FoCo’s Vado Clothing a new adventure for young owner
FORT COLLINS — Vado Clothing Co. will hold its grand opening in Old Town Fort Collins on Saturday, the culmination of a dream for a 25-year-old entrepreneur getting her first taste of owning a business.
“It would be kind of crazy to go into business without some fear, but I’m confident too,” said Leah Barter, who had managed some Abercrombie and Fitch clothing stores in Florida and the Blue Harvest women’s apparel shop in Fort Collins before deciding to open her own store. “When I got out here and got my first taste of small business, I decided that’s what I want to do.”
Barter describes Vado Clothing Co. as an “elevated-casual lifestyle and men’s apparel” store, “anything to get up and go and adventure in – things like jeans, slacks, hoodies, graphic t-shirts. Men’s fashion is kind of limited, so I wanted men to feel good about what they wear. There wasn’t anything specific to dressing men in Old Town.”
But Old Town is where she wanted to be. “I live and work down here, and love it too much to do anything else,” she said.
A Florida native, Barter grew up on Fort Myers Beach and attended Stetson University in Deland, but said “I knew that I wanted a change from Florida.” So when her sister enrolled in graduate school at Colorado State University nearly four years ago, she tagged along and decided to build her life in Fort Collins, integrating into the community, managing Blue Harvest Apparel and attending Downtown Development Authority meetings.
“I loved all the surf shops on Fort Myers Beach and New Smyrna Beach,” she said, “but when I got out here I missed the cozy little vibe of those shops and decided I wanted to create a Rocky Mountain version of a surf shop.”
Armed with some of her savings and a business loan she took out through the Colorado Colorado Enterprise Fund with the help of the Larimer County Small Business Development Center, Barter took the plunge.
But why the name?
“I knew I wanted to have an idea for a brand that conveyed ‘bravado,’ a broad sense of pride in oneself,” she said, “but I didn’t know if that was quite the mood I wanted, so I shortened it to Vado and thought that sounded kind of cool. Then I checked around because I realized it might mean something else in a different language – and I discovered that ‘vado’ in Italian meant ‘I go’ – so it was totally serendipitous. I want what I sell to maintain the culture of ‘go.’”
Her father, a general contractor, helped her renovate the long, narrow, 1,100-square-foot space at 177 N. College Ave. that locals for years knew as Al’s Newsstand.
“When I first unlocked the door, my first thought was, ‘This is so long! How am I going to fill it?’ But we painted the walls and put down new flooring. Everything’s not perfectly square, but what is in these old buildings?”
Filling it won’t be a problem, she decided. She’ll fill it with that surf-shop vibe.
“I just want this to be a place people can come to and hang out,” she said. “We’ll start doing events once a month, some live music, some workshops, some speakers. This is an apparel shop but will also be a lifestyle shop.”
How many people will Vado employ?
“As of now it’s just me,” Barter said. “I hope to have someone lined up to start working for me in the next few weeks, though. I’m hoping for a small but mighty team – three to five people, and then every semester having student interns to help with things like social media.”
But with all her love of Fort Collins and the Colorado mountains, she still feels a kinship with her roots in Fort Myers, an area that was devastated more than a month ago by a direct hit from a Category 4 hurricane.
“For our first quarter,” she said, “we’ll be doing donations to support hurricane relief from Ian; it affected where I grew up. And then we’ll choose a different organization or community effort to benefit each quarter.”