mazzola of Mountain Equipment Recyclers is in his third year at the consignment store’s South Tejon location. A portion of the proceeds go to help local charities.

It’s springtime in the Rockies.

Snowmelt is flowing, grass is growing and local outdoor outfitters are prepping for the rush that goes along with living a stone’s throw from one of nature’s greatest playgrounds.

Adventure awaits!

Under one roof

Anyone making a habit of driving Cimarron Street over the past few years has probably seen the large white letters declaring “Fly Shop” on the northeast side of 21st Street.

What casual passersby may not realize is the 6,500-square-foot fly fishing outfitter, owned by David Leinweber and known as Angler’s Covey, is only one of three outdoorsman-friendly retailers occupying that space. Last year, Pikes Peak Outfitter and Colorado Tackle Pro, also owned by Lienweber, moved in under the same roof.

All three make for an easy stop on the way out of town. The outdoor retailers have almost anything the camper, kayaker, spin or fly fisherman would need before continuing west to the high country.

According to Rachel Leinweber, manager of Pikes Peak Outfitters and also David’s daughter, their goal is to make the great outdoors accessible to everyone.

“A lot of people find outdoor shops intimidating,” Rachel said. “We wanted to make sure we were more user-friendly. That’s where our rentals come in.”

Rachel explained that people new to recreating in the great outdoors can try different activities without the full financial commitment. She said customers have drawn comparisons between Pikes Peak Outfitters and outdoor superstore REI because of the rental option. But Rachel said the service is what sets them apart.

“Customer service is where we hammer it home,” she said. “We do repairs and classes. We’re doing backpacking classes [this spring and summer] … We’re doing [equipment] demo days.”

According to Rachel, last summer’s wildfires and floods may have affected business, but it was difficult to tell because the tackle and outfitter shops were new. She said they’re remaining optimistic that Mother Nature will cooperate this year.

David Leinweber, however, said a small concern has been last year’s opening of Bass Pro Shops in the northern part of town, but that specialization and local knowledge should set his businesses apart.

“Bass Pro Shops is not huge on fly fishing,” David said. “We’re one of the biggest fly shops in the country. We have the fundamental expertise here in Colorado Springs, where Bass Pro Shops is operating out of Missouri. They don’t know in Missouri what bait to use or where to take your canoe.”

David said Angler’s Covey is able to set aside so much space for fly fishing because related brands still aim to protect specialty shops over mega retailers. He added that his shops provide niche products not found at big-box stores.

“If you have a product people come back for, that drives business,” he said. “Ten percent of [Angler’s Covey] flies are tied by our guides. Twenty-five percent of our revenue is from our flies. That’s pretty unique. At Colorado Tackle Pro, it’s our bait. At the outfitters, it’s our rental gear. No one else has this selection within 100 miles.”

More information and updated event schedules can be found online at www.pikespeakoutfitter.com; www.anglerscovey.com; and www.coloradotacklepro.com.

Putting the ‘cycle’ in recyclers

Mountain Equipment Recyclers, a consignment shop occupying a deceptively large space on South Tejon Street, offers new and used gear and outdoor clothing while giving back to local charities at the same time.

According to owner Mike Mazzola, his 3-year-old shop has contributed nearly $44,000 to charities, including military nonprofits and trails and open space, since the doors opened.

“Every year we switch [charities],” Mazzola said. “Fifty percent of our income from donated gear goes to charity and 5 percent of consignments go to charities.”

This year’s military recipients are Home Front Cares and Project Sanctuary. Home Front Cares provides support and grants for Colorado Service members, veterans and families, while Project Sanctuary provides therapeutic retreats to military personnel.

The shop, which transitioned last month from winter merchandise consisting of ski and snowboard gear, is now stocked and ready for the warmer months ahead. Road and mountain bikes line the center of the store, the walls display backpacks and sleeping bags next to hiking boots, trail shoes, kayaks and lighter outdoor clothing.

Mazzola said with more than 850 consignors, inventory changes quickly and there’s always something new for sale.

“Business has been great,” he said, adding sales have been up 50 percent each year since 2011. “It’s really taking off.”

Mazzola said the response from the community has been supportive, and the store hosts events several times a year that help foster togetherness.

“We’re a community store,” Mazzola said. “We throw parties where we have bands and food.”

The gatherings allow people to rent tables and sell merchandise directly to customers. The next event will take place on May 17 during the store’s operational hours from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

In addition to sales, Mazzola said his staff of four can assist with equipment rental, and for those who want to shop from home, purchases can be made via the website at merecyclers.com.

Get in gear

Much like Mountain Equipment Recyclers, Gearonimo Sports offers a variety of used and new equipment at a discount. Owner Pete Youngwerth said he buys, trades and consigns outdoor gear and will be organizing a swap meet April 26 to pare down winter inventory.

“Ski season isn’t over by any means,” Youngwerth said of winter inventory still available. He added that rock-climbing gear and water crafts are two of Gearonimo’s warm weather specialties, adding that his shop has one of the largest rock-climbing shoe selections in the country. Located at 2727 Palmer Park Blvd., Gearonimo staff can point rock climbing newbies in the right direction through one of several local climbing guides, including Pikes Peak Alpine School and Springs Mountaineering Consultants.

For more information, visit Gearonimo Sports online at gearonimosports.com.

Peak performance

Mountain Chalet has been a Colorado Springs institution since 1968. According to manager Matt Chmielarczyk, the shop specializes in technical climbing, camping and backcountry skiing and trekking.

The outfitter, located at 226 N. Tejon St., deals only in new merchandise, which Chmielarczyk said separates it from some consignment shops, but in a positive way.

“We are a knowledgeable staff with a lot of experience,” he said. “We constantly have current products. Consignment shops may not be up on current products because they may not know what they will have week to week.”

Chmielarczyk said some of Mountain Chalet’s staff have worked there since the 1980s — and everyone uses the products in the field that they sell in the store.

“We pride ourselves on our knowledge and guidance for those customers making their way outside,” he said.

Chmielarczyk added that the store has seen a decline in sales the past couple summers due to fires and flooding, and that a significant portion of their business is tourist-driven.

“We sell lifestyle products,” he said. “[Purchases] can be set aside because of natural disasters or unfortunate events. With a bad economy, people don’t stop going camping. They stop going to Disneyland. So for us, that’s a good thing. But when fires or floods affect the wildlands, that makes for a bad season for us.”

Another issue Chmielarczyk has dealt with is “showrooming” — when customers look at products in the store but purchase them online. He said it’s important for people to know local purchases mean a far larger percentage of that money stays within the community than if it were purchased online.

“In order to have a local place where you can see the newest stuff along with experienced recommendations, you have to have patronage,” he said.

Chmielarczyk said the store has almost entirely shifted seasonal merchandise to prepare for spring and summer. And, as a result of Internet commerce, ski and snowboard sales normally reserved for March and April now take place closer to the holiday shopping season. Longer days, however, mean all hands on deck for the 25 full- and part-time employees at the Chalet.

Special events, including outdoor courses and “Hero Shows,” where local adventurers share stories and photos of their trips, will take place throughout the season and will be advertised online.

For more information or to track upcoming events, visit mtnchalet.com.