E23: Palisade Pedicab Rises From the Ashes, with Mark Williams

Last September, a fire broke out at Mark Williams’ and Sarah Schaeffer’s place when they weren’t home. Their garage, filled with all the implements of Mark’s pedicab business, quickly burnt to the ground, while their house and neighboring structures were damaged. Luckily, trucks from every fire department around the Grand Valley quickly arrived to extinguish the flames before they spread further, but the impact to Mark’s business, Palisade Pedicab, was devastating.

What followed was an incredible outpouring of support from the Palisade community that was wonderful to witness. On today’s Postcard from Palisade, Mark opens up about the fire, his plans for the future of Palisade Pedicab, the unexpected benefits that have come out of this difficult experience, and he shares a heartfelt thank you to the community for their support and encouragement.

To book a pedicab tour: visit ⁠palisadepedicab.com⁠ or call 970-875-7344.

Music by Romarecord1973 from Pixabay.  


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Welcome to Postcards From Palisade, where we hear from the people who are shaping our slice of western Colorado. I’m Lisa McNamara.

Last September, a fire broke out at Mark Williams’ and Sarah Schaeffer’s place when they weren’t home. Their garage, filled with all the implements of Mark’s pedicab business, quickly burnt to the ground, while their house and neighboring structures were damaged. Luckily, trucks from every fire department around the Grand Valley quickly arrived to extinguish the flames before they spread further, but the impact to Mark’s business, Palisade Pedicab, was devastating.

What followed was an incredible outpouring of support from the Palisade community that was wonderful to witness. On today’s Postcard from Palisade, Mark opens up about the fire, his plans for the future of Palisade Pedicab, the unexpected benefits that have come out of this difficult experience, and he shares a heartfelt thank you to the community for their support and encouragement.

LM: We originally heard from Mark in May of last year, during lighter times. Back then, Mark explained what a pedicab is:

LM: How would you describe a pedicab to somebody who doesn’t know what it is?

MW: Yeah, it’s kinda hard, because pedicab is a really bad word for pedicabs, but I usually say it’s either a rickshaw or a bike taxi, that sort of thing, and then people know what it is.

LM: That was in episode 9, a fun interview that you should go back and listen to, if you haven’t already. Things got more serious that fall.

LM: Can you just say something?

MW: hello, this is Mark.

LM: I appreciate you coming and talking to me.

MW: Yeah, no problem

LM: I’ve been wanting to do this for a while, but I also didn’t want to kind of pressure you because I want to make sure you’re ready to talk about it.

MW: Well, are we recording right now?

LM: Yeah.

MW: Okay. Yeah, pretty close to that. It would have been too soon for sure, but feel like we’ve, moved through it pretty well and feel pretty confident about how things are going to go, so. Yeah, it’s a good time for sure.

LM: Good. Okay, so tell me what happened last September.

MW: oh for the actual fire. Yeah. I was walking my dog down in junction, and I got a picture sent to me of my house on fire. So then we got back to the car as soon as we could. that took probably 20 minutes. And then when we got to the car, we saw the smoke in the sky from junction. and then we got caught in traffic in junction. All that. It was just, man, terrible. and then by the time we got back, it was already put out. so, yeah, thankfully they got to it pretty quickly. And, yeah, it could have easily caused so much more damage, so we’re super, thankful that it didn’t. and then we went through the investigations and all that. And, yeah, it was linseed oil that caused it, which I had no idea that was a thing until that night. I was racking my brain for anything that could have caused it. and then I tell people that, and a lot of people don’t know that either. Just make sure everyone knows that.

LM: Right. It’s like a public service announcement for linseed oil. It can spontaneously combust. I had no idea.

MW: Yeah, if you clean it up with towels and then you bunch it up, I guess it creates heat when it evaporates and then it can combust later.

LM: that’s totally crazy. I can’t believe that I happened to be biking by right after it started. And that was the weirdest thing, to just be there and to be there before the fire trucks and to know you guys weren’t there and, just to watch it all go down. It was terrible.

MW: Yeah, well, apparently someone has drone footage, so I haven’t gotten that yet. looking forward to seeing that. but, yeah, you know, everyone jumped in to help out however they could. one of our neighbors jumped our fence and went inside to make sure there was no one inside. That was awesome. And then our next door neighbor stood there with a hose to save the fence despite orders from the fire department. That was great. yeah, but it could have been so much worse. Very easily, a week or two after we were kind of in shock, I guess, because, yeah, I had no idea. Fire is terrifying, which I guess you don’t really think about until you experience it. But, yeah, it’s terrifying. Absolutely terrifying. but we’ve learned a lot and, yeah, we’re making it through it. We’re going to be hopefully better off. At least maybe in a couple of years we’ll be better off than we were before. It’s going to take a little bit of time, but, yeah, I’m pretty confident about everything right now.

LM: Good.

MW: Yeah.

LM: So how many people assume, even after you tell them it was linseed oil, how many people just assume it was the ebike batteries?

MW: Pretty much everyone. I mean, I did, too, because that makes sense if you read news articles about batteries. But I’ve been so paranoid about that. Basically the whole time I’ve been using them, I buy the best quality. I make sure I’m doing it safely. So, usually the fires are caused by either just terrible quality batteries or people not taking care of them correctly. and we make sure we take care of that. So, thankful it wasn’t the batteries because that could have made it so much worse.

LM: So how long were you in shock after? When did it kind of sink in? What happened?

MW: It was at least a couple of weeks before I feel like I could think about it clearly. It’s crazy how that works. yeah, man, it’s really hard.

LM: right I mean, the crazy thing is, so you have to deal with what just happened. You have to deal with the fact that this terrible thing just happened. Then you immediately have to start working on things. Like, you immediately have to start working with insurance and filing all these claims and working with the fire department and reports. I can’t imagine that shift from like, oh, my God, this just happened to my business to I have all this work that I wasn’t expecting to do.

MW: Yeah. And I kind of learned that the hard way. I felt like I needed to get all that done ASAP, so I was really stressed about it. But, looking back, I really didn’t have to do it the day after. and I could have. The fire investigators were the first people that came by, and they took. Well, the city fire investigator took, like, two days, and then the insurance fire investigators took, like, three months, so they were taking their time. So once I realized that was happening, I realized I could kind of sit back and think about things without just acting. So that was nice. but if you’ve never been through something like that, which I haven’t, it’s just a kind of learning experience. yeah, it’s just hard overall. Yeah.

LM: And it’s great that you had insurance.

MW: Yeah, well, I had a separate commercial insurance on the structure, so that was great. and they were really easy to work with. It’s not been so much with the homeowners, but we’re working through it. and, yeah, it’s just kind of. A lot of things with insurance is just a waiting game, and you just have to be patient and trust that they’re going to do the right thing. Then you got to work with contractors, too. Learned a lot of lessons there. If anyone needs help finding contractors, I’ve gone through a lot and have some recommendations, for sure. Reach out.

LM: That is always so hard, because, again, that’s just trust. You have to trust somebody to come into your house and do what they say they’re going to do.

MW: Yeah. And I’ve learned the hard way, you can’t do that with anyone. Really. Got to watch it.

LM: Yeah. Because it didn’t just burn the garage, it also damaged your house, and luckily, it didn’t catch the house on fire, but there’s still damage to deal with.

MW: Basically that whole side of the house was damaged. had to redo everything. Basically. They’re redoing the roof right now, which is nice.

LM: Oh, nice.

MW: and then it damaged, our neighbor’s house a little bit, took out a fence, and then, surprisingly, it only broke the windows of the church right across the alley. I’m super thankful about that, because that was closer to the fire than my house. So we’re lucky that, lucky that it only affected us mostly and not too much anyone else, because. Yeah, I feel terrible about that.

LM: Yeah. Right. Yeah. No, it’s a good thing it wasn’t windy. I think it was just such a still day, and that was really helpful.

MW: Yeah, for sure.

LM: What was in the garage? What did you lose?

MW: We had…

LM: I don’t need, like, a complete inventory.

MW: Yeah. Well, through this, in that area, we lost five pedicabs overall. we weren’t using two of them at the time, so those were kind of out of commission for the moment, but I was planning on using them later. And then we lost all of our tools and batteries, chargers, spare parts. Yeah. And I realized, looking back, that the tools was one of the worst things to lose because I’ve been collecting them over ten years or so. So I had a tool for everything I needed, and now I have to start over. but at least I know what I need now, so I can not go through trial and error to figure out what I need.

LM: That’s a good way to look at. Well, I thought one of the coolest things afterwards was seeing how people came together and to support you guys. it was just amazing. Like, spoke and vine and vistas and vineyards put you guys up. there was a meal train, there’s a gofundme. there was, the fundraiser at the ordinary fellow that just completely surpassed our expectations of how many people would come out and what they would do. And then Vintner’s, it was like everybody was coming together and helping support you. And there’s so many messages, know we love you guys, like, you’re an important part of, like, we need you here. It was awesome to see. So what did that mean to you?

MW: It’s, hard to even put words on that, honestly, the messages, it took me over a week to go through all of them. We had so many, I thought we had support here. Before, I thought people liked us, but now it’s just good to know that we’re, accepted by the community and people want us here. and just living here in a community that supports their own, like that feels really good. For sure. yeah, I think I’ve said this a couple of times, but I thought Palisade was really awesome before, but now I know for sure it’s the only place I want to be.

LM: And I say it all the time, it’s such a great community, but then you actually see it in action and you see people come together.

MW: Yeah. People coming together and showing up, donating money and food. Amazing. I don’t know if I can put words on it, but, yeah. Thank you to everyone.

LM: So, looking to the future, looking ahead. You said that you think in a couple of years it’s going to be better than ever. what are you planning on? What are you planning on doing next?

MW: well, before it started, I was kind of on a plan to expand a lot, and we were going to get probably three or four new pedicabs this year. that’s just kind of been delayed a year or two, probably, but, we’ll be back to what we had before, by probably, April, hopefully mid April. So we’ll be able to handle wine tours and everything. but I’m really looking at expanding into more festivals and weddings and events like that. And I was trying to put the brakes on that a little bit, but it’s kind of expanding, in a way that I can’t really stop it now. So we kind of have to figure out how to fill that, for sure, which is great. It’s amazing. pretty much it.

LM: How long does it take to get a new pedicab?

MW: Well, depends who you buy it from. the big green ones we have that carry six people and they face each other. Those are called limo pedicabs. Those take about twelve weeks to build, and that’s a company in Denver. And then the smaller ones we have where they sit back to back. one of my friends in, San Diego builds that. He owns a company. he builds those. So we’ll have at least one of those, and we’ll have a couple more limos and. Yeah, it’s going to be great.

LM: Cool.

MW: Yeah.

LM: Sorry, I don’t want to just like, rapid fire questions at you.

MW: Keep going.

LM: do you want to take a pause? Right. So you did have two pedicabs parked outside, so you’ve been able to keep a little bit of business going in the meantime.

MW: Yeah, we were actually kind of busy in October, which was really great. And, yeah, it was kind of a mistake to leave them out there. I shouldn’t have done that, but I’m kind of thankful I did.

LM: Yeah. Good mistake.

MW: and that’s one of the reasons it could have been so much worse, because if we didn’t have any pedicabs for the winter, that would have been a lot of lost income that we couldn’t have recovered. And then also the time it takes to get new ones. We’re not going to have new ones until after bluegrass bash, basically. So, yeah, we have enough to carry, us through that, too.

LM: you’re kind of bare bones until you get new pedicabs, and then you’re going to be back up and running again.

MW: Yeah, we’re already getting lots of bookings for the summer, earlier than usual, so, all signs are pointing to where this is going to be a really good season. And, yeah, I’m getting hit up by festivals that I don’t even know about, so I’m really thankful for that. things are going really well.

LM: Good. And, of course, you employ other people, so it didn’t just impact you. It would have impacted everybody who works for you. So are people excited to get back in the pedicabs?

MW: Yeah, a lot of my riders are, calling, me now just to make sure things are good and everyone’s really excited. And I’m going to be hiring as well. Probably going to hire two to three more riders this year. So if anybody’s interested, call me, text me. I’ll probably start doing that. Seriously, probably mid march, so, yeah, let me know.

LM: so is there anything that you feel like, anything good that you feel like came out of this, that maybe you had wanted to change, but you were just kind of, like, in inertia and kind of doing things the same way? Did it kind of make you step back and look at how you were doing things and change anything?

MW: Oh, yeah. I’m, a lot more organized now. that was a huge problem, trying to stay on top of everything and looking back, I just had this feeling if I would have managed my time better, I might not have spilled the linseed oil, or I would have been more careful cleaning up that sort of thing. So taking that lesson, I guess, yeah, I’m treating it more like a business instead of a fun thing I do, which is what I’ve been doing, which is really cool. And another benefit is, I guess I had a bunch of tools that weren’t exactly right but work for what I needed, so now I can have exactly what I need. I guess that could be a benefit. And then the overall experience, I feel like I’ve learned and grown so much from it. And my relationships with basically everyone in my life has gotten better because of it. If you look at it that way. I don’t want to say awesome. But. It helped me in some ways, I guess you could say, yeah.

LM: Very cool. I feel like I can see the difference too. Yeah, I do.

MW: What do you mean?

LM: Well, I feel like I can see you being more confident in a way and kind of more motivated.

MW: Okay. I can see that. Especially knowing the community’s behind my back. having that confidence helps a lot, for sure. yeah, that’s great.

LM: what’s the best way people could help support you if they wanted to at this point?

MW: honestly, we’re pretty good on support. I’m just so thankful to everyone that has helped us. Thank you so much. as far as helping us, I guess recommend people to us for, tours. That’s probably the biggest way you could help us because we want to get back and start operating and showing people an awesome time. It’s really the main motivation here, for sure. but yeah, I just want to thank everyone who’s helped and we’re in the process of doing thank you notes and all that, so we’re probably going to do some free rides and tours for people that helped and everything too. So that’s going to be really cool to do that over the summer to kind of give back to people that helped us out.

LM: And so the same way to book is. It’s still the same way. Website?

MW: Yeah, you can go online. it’s really easy to book online. Or you can call or text us anytime and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can. Yeah.

LM: Well, thank you very much. Yeah, I appreciate it. I know you’ve done a lot of interviews lately. Like, you’ve been on tv. You’ve been in the Sentinel.

MW: Yeah, well, this is just fun for me. So those other ones were kind of stressful.

LM: How did you prepare for those?

MW: I didn’t at all I just winged it. I hope people can’t tell.

LM: Yeah, I’ve never done anything like that. And I feel like, I’d probably just black out. I wouldn’t even know what I was saying.

MW: yeah, I’ve actually done it a lot since I started doing this here. And the first probably five times I was pretty nervous. And then you realize they’re just asking you questions and you just talk like you’re in a normal conversation and it usually works out. You hope they edit things out that make you sound kind of dumb, but sometimes they don’t. You just have to accept that.

LM: Cracks me up. I’ll do my best.

MW: I’m not talking about you.

LM: Thanks, Mark.

LM: to book a pedicab tour: visit palisadepedicab.com or call 970-875-7344. Thanks for listening. With love, from Palisade.

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