For some reason it’s hard to fathom a flying disc-driven (dare we say Frisbee?) store lasting 42 years, even so close to a college campus. But that’s why a visit to The Wright Life isn’t just a visit to a sporting store dedicated to more “fun” sports, it’s a bit of the history of how those sports have evolved in Colorado, as well.
And as the motto of the store goes, “May the Most Fun Win.”
But it’s hard to say this all was planned out.
“I came to school here (Colorado State University) in 1976, and I was all through playing baseball,” said Wright on a laid-back September Saturday afternoon. Instead, he found a small but dedicated group of disc enthusiasts who seemed, well, to be having a lot of fun.
That group became a club – the still existing Grateful Disc Frisbee Club – and sponsored the first national Frisbee competition in Fort Collins in 1979.
By 1980, participation in disc sports found Wright traveling through California in a VW bus, competing, and winning, national freestyle events. But sooner or later making a living, and living in a VW bus, gets a little weary, so in 1981 he and his brother, Rob, started the sports shop, initially splitting the focus between discs and more “normal” sports, such as backcountry skiing and racquet sports such as tennis.
“What we found is we weren’t selling much in those normal sports,” Wright recalled. Soon the shop evolved into a split between discs and board sports, both snow and skate, and his girlfriend, now wife, Holly, had replaced his brother, presumably to pursue more “normal” means to earn a living.
Bill Wright continued to push disc sports, including ultimate, but also went on to push Frisbee Golf, by first approaching CSU and then municipalities and schools across the state to build courses. Soon they moved up to ski resorts, and as Bill recalled, the crowning achievement: the 18-hole course on Aspen Mountain, which of course, required a trip up the lift.
“We laid it out so it was a pretty normal course on the front nine, fairly level on the top of this hill,” he said. “But the back nine goes up and down the ski trails, so you have some enormous throws down the hill. Of course, you have to come back up.”
From the beginning, the company was distributing disc products around the country. Online sales and distribution continue to account for more than half its revenue.
But Wright also pushed the board sports hard, as well. In the early 1980s he brought some top national skateboarders to town for demonstrations, turning Walnut Street into a half-pipe and assorted other board tricks, such as handrails. This predated the establishment of Old Town Square by a few years.
The couple has owned the building for most of the life of the business, so they’ve seen plenty of ups and downs, including a few recessions and COVID, Holly Wright said. But their luck and the consumers’ love of fun has seemed to hold out.
“Right before COVID we decided to remodel the building to put another business on the bigger storefront (on Linden Street),” Bill Wright said. “That was good timing.”