From the mountains of Colorado to the beaches of California, and Portlands in Maine and Oregon, to main streets across the country, there’s a Toad just about everywhere these days. But like most great things, it all started with humble beginnings: just one woman in a garage in Telluride, CO making handmade toque hats for her friends. It was 1991 and fleece hats were all the rage – right up there with REM singles and two-way pagers.
By 1995 the first Horny Toad store opens in downtown Telluride, expanding the line to include fleece vests and jackets. While things are heating up in Telluride, we move our headquarters to Chicago where three Toads operate the business out of the living room.
One of our proudest moments comes in 1997 when we partner with Search, Inc. to co-found the Planet Access Company, a logistics warehouse that provides career opportunities for adults with developmental disabilities.
We kick things off with the Camping Pillow Program: Toad provides fleece scraps from production and Search clients sew the scraps into camping pillowcases to be shipped to outdoor stores across the country. All proceeds from the pillowcases go back to PAC to offer more career development opportunities and send crew members on much deserved vacations to the great outdoors.
By 1998, 100% of our inventory is being processed by the Planet Access Company. Today, PAC employs up to 70 adults with disabilities each year in paid, train-to-work opportunities. In 2000, Search for Adventure, a sister-program to PAC, officially gets off the ground. Proceeds from PAC and grants from Toad provide first-time outdoor adventure experiences for people with developmental disabilities. Since then, we’ve provided more than 80 trips to places like the Appalachian Trail, the Bahamas, New York City and annual trips to Toad&Co Headquarters in Santa Barbara, CA. Meeting the PAC crew and hearing their stories is always one of the highlights of our year.
The first decade of the 2000’s goes by in a flash as we open storefronts in Freeport, ME and the Lizard Lounge in Portland, OR; partner with visionary organizations like Telluride Mountainfilm Festival, the Conservation Alliance and the Outdoor Industry Association; move our headquarters to Southern California; and launch (arguably) the softest material of all time, Cashmoore®.
In 2010, Toad is named one of Outside Magazine’s best places to work. With an office full of environmental evangelists and unashamed dog lovers, the Toads continue to practice what we preach: We participate in cleaning up public lands, volunteer with local disability awareness groups, and host our annual Grilled Cheese Smackdown in our backyard (now in its 5th year of cheesy, delicious competition). As a company, we become proud 1% for the Planet members, and purchase Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) for all of our Toad&Co locations. RECs offset our energy use by supporting the development of emission-free renewable energy and carbon reduction projects.
In 2015 we changed our name from Horny Toad to Toad&Co to better reflect our commitment to creating global change through meaningful partnerships. From our manufacturers to our retailers, we’ve committed to finding partners who work toward social and environmental progress. In the last 20 years, together we have helped to fund 120 environmental protection organizations, employed roughly 400 adults with disabilities, and sent 500 people on once-in-a-lifetime trips to the great outdoors. And we’re just getting started.