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Skateboard biz moves downvalley with the project

Ian Cropp
Vail, CO, Colorado
Kristin Anderson/Vail DailyOliver Tito organizes skateboard accessories at the project in Eagle.
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EAGLE ” Most snowboarders dream big, but only a fraction of those dreams come to fruition.

Right now, a group of eight friends are living their dream in Eagle at the owner-operated the Project skateboard shop.

“I’d been wanting to do it forever,” said Lonnie Leto, one of the owners. “But when you live in Vail, you don’t really think you can open your own business. It seems like an unobtainable dream. “I came here and saw an opportunity.”



Leto and his wife Taber moved to Eagle from Vail less than a year ago, and got the ball rolling with the other owners in September. After spending a good part of May working on the shop they opened the shop in early April.

“We just opened, but business has been fantastic,” Leto said. “Better than I thought.”



Although the owners have all worked at skate and snowboard shops before (they have about 50 years experience between them), nobody had ever owned their own business.

“We’re learning new things every day,” Leto said.

One thing they don’t need to learn is passion. Even though all of the owners hold several other jobs, they staff the shop 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., seven days a week.



“We all care about it, and when people come in, they know they are talking to an owner,” Leto said.

Even with a skate park in Gypsum, the downvalley part of Eagle County had a lack of skate shops until the Project arrived.

In addition to selling skateboards, the Project carries gear and clothing ” including its own line.

During the winter, the Project will tune boards and sell clothing and accessories, Leto said.

“I thought we’d have a full-service snowboard shop, and I talked to two or three investors, and realized if we took out a huge loan right away, we’d be in huge debt for a really long time,” Leto said.

So Leto set a smaller budget and got a bunch of others to pool their money.

“I was in Mexico a few years ago and went into this restaurant that it was totally owner operated. The dishwashers were owners, the waiters were owners. It was one of the coolest places I’ve ever been,” Leto said.

With the idea in place, the group needed to find a property.

“I was talking to Charlie Brown (owner of Mountain Pedaler) about it and he asked if I’d seen this little spot around the corner (from his shop),” Leto said. “Everybody was into it. I love this little downtown section.”

Little by little, Leto hopes the Project can grow.

“Every penny we get goes back into the business,” he said, noting that 1 percent of the profits will go toward combating global warming. “We don’t know if we’re going to make a profit yet, but it’s in our operating agreement.”

The Project also offers skateboarding camps, which are headed by Jay Restrepo. Camps are $35 for a 2-hour session and $99 for one week.

Staff Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 748-2935 or icropp@vaildaily.com.


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