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Made in Colorado: Products to spice up your summer

Cooper’s Small Batch Hot Sauces

When Michelle and John Davidson ran The Crushery on Denver’s Old South Pearl Street from 2007 to 2012, John, the chef, and Michelle, the marketer, developed hot sauces that have since taken on a life of their own. They relaunched them in 2018 and now sell through more than 160 retailers.

The catalog includes Jal up-in Yo Tomatillo (jalapeno-tomatillo), Leche Diablesa (coconut milk, lime and peppers), habanero-heavy Grundle Thumper, and Thai Me Up, a unique take on sriracha. “We wanted the hot sauces to be food-driven,” Michelle says. “We try not to have the heat overpower the ingredients.”

New in 2020: a line of Cooper’s Small Batch Spice Grinders. “They’re fresher when you grind them,” Michelle says, dubbing it “table spice.”

The company is named for the Davidsons’ son, Cooper. “We find a lot of kids like spicy food,” Michelle says. “My daughter brings Thai Me Up to school in tiny bottles.”

Mic Kayak Stuff-summer

Good Vibes River Gear

“I’ve always had a knack for sewing,” says Josh Veenstra, who runs the company with his wife, Maegan.

Veenstra devised a business plan on a 24-day rafting trip on the Green River in 2015. Back on dry land, he bought two sewing machines and started making heavy-duty river bags in his garage until it was “filled up to the ceiling” in 2017.

The operation took over an old service station in Craig in late 2019. “Our production and showroom is just one big room,” says Veenstra, a Craig native who quit his job at the local coal-fired power plant to focus on Good Vibes. “When people come in, they see we manufacture our own sewn product.”

Using two layers of mesh over heavy-duty webbing, Good Vibes makes bags for groceries, clothing, beer and trash, as well as popular dish-drying racks and other rafting accessories. A good deal of the orders are custom. “We spare no expense on the materials we use,” Veenstra says.

Mic Wood-summer

Tyler Morris Woodworking

Tyler Morris got into woodworking 30 years ago when he was about 20 years old. “I worked for the Forest Service one summer, and there was a wood shop in the basement,” he remembers. “I had a lot of free time on my hands, and I got hooked.”

He honed his skills making wooden boxes. “When someone says they want to get into woodworking, I tell them to start there. Make a nice, little wooden box.”

After Morris graduated with a degree in wood science from CSU in 1994, a niche emerged: corbels, brackets that support counters or shelves. “We’re the national leader in simple and strong corbels,” Morris says. “Our competition is less structural, more decorative. Ours are really good at holding up a countertop.”

With Steve Wright, Morris now crafts about 4,000 corbels a year. The two-man shop recently introduced several new products, including a handsome organization cabinet with blackboard instead of labels on the drawers. “I invented it because I had one of those plastic Walmart deals in my office,” Morris says, dubbing his “100 times better at 50 times the price.”

Mic Lucky Tree-summer

Lucky Tree Studio Bamboo Jewelry

Graphic designer Leanna Johnson started experimenting making jewelry with a laser cutter in 2016. Plywood “was nasty,” she says. “We’d cut through it and start coughing.”

Leanna soon found a much better medium in bamboo plywood to create a unique line of sustainable jewelry. “It’s lightweight, it looks nice, it doesn’t have nasty chemicals in it,” she says. And it’s affordable: “You’re not going to go broke on one piece.”

Leanna’s husband, Jordan, joined Lucky Tree as demand spiked and now handles the manufacturing as she focuses on design and marketing. Their collections include hand-painted Chroma, brass-accented Fusion, and Essence, wearable essential oil diffusers.

Leanna balances Lucky Tree with her other business, Treefeather Creative. “I still love doing graphic design work; it’s a passion. But I also like making a physical product with my hands,” she says.