Hike on the wild side with Otherside Gear & Coffee Shop

Otherside owner Zac Heiliger caters to shoppers looking for affordable outdoors gear. Otherside also offers essentials for thru-hikers of the Continental Divide Trail, which runs through Grand Lake.
Meg Soyars/Sky-Hi News

Outdoors enthusiasts know how expensive gear can be, especially if they’re like Grand County couple Zac and Michelle Heiliger, and participate in all the activities the High Country has to offer.

“We’re hikers, climbers and bikers,” said Zac Heiliger. “We do all sorts of outdoorsy stuff, that’s why we moved here.”

After arriving to the area in April, Zac and Michelle wasted no time sharing their enthusiasm of outdoor sports with like-minded people. The couple opened Otherside Gear & Coffee Shop in July.

“We jumped headfirst into the pool,” Zac Heiliger said. “This is our first full business.”

Affordable gear in Grand Lake

The couple saw a niche for offering affordable, gently used gear for all seasons in Grand Lake. The shop is not far from the boardwalk, with floor-to-ceiling windows that let in sunlight and views of the hills surrounding the lake. Vintage skis and longboards, old Coleman campstoves and other trinkets from years past decorate the shop. 

“We’ve got a little bit of everything — it’s all hiking, camping, biking, winter gear … for adults and kids,” said Zac Heiliger. “Since things are secondhand, we try to keep things as reasonably priced as possible, at least more than 50% off.”

He added this makes Otherside a great alternative to traditional outdoors stores — “You look at something on the sale rack there, and it’s still $250,” he said.

Since the store’s inventory is mostly donation-based, customers can find something new every week. They also purchase new merchandise from different marketplaces. Items include bikes, downhill skis, Nordic skis, ski and snowboard boots, hiking and winter boots, ice skates, clothes, camping gear and more.

The shop accepts all types of donations; anything that they can’t sell, or doesn’t fit with the theme of the shop, goes into a free community box that people are welcome to take from. Items include fishing nets, shoes, jackets and helmets, which are all up for grabs.

Ambassadors for the Continental Divide Trail

Otherside’s most unique contribution to the outdoor community is that they are “thru-hiker friendly,” explained Zac Heiliger. 

Grand Lake is a designated Continental Divide Trail Gateway Community, meaning the town provides resources for hikers and acts as a steward of the trail. The trail stretches from Canada to Mexico along the Continental Divide; Grand Lake marks a welcome stop for hikers to rest and refuel.

“The trail literally goes right down the boardwalk,” said Zac Heiliger.

The Continental Divide Trail continues to wind through Rocky Mountain National Park, making Otherside a prime location to serve hikers. The shop’s logo is actually based off the Continental Divide Trail logo.

“We support and advocate for the trail and bring awareness to it,” Zac Heiliger said of the couple’s mission as trail ambassadors. Although the Heiligers haven’t hiked the entire 3,100-mile trail, they’ve hiked many sections of it.  

In May, they’ll put out a resupply box which will include essentials like bear canisters, fuel canisters and snacks. The resupply box will be donation-based, so there could be any number and variety of items.

Otherside will also “engage the community and get groups together to enjoy the trails … we’ll organize some hikes or bike rides in the spring,” Zac Heiliger said.

Zac Heiliger is also hoping to do some landscaping in the backyard behind the shop so that hikers can camp there before they head on to Rocky Mountain National Park.

Once their coffee bar is fully open, Otherside is also planning to offer hikers drinks and grab-and-go meals, including burritos.

Zac Heiliger added that hikers can also become part of the Continental Divide Trail Coalition, a nonprofit that promotes the trail and creates community engagement.

The little shop boasts big deals on gear and clothing.
Zac Heiliger/Courtesy Photo

Coffee on the trail

Weary hikers passing through, as well as dedicated shoppers, may need a caffeine fix. Otherside currently offers free French presses to anyone who stops by. Zac Heiliger said in the near future, they’re planning to plumb the bar so they can install an espresso machine to offer cappuccinos, mochas and more.

A shop for all seasons

Since Otherside offers both summer and winter gear, the shop is open through most of the year. The Heiligers are planning to take a break in January or February. For now they are staying fairly busy, waiting for the holiday rush, serving up hot coffee and keeping their solo stove burning for customers to stay warm as they shop for deals.

Otherside Gear & Coffee Shop is located at 625 Grand Ave. It’s open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Fridays to Sundays.

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