Melanzana employees

From left, Melanzana employees Louise Duncan and Steve Shultz prepare newly made products for display shelves.

Melanzana is expanding its manufacturing operation on Harrison Avenue after Leadville City Council voted earlier this month to approve a conditional use permit application filed by the retailer.

According to Melanzana’s founder Fritz Howard, the company has begun leasing space at 721 Harrison Ave. –– directly across the street from Melanzana’s current location –– to store fabric and equipment, and allow staff breathing room as demand grows for Melanzana products.

Unofficially dubbed “The Lab,” Melanzana’s added space will house large spools of fabric that were previously stored in shipping containers behind Melanzana’s headquarters, freeing up parking for the company’s 50 or so employees. To improve product quality, The Lab will also soon have a machine made in Sweden that detects weaknesses in fabric before the material is cut and assembled.

“This is a step forward in efficiency for us,” said Howard, who added that although demand is at an all-time high, the intention of expanding is not to increase production, but rather to streamline the process.

To cope with demand, Melanzana is now requiring shoppers to make an appointment to buy products. Before this policy, Howard said there was a line outisde Melanzana’s doors almost every morning, and that the company was selling out of apparel nearly every day. On particularly busy days, customers were grabbing at hoodies before staff could even hang them on display racks.

“There was no sign of that slowing down,” said Howard.

Customers are now required to make appointments in person and wait two or three days before returning to purchase products. Shoppers are allowed one appointment per person this summer to buy no more than two pieces. Since appointments began a few weeks ago, Howard said product selection and the general shopping experience at Melanzana have improved.

In addition to operational changes, Melanzana is also developing new types of clothing. Starting later this summer, the company is replacing its Micro Grid Hoodie with a second version of the popular product made with one hundred percent recycled material, a wider grid to decrease weight and new color patterns. This fall, a new line of tagless merino wool base layers will also be introduced.

“We are really working to get more into completely recycled fabric,” said Howard, who added that the sustainability effort will eventually phase into the remainder of Melanzana’s product line.

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