By Tibby Plasse // Photography by Kristin Halsey
The businesses that run along Lupine Lane at the north end of Victor have more than UPS drivers in common. This light industrial area is the base camp for independently owned, local businesses with nationally recognized products.
Hondo Miller bought High Range Designs in 2002. (The business was the first building built in the Teton Town Center Industrial Park in 1998.) Miller recalls what it was like just before Valley Lumber opened in 2003.
“I remember driving to Driggs a lot wishing there was a hardware store in Victor,” he says with a laugh. “When we moved [to the valley] in 2002, the Victor sign said 887 people.”
High Range Designs is a printing company that focuses predominantly on resort-inspired t-shirts, as the founder of the company was Lee Gardner, the owner of Lee’s Tees in Jackson. Miller still makes shirts for Lee’s and for Shirt Off My Back, while also supplying resort destinations around the country.
The t-shirt company has since been joined by Miller’s spin-off company Laid-Back USA, a lifestyle apparel brand licensed by Ford and Chevy. On any given day, you may drive by the shop and notice a 1969 Camaro or a 1949 Woodie Wagon outside. The company’s annual car show at the Victor City Park usually happens in the second half of July and is put on by the local Laid-Back Car Club.
When Miller first bought the business, he was the only guy with an actual “shop” in this makers district, but a little more than a decade later, brands like Kate’s Real Food, Sego Skis, and Alpine Air Coffee Roasting have shipped pallets from different buildings around the hood (including from neighboring subdivisions, like the Sage Hen, where seemingly one out of every third person in Victor has taken up residence at one point in time).
These days the district is home to Give’r Gloves, Highpoint Cider, Franco Snowshapes, Laid-Back USA, New West KnifeWorks, photographer Andrew Weller, and, of course, the sometimes glue behind the projects, Valley Lumber.
“Our options were Alpine and Teton Valley,” says Alex Perez of Highpoint Cider. “We were complaining loudly about needing space and weren’t quite ready to leave the Tetons.” He and his brother opened the Highpoint Taproom to showcase their three flagship fermentations in the summer of 2021.
Mikey Franco experiments with burning gunpowder to make designs on his boards.
“We met Mikey [Franco], and he mentioned that he was going in on a project on [the Idaho] side of the pass, which ended up being the building that we’re in right now. And so, it was all kind of fortuitous,” recalls Perez.
New West KnifeWorks moved over the hill in 2019—during the winter, as Corey McGrath, the operations manager, remembers it. Highpoint and Franco Snowshapes followed suit, relocating to the Victor neighborhood at about the same time as each other, beginning their build-out processes in 2021.
“There’s a lot of good collaboration and tool borrowing or, ‘Oh, this person has expertise in that. Let’s pop over there and see if they have an idea,’” says McGrath. “There’s a lot of sharing of ideas, especially between who’s there now.”
New West KnifeWork’s Victor location includes a retail shop, as well as the only spot to get knives sharpened and pick up factory seconds from the artisan utensil company.
Give’r Gloves employs anywhere from five to twenty people, depending on the season. High Range and Laid-Back have forty-five year-round employees and twelve sales reps. Highpoint is up to eight people, and New West has around thirty-five employees at their Victor location.
“We have heard people call it the ‘Makers District,’ and it would be cool if that were a thing because there is a great synergy between all the businesses here,” says McGrath.
New West KnifeWorks, owned by Corey and Jess Milligan, used to operate out of a storage unit on Gregory Lane in Jackson before moving production across the state line.
“As is the story with a lot of folks…running out of space or kind of feeling like there’s no way to continue onward…What’s cool here is the amount of energy and the friendly neighborhood,” says Bubba Albrecht owner of Give’r Gloves, who recently annexed his company into the Idaho industrial park.
Give’r produces a lot of custom products, like shirts and gloves, for the neighboring businesses.
“It’s more like a collaborative village kind of mentality, where we help each other out,” he says. “And, you definitely know you have each other to lean on when trying to solve the challenges of growing a small business.”
Albrecht bought the former Wildwood Room’s eight thousand square-foot event space at the beginning of 2022 from Alice and Bill Boney.
Space is ultimately what unifies the businesses around this Victor intersection—everyone needed more of it: for their production lines, for receiving deliveries, and for having bays to send out orders (all needs not well met by most Main Street locations).
“We needed something a little bit more industrial, and it was great having a blank slate of a new build,” says Perez. “We could spec in floor drains, electrical, and smaller stuff from the get-go, but it’s been cool seeing other businesses pop up over here, too.”
Highpoint has doubled its footprint since moving in and is on track to produce two thousand barrels of cider in 2023.
Miller says the key to making a business work in the Tetons is not found in the business plan, but rather in the lifestyle that the work helps manifest.
“If you’re willing to build your business based on quality of life, rather than making money, then you figure out how to make it work,” he says. “We just feel super thankful to be living in Victor and producing a product here that ships all over the country—a lot of these businesses are building their program to be that same thing.”
And Teton Valley residents certainly seem grateful too, that they can ride, sip, cut, and wear products that are 100 percent Teton-made.