THE BALLAD OF A SELF-MADE MAN
Tony Colarsardo: 1950-2019
To call Tony Colasardo a pillar of the Mammoth community would be an understatement. He was more of a steel column.
And now he is gone.
Colasardo. who owned Footloose Sports in Mammoth for four decades, died on the Sunday before Christmas as he was awaiting a heart transplant. He was 69 years old.
Colasardo moved to Mammoth in 1980 and essentially built Footloose Sports from ground zero with his wife Andrea and partner Corty Lawrence.
“I couldn’t have done what they did,” says Silver Chesak, who bought the business with partner Zach Yates in 2017. “Take something from zero, build it up, the networking, the competition, the survival … They [Andrea and Tony] worked their butts off.”
As longtime friend and family attorney Rick Wood added, “If we had an 11 a.m. appointment, he’d never arrive until 11:15. There was always one last customer on the floor that held him up.”
But more on these 11:15 meetings later.
Colasardo was a throwback to a bygone era, where the line between friendship and competitor was wonderfully blurry. Some of his best friends were owners of rival ski shops.
As Jon Eisert, who owned the Ski Surgeon for 36 years, said, “We were business adversaries … and he kicked my ass every year.”
Sheet: So you were the Washington Generals to his Harlem Globetrotters?
Eisert (chuckling): Yeah.
“They were the best friends and travel partners we ever had,” said Eisert of Andrea and Tony, “And once we moved away, we always stayed with them when we returned to visit. There was never a question. And Andrea would always arrange a party (so that old friends could all convene in one place). That’s who they are.”
Tony was born in Los Angeles to Phyllis and Michael Colasardo in 1950. He was one of three children (he has two sisters – Theresa and Elena).
Tony’s father died when he was nine years old.
Overnight, he became, as his mother called him, “the man of the house.”
He had paper routes and various jobs, bought his own clothes, put himself through college. Watched his mother work multiple jobs and adopted and applied her strength and commitment to his own family.
As Andrea says, “There was plenty of fun and laughter in our house, and above all, family came first. He couldn’t have been more proud of either of our children and absolutely adored his grandchildren and being ‘Poppa.’”
Both his children have embraced his example.
From Daniella: I am my father’s daughter … I am so honored to carry every piece of him with me in my marriage, my family and my work. There is no better role model in my life.
From Michael: His otherworldly love and devotion to my mom is a cornerstone I’ve implemented in my own marriage. Watching them work, live and play together showed me that your partner in life needs to be your best friend first, and lover second.
Andrea and Tony met in a youth hostel bar in Davos, Switzerland on Valentine’s Day, 1978. Tony had moved to Europe after college and had a job in Davos with Heierling Boots – a company that has been around for so long that Corty Lawrence joked, “They were probably cobbling shoes for Hannibal.”
Tony, who was the DJ at the bar once a week, found time to buy Andrea a coca cola that night. “It may not sound like a lot,” says Andrea, “But because coca cola was imported it was the most expensive drink to buy back then so I kind of knew he was serious.”
The couple was married by a justice of the peace on December 5, 1980.
As Corty Lawrence recalled, when the couple returned stateside, Mammoth wasn’t the Colasardos first stop in their Datsun pickup truck laden with their belongings. They first checked out Durango, Colorado and were on their way to Tahoe when they stopped into Mammoth to see Sven Coomer.
Tony had previously met Sven in Switzerland. Sven was a bit of a mad, brilliant ski-boot scientist. He had been a designer at Nordica Ski Boots in the mid-1970s and then left Nordica to open Footloose Sports Shop in Mammoth in 1978.
He was working out of a 400-square foot shop on Center Street and working on what became Superfeet orthotics.
The Colasardos never made it to Tahoe. Tony threw in with Sven, and as Corty says, “Tony had the business mind to monetize what Sven was doing.”
When they moved the shop to the corner of Canyon and Minaret in 1981, Tony’s back office was the size of a water heater closet.
And when the Colasardo kids were young, daycare was … Footloose Sports. “They’d be running around in diapers at the store,” said Joe Joerger of Kittredge Sports.
Joerger served with Tony on Mammoth’s Parks and Recreation Commission. One of a host of community boards and non-profits which Colasardo served on over the years. As son Michael said, “He didn’t just care about things that affected his family and his business. He didn’t just want the best for me. He wanted the best for the entire town.”
That bike path up to the Lakes Basin? Rick Wood said the genesis of that came out of a Parks and Rec discussion during Tony’s tenure.
Footloose Sports in its time at Canyon and Minaret was a “mosh pit,” according to Wood. It was Times Square at rush hour. It was the place to be.
And Corty Lawrence was right in the middle of it.
“When we were building the business, we were in there 10, 12, 14 hours a day. You just went in and whatever happened, happened. We were building momentum, building relationships.”
But in the late 1980s, Corty started looking around. He wanted his own gig. Maybe his own shop.
Word got back to Tony.
“You’re not going anywhere,” he told Corty.
Sheet: How did he say it? Was he the kind of person who could impose his will?
Corty: No. It wasn’t a forceful ‘you’re not going anywhere.’ It was more of a ‘Hang tight and let me figure this out’
And that’s when Footloose incorporated and that’s when Tony, Andrea, Corty, Sven Coomer and Kathy Coomer became equal partners.
A few years later, Tony, Andrea and Corty bought out the Coomers.
And then, in the late ‘90s, there was an even bigger challenge.
Land was being aggregated in the North Village to create the Village at Mammoth. Footloose had a lease with a few more years to run. And the landlord wanted to see the Colasardos have a soft landing. But there was pressure to figure out a solution. And a tough customer, the future CEO of Alterra Resorts, sitting across the table.
Mammoth Mountain had the building at the corner of Main and Old Mammoth at the entrance to town. Its vision was to use the building as the resort’s welcome center.
Tony suggested that maybe a fair deal on the building would be enough to pry him out of the North Village.
It was a suggestion fraught with risk. “We were all scared shitless,” said Corty Lawrence. It required the partners to put up every asset they had as collateral – including their houses.
Rick Wood described it as the pinnacle of Tony’s career. “He was brilliant in his negotiation, even as he privately had his doubts. It was a moment of great opportunity and great risk. And he showed his chops … “
“I always thought he was pretty much a genius when it came to business,” observed Corty, “And I agree. It was his finest moment.”
They closed the deal, bought a bottle of Dom, and the four of them, Andrea, Tony, Corty and his wife Mary, stood in this vast space that could almost fit a hockey rink, and they looked at each other and said, “Are we really ready for this?”
To circle back a bit to where we started.
When The Sheet asked Silver Chesak “What did Tony teach you about business?” Silver replied automatically, immediately, “What didn’t he teach me?”
“Tony was a great business person … but it wasn’t business in a strict sense. It was friendship spilling and morphing into business. He made people feel great, whether they were buying from him or selling to him.”
Silver offered this example. Say there’s a salesman in the store selling boots. And Tony says fine, I’ll take ten pair. And the salesman looks a little crestfallen, because he wanted to make a bigger sale. So Tony says, geez, you know, if it’ll make you look better to your boss, okay, I’ll take 15. And the guy is grateful and maybe he gives Tony a little better price for doing 15 instead of 10, and he leaves happy. And you watch the thing and you wonder whether Tony had it in his mind to buy 15 the whole time.
“He was an everybody can win guy,” said Silver.
“We [Kittredge and Footloose] had account at each other’s stores. It would be years between reconciliation of accounts, and sometimes, we wouldn’t even reconcile it. We’d just call it good.” -Tom Cage
“He was so ethical. So damn fair. It’s amazing to be in business for forty years and not be subject to any litigation.”
Oh, and about those 11:15 meetings. “He scheduled those meetings knowing that they’d bleed into lunch,” laughed Wood. “So we’d walk downstairs from my office to the Good Life Cafe, and we’d continue our conversation – off the clock, of course!”
It was their running joke. Part of their lasting friendship.
The final words are Andrea’s.
“Tony and I recently talked about life and what if … his answer was always the same – if something happened to me tomorrow – I have no regrets. I have been blessed with a wonderful wife, two fantastic children who are happily married with adorable grandchildren, a community of close friends and a lifetime of experiences. I got to travel, be part of a successful business that is still operating and been lucky to live in a place whoever everyone wants to vacation. I have not missed out on anything.
Although in truth my last words to him were actually helping him set up the wi-fi so he could watch one of his favorite movies – Lethal Weapon 2 – on his iPad. When I left for the day I said, ‘Love you’ and he said, with his smile and a kiss, ‘I love you more.’
We are choosing to live our lives as he taught us – never to have regrets – always looking in a forward direction and beyond.”
A celebration of life will be held in May.
Tony Colasardo is survived by his wife Andrea, daughter Daniella (Gardner), son-in-law Ryan Gardner and grandsons Owen and Graham; son Michael, daughter-in-law Samantha and grandson Jameson; sister Elena Hedlund, her husband David and children Jody and Mats; sister Theresa Grijalva, her husband David, Brandi Sowell, Nicole Grijalva, Kaylee and Tanner.