For over 150 years, Leadville, Colorado has seen both the boom and bust times that often occurs with mining towns. With the last of the big mines closing in the 1980s, it seemed as if Leadville might just fade away into the history books. A few citizens were not about to let that happen and numerous high altitude sporting events and festivals were born to bring in outside tourist dollars. Along with tourist dollars that started to flow into the economy, other businesses started to appear. One unique business is the outdoor clothing company, Melanzana.
With Leadville being the highest incorporated city in the United States at 10,152’, Melanzana has got to be the highest clothing manufacturer. Started back in 1994 under the name ‘Eggplant’, but after finding out that the it was already trademarked, they changed to their name to the Italian word for eggplant – Melanzana.
Melanzana is a very small company with only five employees, but they produce some very high quality outdoor garments. From hoodies to sports bras, all of their items use different levels of the Maiden Mills performance fleece fabric, Polartec. Malden Mills is famous for rebuilding their factory in Massachusetts after a devastating fire in 1995, all while keeping their employees on the payroll, instead of simply moving production offshore like all the other textile factories. Melanzana uses six or seven different styles of Polartec, which are proven fabrics that perform as good or better than anything else out there.
While up in Leadville last August for the Trail 100 Mountain Bike race, my wife and I had some time to walk the streets of downtown Leadville. We had been in the old Melanzana location many years ago, but their newer location is a very bright, open space. Behind the counter are pattern tables to cut the fabric and a couple of lines of sewing machines to assemble the clothing. The shelves were stocked with numerous choices of styles, sizes and colors. Melanzana does not do custom work anymore, but if you can not find a color that you do not like, you simply are not looking hard enough.
Melanzana has products for all budgets. Beanies for $14 to hoodies for $136, they have products to keep just about every part of your body just a little bit warmer. If you never make it up to Leadville to visit the folks at Melanzana, you can still order their full line of clothing online. If for some reason you are not satisfied, they do offer returns and exchanges. It is doubtful that you will want to return the garment after examining the construction – theses really are well made pieces of clothing. The hoodie that my wife bought last August still looks new even after the many times that she wears it each week.