You wouldn’t know if you passed the nondescript little shop near the post office here in Estes Park, but there is a treasure trove of mountain life and outdoor sports on Komito Boots’ doorstep. This local boot repair shop is the culmination of a lifelong passion for local legend Steve Komito.
There is so much more to Komito’s history than mending and fitting high-end hiking boots. Born in Fort Wayne, Indiana, in 1941, Komito describes himself as a chubby little teenager who has never really found his place in his friends’ traditional sports. By the summer before his senior year of high school, he was admitted to a trip to Yellow Stone and Grand Teton National Park. Part of this trip included learning basic rock climbing with the famous Exum school, after which they climbed the Grand Teton. Suddenly Komito had an active adventure sport that he could actually participate in and do pretty well. The passion he found for climbing on this trip would help steer it for the rest of his life.
He lived in the Indiana apartments and had little chance of indulging in his newfound love of mountaineering. It turned out that Komito met a distant relative at a family reunion who happened to be living in a town in Colorado called Boulder. He mentioned that there is a pretty good university there with a lot of climbers and that Komito could really enjoy it there. After urging his parents to send him to Colorado University, he lived in Boulder.
“I really loved it there,” he said. “It was the first time I developed my own self-esteem because I had a sport I could do and friends who really accepted me.”
Komito began making connections with many local climbers, including legendary climber Layton Kor. He began to learn more about climbing and the evolving equipment they used. Komito had started engineering at Colorado University. But it was a short-lived endeavor, and he dropped out shortly after his freshman year of school and began nurturing his climbing habit by working several jobs in the emerging outdoor sports industry – including working for companies that grew to become some of the biggest names in the industry developed the industry, including North Face, REI and Eastern Mountain Sports.
Komito found its niche in this industry, repairing and assembling high-end boots. After taking a few shoe repair courses, he opened his first shoe repair shop in Boulder in 1969. In 1971 he soon moved his business to Estes Park and opened Komito Boots. In an interview with the Estes Park Museum, he describes his early days in Estes Park as “I was Peter Pan and this was the land of lost boys and some lost girls.” He found a location for his business in the old Rocky Mountain headquarters National Park. He moved the business to its current location at 235 W Riverside Dr. Today, Komito is considered a master of boot repairs and says he really doesn’t have to advertise his business a lot, as most of it comes by mail and word from mouth. Business is going well to this day.
He just celebrated his 80th birthday last weekend and still goes to the mountains of Estes Park every Sunday. When asked if he ever wants to retire, he says, “I don’t know what else I would do. This has given me such an identity and source of pride. “