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Business profile: The Green Darner



By Emily Wolfe Explore Big Sky Managing Editor

BOZEMAN – On a -29-degree day in February, Colleen Tretter was patching a lightweight nylon ski jacket in her tiny shop on North Bozeman Ave. With only a space heater for warmth, the temperature inside hovered around 10 degrees.

Bozeman’s go-to technical repair seamstress, Tretter was perfectly comfortable, working away in a scarf, a headband, an insulated one-piece jump suit with a down jacket and wool pants underneath, and Sorel boots.

Originally from East Lyme, Connecticut, Tretter, 43, grew up skiing weekends at Pico Peak in Vermont, which she says prepared her for the cold Montana winters. After studying Elizabethan literature at Keene State College in New Hampshire, she followed her mother to Taos, N.M.

“I did a lot of sewing in Taos, and fishing,” she says, referring to the time in her life when she fly fished 100 days a year and skied 80 as “pre-tirement.”

Tretter’s mother taught her to sew when she was 6, Tretter says. “I liked putting things together and fixing things. It always was the fixing.”

After 12 years in Taos, she spent a year in Boulder, Colo. doing technical repair for Spyder, and then in 2007 headed further north.

“I moved to Bozeman to open the business,” Tretter said. “I can’t say I really planned it out to a T, because I’m not inclined to do that, but I knew that there wasn’t anybody in Bozeman doing what I do or what I wanted to do.”

Today, ski jackets, pants, ski gear, tents, sleeping bags, tents, leather jackets, Carhartt overalls and dresses are all neatly hung and stacked in Tretter’s shop. She’ll fix backpacks for ski patrollers and wildland firefighters; repair the lining on a vintage fur coat; and customize hunting equipment, among other tricky jobs most seamstresses wouldn’t touch.

“I really like doing work for people who work in their clothing – people who are outside, who are demanding of their [gear],” Tretter says. (She also made the carrot suit worn by the Bozeman Co-op mascot at summer Farmers Markets, but that’s another story.)

When it comes down to it, Tretter says her real specialty is zippers. “Pretty much zippers on almost any item – tent zippers, pack zippers, jacket zippers, sleeping bag zippers.”

Big Sky Resort and Bridger Bowl have both hired her to repair and update employee uniforms; Northern Lights, ProLite Gear and Timber Trails all hand out her card; and Simms, REI and the local Eddie Bauer store use her for in-house warranties, Tretter said.

“She’s really good at resurrecting old gear,” said Nick Kruger, Simms Customer Care Center Supervisor.

Krueger says Tretter’s prices are reasonable, and the quality of her work is second to none.

“She always comes in at or below her bid, and we trust her judgment when it comes to whether or not something can be done… If the Green Darner can’t fix it, good luck finding someone who can.”

The Green Darner takes repairs by appointment on Turnover time is three weeks.

What’s with the name?

“Being a fisherman, I love bugs,” Tretter says. “The green darner is a very fast-flying, aggressive dragonfly that has a darning needle-shaped body.” Plus, darning is a synonym for sewing, and Tretter says, the word “green” refers to the fact that she keeps things from being thrown in the landfill.

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