It all started when Rob Catalano forgot his goggles on a trip to Keystone. Frustrated by the delay and eager to get onto the slopes, Catalano searched for a solution.
"I went to a retail store over there and they tried to sell me the most expensive pair of goggles off the racks," he said. "That kinda drove me nuts."
Catalano managed to talk his way into a cheap pair of goggles in the back that had been left behind and headed on to the mountain, but the memory of it stuck.
"I started thinking, that's gotta happen to a lot of people," he said. "They come on vacation and they forget something and all of a sudden they get raked through the coals."
A self-styled "serial entrepreneur," Catalano decided that he could solve that problem by creating a store that took in used gear and sold it at a low price to people who couldn't afford or didn't want to pay for brand-new equipment. He pitched it to his wife, Kathy, his "sounding board," who supported the idea.
"We were like, why is there not something like this in Breckenridge?" he said. "And we kind of felt there was a niche there, so we were like, 'Let's explore it and see what happens.'"
Ridden opened its doors in April of last year. It caters to seasons, focusing on biking and backpacking in the summer, and on skiing and snowboarding in the winter. Catalano describes it as "a high-end consignment shop," which means that people bring in their gear and can choose to receive cash or store credit in return.
"We really try to look for stuff that's no older than three to five seasons and it's got to be in immaculate shape," Catalano said. "A lot of the stuff that we get in the store still has the tags on it, because people maybe were gifted something or they bought something that didn't fit, they didn't like it. ... The beauty of our store is you don't have to meet some creeper in the Safeway parking lot or have somebody try to come to your house, all the Craig's List no-shows and eBay flake-outs. You bring it here and we're stewards of your equipment. It's really based on trust."
Once a customer has placed an item within the store, he or she can keep track of it online and will receive an email when the item has sold. Conveniently, a person does not need to come to the store to receive money from a sale - it can be wired through a bank account.
"That lends us really well to our out-of-city or out-of-state consigners," Catalano said. "We've sent checks to Australia, France, Hawaii, Alaska."
Catalano is also planning on expanding the store's website's capabilities, allowing customers to browse through the best items online.
Ridden receives a real mix of customers, Catalano said, from locals swapping gear to visitors looking for replacements or to lighten their load back home.
"We figured we'd have a couple different market segments," he explained, "like the mountain employees - people that move into town and they don't have anything yet - or people on vacation that just maybe forgot something and they just need one thing. And then also the consignment flow, you have the locals that have all of this gear in the county, it gives them a chance to sell that gear and the visitors take it out of the county. It maintains the flow, the balance."
Business has been good throughout Ridden's first year, helped, Catalano says, by word of mouth and fellow business referrals.
"It's been surprising. We get referrals in town like we've been here for 10 years," he said, later adding, "Word of mouth was just really strong. We're really thankful for all of the shops that have referred us business. The business climate, in particular, in Breckenridge is very friendly. Everyone's in a state of 'cooper-tition' (cooperation and competition), we're all trying to work together."
Employees at Ridden are just as happy to toss referrals back, letting curious visitors know the best places to go in town for whatever it is they need.
Catalano enjoys his time in the shop, talking snowboards and hanging out with customers and employees alike. He still holds down a "day job" as a software developer at Breckenridge Grand Vacations, where he says the positive atmosphere is contagious.
"Those guys inspire me every day, the owners of that company, because their commitment to the community is outstanding, like nothing I've ever seen before, just how visible they are not only at the company but also in the community," Catalano said. "The organization is just encouraging of people following their dreams. Entrepreneurship is something that is dear to me, it's one of my passions. They really encourage it."
Ridden certainly has a positive, casual and laid-back feel to it. Customers are free to wander at will or discuss their needs with employees. Store manager Jared Black is just as comfortable talking technical ski equipment details with experienced customers as he is explaining the basics to beginners.
"I love working in this shop," he said. Mostly, he said, "I just talk to the people and open them up, like, 'How good a skier are you? What have you done? What are you looking for in a ski?' All different things like that."
Ridden can also help people who are transitioning or trying out a new sport.
"They don't want to incur the cost of buying brand-new stuff, but they still want to have the adventure, they want to have fun and go out," Catalano said.
And that is the whole point of Ridden - finding the right gear for the right price so you can go out and enjoy yourself in Summit County.
For more information, visit Ridden online at www.riddengear.com or call the store at (970) 453-2055.