Taking a unique angle on selling outdoor gear, the local consignment store Mountain Equipment Recyclers has filled a niche that the outdoor community of Colorado Springs lacked prior to 2010. Dedicated to giving back to his community, the owner, Mike Mazzola, began MER as a way to recycle outdoor gear locally, selling it for affordable prices and donating a significant portion of the profits to local non-profits.
The initial idea for an outdoor gear consignment store was triggered by the economic collapse of 2008. At the time, Mazzola had a job in real estate and, fearing it would be affected by the recession as well as feeling disturbed by the seeming disintegration of America, he decided he wanted to give back to his community. Noticing that Colorado Springs, a fundamentally outdoorsy city, lacked affordable outdoor gear, he took a risk.
“The timing finally worked out and we got it off the ground,” Mazzola said about opening his store in 2010.
Community-oriented from the start, Mazzola has partnered with multiple local non-profits to assist military veterans living in the Colorado Springs area. For every item donated to MER, 50 percent of the profits of its selling price go directly to these non-profits. When an item is consigned to the store, the owner of the gear desires a portion of the profits. MER then donates five percent of the selling price. As of last month, MER has officially donated more than $20,000 to local non-profits—a marker that Mazzola and his staff celebrated.
Mazzola has decided to partner with three separate organizations each year, sustaining MER’s autonomy and allowing these new partnerships to, “shine a light on what’s going on in Colorado Springs and to give exposure to a variety of non-profits.”
The three non-profits that MER has partnered with this year are Project Sanctuary, Phoenix Multisport, and Thanks Troops. All of these are either Colorado Springs or Denver based non-profits that provide outdoor adventure or adaptive sport opportunities to military veterans and their families.
Although Mazzola’s passion lies in assisting veterans, he notes that MER has not limited its partnerships to organizations that provide this service. They have also partnered with the Trails and Open Space Coalition of Colorado Springs, donating money to a group that helps preserve local open space.
When asked about goals for the future of MER, Mazzola responded that he would like to see the store become a local institution that brings the outdoor community of Colorado Springs together.
“We’re just a small store, trying to make a difference,” Mazzola said. “But, I think we’re on our way.”
Mazzola attributes his success to noticing something that Colorado Springs lacked and then trying to fill that niche. He saw an opportunity to provide this community with affordable gear and in the process has brought together a number of local non-profits dedicated to making Colorado Springs a cohesive community. He encourages CC students interested in creating a business to think differently and work hard.
“Don’t hesitate,” Mazzola said. “If you have a great idea, make it happen. Pour your soul into it.”
People interested in consigning old gear at MER receive 50 percent of the selling price once the item sells, which can be paid through store credit or through a check. The consignor may suggest a price for his or her item, although the staff knows how to price items to sell successfully. However, MER always appreciates donated items because then a whole 50 percent of the profit can go directly to the non-profit organizations it supports.
MER’s annual Winter Party and Gear Swap is this Saturday, Oct. 13, from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. It will occur right outside the store, located at 1024 S. Tejon St., just over two miles from campus. They will be grilling free burgers in the parking lot and students interested in going will have a plethora of winter gear to peruse. Two members of the band Grass It Up will be playing live music and there will be plenty of give-aways, including a pair of K2 skis.