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Durango’s Life is Good outlet to close doors

DAVID BERGELAND/Durango Herald

Down to Earth, retailer for “Life is Good” clothing and products on Main Avenue, is shutting its doors later this month or in early September. Shelves are growing sparse inside as bargain shoppers claim discounted merchandise. Owners Trey and Lori Bennett also will sell store fixtures and furniture, some of which is made of reclaimed barn wood.

By Luke Groskopf Herald staff writer

For almost four years, downtown shoppers and passers-by at 1006 Main Avenue have been greeted by the ever-smiling face of Jake, the jovial, beret-donning stick figure mascot of Life is Good, a Boston-based company that specializes in “optimistic apparel and accessories.” But Jake’s beaming grin won’t be around in Durango much longer.

Trey and Lori Bennett, owners of Life is Good-licensed retailer Down to Earth, are closing shop later this month or in early September, depending on when their stock of merchandise sells out. The couple already has returned to Florida to open a handful of Papa Murphy’s take-and-bake pizzerias.

“Our background is in food. We operated Subway franchises in southwest Florida for twenty years,” Trey Bennett said. “We enjoyed running away to the mountains for five years, but now we’re getting back to what we know.”

The Bennetts first stumbled upon Durango in 2006 as part of an extended road trip across the United States. Looking for a change of scenery, they traversed the country – while homeschooling their two children – to assess pros and cons of potential new homes, mostly small towns in the West.

“Durango quickly rose to the top of the list,” said Bennett.

After evaluating the business climate and deciding Durango was already saturated with restaurants, the Bennetts branched into a new sector and opened their store in November 2008. Life is Good seemed an ideal fit, since its image meshes with the happy-go-lucky mindset of many locals and visiting tourists.

“Our customers came in and walked out with a smile. The (Life is Good) product is wonderful. It wears well, lasts a long time and has a positive message that is representative of Durango,” he said. “All the things Jake likes to do – hike, camp, bike, eat – Durangoans like to do. The shirt designs reflect that lifestyle.”

Bennett said the decision to close Down to Earth wasn’t motivated by declining sales: “The store always paid the bills and provided for us. All together we sold close to $1 million worth of merchandise in three-and-a-half years.”

Down to Earth was a “Genuine Neighborhood Shoppe,” a distinction given by corporate headquarters to independently-owned retailers that (almost) exclusively sell Life is Good wares: T-shirts, hats, mugs, stickers and myriad other cheerful goods.

“We could sell local products that were complementary, like O’Hara’s jelly, Zuberfizz, candles, soap and jewelry. But no other clothing items,” Bennett said.

According to the company website, there are 72 such stores in the United States, and no others in Colorado.

The Bennetts put Down to Earth up for sale earlier this summer, and despite interest from several parties, no buyers stepped forward. So instead, they’ve discounted most remaining items by 50 percent to clear out inventory and will terminate the lease agreement at the end of September.

lgroskopf@durangoherald.com

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