WATERVILLE — Standing directly across the street from the bustling construction site where Colby College is building a massive new dormitory and student center, the former Hains building has been an eyesore in the downtown area, having been vacant for years. And while it might not be bustling itself just yet, on the inside, movement is happening.

The top floor of the building at 173 Main St. is an expansive area, with but a few walled rooms amid a lot of open space. The building, owned by Colby, is providing a laboratory for student innovation, and a fledgling student-run company is doing just that — innovating.

Theo Satloff, a junior at the college, is one of three students who founded a company called EuroPiste, which Satloff described as a marketplace where winter sport professionals can buy discounted gear. Funded in part by DavisConnects — a college initiative that provides funding and support for every student to spend time abroad, have access to internships and research opportunities, and become entrepreneurs — EuroPiste is the first such student tenant in the former Hains building. Satloff said more student ventures will come to the space, and EuroPiste will serve as something like a mentor when others do arrive.

“It’s nice to learn from fellow students,” he said, walking around the top floor.

Satloff came up with the idea for the company just over a year ago with fellow students Carl-Philip Majgaard and Walker Griggs. All active skiers, they saw an inefficiency in the market that spawned the idea. Winter sports professionals, such as ski instructors, mountain rescuers and others, are often given access to discounts on high-end gear, he said. However, a professional looking to buy gear has to go to each individual brand. With EuroPiste, Satloff said, buyers now can go to one place to find gear from a variety of brands with a universal checkout.

“We saw an opportunity to make it better,” Satloff said.

Satloff and Majgaard said they have a soft launch planned for sometime in July, when some certified professionals will be able to access deals from a handful of vendors. They plan to add more vendors by the end of the year.

The service won’t be available to the public. It will be available only to professionals who are certified by skiing organizations. Satloff said brands want to do this. When a professional, such as an instructor, uses a particular brand, it promotes the brand to others.

“It’s become this community of brands and pros that really help shape the company we are now,” Satloff said.

The half dozen employees with EuroPiste are making good use of the space. They work shoeless to keep the area clean, and they have free rein over the space. With few white boards to make notes on, they use the windows in an office.

Satloff and Majgaard said they hope to see the business continue to grow in the coming years, not just for Colby but for the Waterville area as well. Eventually, they want to be able to hire locals to staff the company.

Right now, none of the employees at EuroPiste are paid. They are all full-time students who spend up to 12 hours a day in the Hains building, making the business tick.

“The goal is to grow, grow, grow,” Majgaard said.

The trio of Satloff, Majgaard and Griggs were recently in Munich for a product fair. While there, they had nearly 50 meetings with vendors, Satloff said.

Much of their market is in Europe, Majgaard said, and they will help foster connections between vendors and consumers with better discounts and lower prices. Targeting Europe, they will help overseas companies brand themselves better in the United States. Likewise, the service will benefit European professionals seeking American gear.

“It’s a win-win-win,” Majgaard said.

EuroPiste is an incubator business in the Hains building, a sign of things to come from future Colby students. The founders and employees of EuroPiste plan to be around not just to grow their company, but to serve as a resource for those future students.

“We hope to build a good sense of community,” Satloff said, and not just be “isolated on the hill.”

“It’s very exciting to be the inaugural part of that.”

Colin Ellis — 861-9253

[email protected]

Twitter: @colinoellis

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.