E26: Bringing Joy to Palisade with Kristen Seymour of Harlow and The Merc

Today I have the pleasure of speaking with one of my favorite people in Palisade and beyond, Kristen Seymour.

Kristen and I chat about how her two local businesses, Harlow and The Merc, tie into Palisade’s history, what she’d change if she could start over again, whether she was expecting to be honored with both business of the year and person of the year recognition by the Palisade Chamber of Commerce, and her goals and ambitions as a small business owner in Palisade.

Kristen shares the path that brought her to Palisade, how raising kids here is different from the other places her family has lived, what Palisade does right and what could use a little more work, and the awesome power of locals supporting local businesses in the off-season.

More about Harlow and The Merc

Music: Riverbend by Geoff Roper.  


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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.

Today I have the pleasure of speaking with one of my favorite people in Palisade and beyond, Kristen Seymour. Kristen and I try to keep it together while we talk about her two downtown business, Harlow and The Merc, what it was like to get the double recognition of business of the year and person of the year from the Palisade Chamber of Commerce, how raising kids in Palisade is different from the other places her family has lived, what Palisade does right and what could use a little more work, and the awesome power of locals supporting local businesses in the off-season. All while we try to keep our giggling to a somewhat acceptable level.

KS: I’m gonna be silly in the whole thing. I can’t be serious.

LM: Why not?

KS: Oh, you want me to be serious?

LM: I want you to be Kristen. On today’s Postcard from Palisade.

KS: So I’m Kristen Seymour and I own Harlow and the west slope mercantile, otherwise known as the Merc, here in downtown Palisade.

LM: And so your two stores, Harlow and the merc, they’re both, I mean, I would say they’re both anchors in the downtown Palisade business district. So tell me about the personalities of each store.

KS: Yeah, absolutely. I appreciate you saying that. We’ve only been open two years at Harlow and coming up, a year on the merc. And I know Palisade has changed so much over the years, so it’s kind of. Kind of fun to be thought of as anchor, being essentially new kid on the block, but a lot of us are. Right.

LM: I’m like, I’m also the new kid on the block.

KS: Right, exactly. Yeah. There’s a lot of us doing good things here. so Harlow is, I guess, what I would consider, like, your typical but not typical gift shop as far as we have candles and jewelry and tea towels and it’s kind of girly and fun and it’s great for retail therapy for yourself or gifts. It’s just a great energy. and then the merc came to be because we had some t shirts at Harlow, baseball hats, some palisade things. And we were just running out of room on a regular basis, shifting things around, trying to make it work. And then the space came open on Main street and so we jumped at it to open up another store that kind of has a little bit more of an outdoorsy vibe. I just want to say a little more masculine, but that’s not the wording I want to use. It’s just more of a Colorado lifestyle vibe.

LM: Yeah, it’s, like, adventurous. Outdoorsy.

KS: Yeah, exactly. We were noticing at Harlow especially farmers markets or girls trips or couples trips, the men would come in and they would take a quick circle around Harlow and wait outside. And we’re like, no, no, no. But there’s some fun stuff over here. So now I just feel like we have a store where people can walk in. If they don’t consider themselves into a traditional gift store vibe, they can go in the merc and check it out. So it kind of hits both boxes. They have a different feel, for sure.

LM: Absolutely. You’re awesome.

KS: We’re trying to do this with a straight face. I love Lisa.

LM: I am not usually this giggly. I’m so giggly today. I think it’s because I’m trying to be serious and I have a really hard time. Okay.

KS: Yeah, no, we can’t. We don’t need to be serious.

LM: Okay.

KS: So I will say being serious, that’s one thing I always tell, like my employees, is this is not a stressful place. Never. No one’s lives are on the line. We’re not solving world problems. We’re bringing joy. So if we’re goofy in this podcast, it that makes me feel happy because we want to bring joy to people, make people laugh.

LM: I love it. Okay, good. Well, then I will stop feeling bad about being goofy.

KS: Yeah, exactly. More of it.

LM: So the names of both have meaning, right? They have historical meaning. They tie into the history of palisade. So can you explain, like, how they both tie into palisade’s history?

KS: Well, one does.

LM: Now, I will debate you on the other one.

KS: Oh, really? Okay. Oh, yeah, I think you’re right. so Harlow was. I was looking at the names of peach varietals and grapes and just trying to figure out something that would work. And, got some publications from the Palisade Historical Society. And John Petal Harlow came up as one of the first known people, in the area to grow peaches and to bring vegetation. And he was instrumental in the irrigation and he was into mining. his wife Kate had a restaurant in junction where they sold their apples and things. So I don’t know, the name Harlow just kind of, ah, stuck immediately. That was it. We landed right on it. And it’s so funny how many people come in and ask if we have anything that says Harlow because their new grandbaby is named Harlow or their daughter’s name Harlow. So the name is definitely gaining in popularity. So, I think that’s really fun.

LM: Or do they ask if your name is Harlow? Or, your daughter.

KS: All the time, my daughter, all the time. Are you Harlow? Yeah, totally.

LM: So I’m not gonna ask if you’re the merc.

KS: No. Are you the merc? Yes.

LM: But I think so how I would argue that has a historical connection is just if you look at the old issues of the newspaper, the old Palisade Tribune, all the ads are like the blah, blah Mercantile you know, or the so and so Mercantile.

KS: that’s true.

LM: So I think it has the old fashioned kind of vibe.

KS: Yeah, I would agree to that. I would say as a, person who got a degree in marketing and has owned businesses, if I can go back in time, I’d probably not name the store the Merc. I like the name the Merc, but like it’s west slope Mercantile and then we have signs calling the Merc. So like, who names their business two things? Like that is so confusing. Our website is westslopemercantile.com. Our sign on the window says the merc. I know this about myself. That was not the best decision I’ve ever made. But I absolutely love the name and it has stuck. And I hope people can figure out that we are one and the same. But I would probably do it a little differently. Everything was so rushed with getting the merc, getting the lease signed and renovating and opening that it was just, we need a name. Put it up there because we wanted to be open for the first farmers market last year. And so it was a time crunch, so decisions were made.

LM: I remember your final hour, like panic about the name and we were brainstorming, but it’s not like we came up with anything better.

KS: No, it’s a great name and hopefully people. It’s like a nickname.

LM: Yeah, it’s a nickname. A store nickname. It’s endearing. Did you have any sense that it was just thinking about the fact that Palisade has been around for 120 years? Yeah, Palisade has been around for 120 years. Make that a little smoother.

KS: Yeah.

LM: was it important to you to tie into the history and the fact that you’re one of many generations of business owners in Palisade?

KS: Yes, absolutely. We worked closely with Priscilla from the historic society again on, the name and she got us some amazing pictures of Kate Harlow and of John Petal’s gravesite up at Rapid Creek. so definitely wanted to pay homage to that. And also just in renovating the spaces, especially Harlow, we wanted to really highlight what the building already gave us. It was a lot of work. My husband did so much work and we didn’t want to take anything away from the building. Besides like a drop ceiling, you know, but, re exposing the brick wall, putting the new windows in. After realizing what the ceiling with the tin ceiling that was there, it was really important to just kind of bring it back to its glory. And in all the months and months of renovation. It’s corny, but I could feel the building breathe. Like, I could feel a big exhale when we were in there working. Like, this is going to be an amazing spot.

LM: So you both did the design and renovation of both spaces yourself and with Ed, your husband?

KS: Yes.

LM: What vision did you have for the space? Like, what inspired you?

KS: You know, the, Harlow, when we first looked at the space, was, can I just say, a hot mess. Like, there was a lot going on, and we had just moved here to Palisade. we weren’t even really settled yet, but I saw the potential of not only the building itself, but the location and the town for what I know I can do. And I don’t know, it was just this immediate, like, we have to make this space fit the town of Palisade and the agro tourism and the groups that are coming through, and they. I know they want to come and shop. I know they want to have a good time. So, it was just kind of a design idea of making it very open and fun. And once we realized the brick wall was there and Ed didn’t even want to tell me, he was back working in the back room at Harlow. And he got up on a ladder and looked above the drop ceiling and took a picture, and he said, I don’t even want to show you what the ceiling looks like. Cause he knew I’d be like, yes, it’s coming down. Let’s clean it up.

LM: and he didn’t want to do that work!

KS: At that point, he was like, we just got here. Do we have to? But he also loves old buildings and restoring things. We knew it was not even a question. We were just like, okay, we’re in. We’re doing it. so I think it was just like I said, the design was just opening, making it open and airy. And I love the string lights at night when you walk by, like, it just feels so fun to me. I love the storefronts on third. I love how everything’s a different color, so you can tell where Fidel’s is and where we are and the bakery is. We have such great neighbors.

LM: from my perspective, you make owning a gift shop look really easy. I think to a lot of people it’s probably this dream, like, oh, I’ll just buy a bunch of things and, you know, open a gift shop and it’ll be really easy. And I think it isn’t really. In reality, it’s actually really hard to find things that people are actually going to want to buy.

KS: Yeah.

LM: the right quantity, the right mix of things, the right price point. So without giving away any secrets or anything, I mean, how do you do it? Because you do it really well, but how do you make sure you have that mix of things that people that are going to intrigue people.

KS: Yeah. Thank you for that, seriously. I’ve been in the industry on and off for 20 years as a rep, on the other side, calling on stores, both, in person. And then I was a virtual sales rep for a while during covid and owned a store in Gunnison years and years ago. I’ve just kind of honed in on what the trends are. I try to stay up with industry magazines. and I just, honestly, I feel like I shop all the time. Like, literally, first thing I do in the morning is pull up my rep sites and see what’s new or maybe what they’re what, just what the trends are all around. so, yeah, I am. I consider myself a professional shopper. My mom and dad actually, joked with me. My dad said that I am, like, I got my ability to talk to anyone from him and kind of make jokes and make people comfortable, and my love of shopping for my mom. So I was like, the combination of the two just came together into this industry of, like, trying to make people happy and shopping.

LM: Born to do it.

KS: Yeah. Yeah.

LM: Has there been anything that you brought in that was popular that you were surprised at or, like, unpopular that you were surprised at.

KS: I think the scariest thing I brought in, I’ll be honest, was the button up shirts at the Merc that people absolutely love. I had to order them sight unseen. Hadn’t touched the fabric, didn’t even know if this was, like, a real company. And they’re based in Eagle county. They are very real. but it was like we were just getting open. Their minimums were high per custom shirt, and I had to just pull the trigger and order a bunch of things that could have been duds. Could have just showed up, like, terrible. And I don’t order terrible things. That’s one thing I’m very confident, is I order and try to find makers that are amazing. So. But having never seen these things, I was terrified of bringing in this huge order of shirts. And then, sure enough, we had a waiting list all summer. Last summer on the shirts. But we have six new patterns this year. Come on. By the Merc.

LM: I mean, I personally observed at the farmers market when you had the booth outside with the shirts, people getting very angry that you didn’t have the right sizes for them.

KS: It was terrible for us because we could have sold so many more. And then we placed another order, and by the time, because they are custom, by the time we got them, it was maybe the last week of the farmers market in October. So we still had the huge waiting list we were able to fulfill, but that was such a bummer in timing. So I think we learned our lesson this year, but we’re already stressed because these new shirts are going quick, and the reorders on them is. It’s too long. It’s like 100 days out. So that’s a hard planning thing.

LM: Yeah, that is. That’s really hard.

KS: Yeah.

LM: But the cool thing about that is that it is custom and local.

KS: Yeah.

LM: So how do you balance that?

KS: Right? Yeah. You just hope that people will still want them when they come in, and they’ve been great. Obviously, everything you buy is not gonna be a winner, but I feel like, for the most part, really, because I research so much the makers and the brands and the things that they stand behind that we also want to stand behind, so. I feel like, I know what I’m doing.

LM: Oh, good.

KS: That’s a good thing to say! After all these years, I’m confident that I’m doing what I meant to do and the place I meant to do it with the people I’m meant to do it with.

LM: that makes me very happy to hear. So what are the things that. Oh, yeah, you can take a break. And I tend to get into a little bit of a rapid fire question pattern.

KS: It’s fine. Go for it.

LM: I’ll take a water break. So you mention the things that you stand for that, you know, that are important for the vendors to stand for that you stand behind. So what kind of things do you mean?

KS: I love finding a brand like happy earth we carry at the merc. They’re a certified b corp. People over profits. fair living wages, fair working conditions. Super important to me. I don’t. One of my biggest lessons, and I want to share this on our Harlow Instagram post or Instagram Stories. At some point. When I go to market, which is like a big buying event, twice a year, they’re all over the country. But, typically I’ll go and you can meet with the reps and the vendors and see everything. And it’s really neat to meet the people who bring these things to market. but there’s a section called cash and carry at market, and a lot of people aren’t aware of this. And it is essentially, earrings are a dollar, necklaces are $2, and those are the busiest areas at market for a lot of customers. so people are essentially buying earrings for a dollar, going back to their boutiques and selling them for 30. And I will not. I have never. I won’t. It’s such an education piece. Like, I won’t buy inexpensive. Like, I don’t even know how it works. How do you bring an earring to market for a dollar that’s made overseas? So I think that’s one of the biggest lessons for me is I really want to know the maker. I want to know the story. I want to know how they got into it. Are they handmade? Are they on Amazon? Things like that. Like, it’s just so important to me because we can’t. I never want to compete with a Walmart or a temu or whatever it’s called, shein. I don’t want to compete. I want nothing to do with that lane. So they can have their lane, and I’m gonna carry things that people can feel proud of buying and wearing and gifting.

LM: I know tourist business is really important to you, as it is to everybody in Palisade. But how do you make sure that you also keep the locals engaged, because I know that was something when I talked with Jeff and Jody about at Fidel’s, they were like, you know, tourists are important. But then we have this other. You know, how many ever months of the year, when it’s like, we need to have locals come in if we’re gonna stay in business?

KS: Yeah, absolutely.

LM: So how do you balance those two?

KS: Absolutely. we. I think we’re really good at customer service. Like, I just believe in my team so much. and again, we have great products. So I think the combination. We’ve gotten a reputation of being the go to place in town. I know for me, if my daughter weren’t in school in Grand Junction, I wouldn’t go to junction that often. It’s close, but it feels far and it feels busy. Coming from someone who lived in New York City and all, it’s crazy that I’m now like, oh, no, I have to stay in Palisade. so I think we just really try to meet the locals where they’re at with what they need, all the price points. So you can come in and pick up a seven dollar gift or $150 leather bag. Like, we just want to make it where you’re welcome to come in at any time. We’ve got what you need.

LM: Well, I also appreciate, too, that you have a selection of kids stuff, so that, I think all my nieces and nephews get their gifts from Harlow or the Merc.

KS: Yes. Right? Yeah. No, we are huge for birthday party gifts locally. Like, I’m sure people go to parties and it’s all stuff from Harlow, but it’s nice. Moms, families are busy, everybody’s busy. If we can save you a trip to town, quote unquote, and, you can get everything you need here. That makes me so happy. What makes this so special that we’re doing this here in Palisade are the other business owners and the chamber. Like, it is an amazing group who just want the best for each other, work together. And that includes the wineries. I’ve never lived in an area, and I’ve lived in eight or nine states, of such community. I feel like we’re all in it together. We all want the best for each other. So the other businesses in town make what I do really fun.

LM: that actually transitions really well into my next question about you, which is you’ve lived all over the country. You lived in Texas and new Mexico. You’re from Michigan. so what brought you to Palisade? What brought you here? And what makes you feel like this is where you want to stay? Because I’m not letting you leave.

KS: We are not leaving. This is it. Lisa and I are together forever. I did a lot of moving before I met Ed. just on my own, just places here. And then. And then my brother was in Denver and asked me to come out, move out, hang out with them. And that’s when I met Ed. He was working in Leadville. I like to say we’re one of the only success stories that have come out of the silver dollar bar in Leadville. Because if you’ve been to the silver dollar, shout out, there’s probably not a lot of relationships coming out of that place.

LM: Only the strongest ones.

KS: Only the strongest. 19 years almost. so we met. I was living in Denver, he moved to Denver. It just wasn’t working job wise. So we moved to Gunnison so he could work with a friend of his, building houses. And so we lived in Gunnison for eight years. had essentially raised both kids there. Genevieve, Keegan was born in Denver, but, stayed in Gunnison for eight years. Ed went back to school during the housing crisis and that caused a whole turn of events in his career. And we got moved then to Cody, Wyoming, down to Houston. we spent the first year of covid in northern New Mexico, in a little ski town called Angelfire, outside of Taos. And I opened a store while we were there, which was crazy because we were not going to stay there. The plan was to go back to Houston. not that we wanted to, but that’s where work was for him. and I saw an opportunity in angelfire of there needs to be a gift store here. So I opened a gift store a few months after being there. And I actually still have it now. So that store is three years old. I have amazing employees down there. They are just the best. so, long story short, came time to move back to Houston. And we just realized it’s not the lifestyle we wanted anymore. Wanted more time with the kids, less stress. And so he was able to take a position out here in parachute. So we ended up here. Never thought we’d be on the western slope. When I lived in Denver, I was a rep, like I said, for the sales industry. And I would come out to junction or Palisade every eight weeks. For three years. And even when we lived in Gunnison, junction was not on the radar. We went to get out of the cold. We went to go to the movies. We went to fly out, maybe. and as soon as we landed here in Palisade, it was like, this is home. This is the community. It’s the place, with the people.

LM: It is the place with the people.

KS: It is.

LM: How long after you moved here did you open Harlow then?

KS: It was quick. We moved here in August, and then I feel like we signed the lease in October.

LM: So, Ed, again, you moved here. He was like, all right, our life is going to be easy and simple, and you’re like, we’re doing this.

KS: Guess what, honey? yeah. It was quick and the space needed so much work. We’ve always bought old homes and renovated them. So this is the first time the housing market here, there was hardly anything available. and we needed a house to get the kids registered for school. So we bought a house that was essentially new construction, newish. so we didn’t have a project, so I presented him with a project.

LM: I love it.

KS: and he might complain, but he loves it. He’s always been very supportive of the stores.

LM: So it’s not only me who thinks you’re amazing. This year you were recognized with a couple of really big awards by the Palisade Chamber of Commerce. So tell me about those. And were you expecting them?

KS: Oh, my gosh. That was insane. I literally, if I had been expecting them, I probably would have, like, dressed up. I mean, I was fine, but you know what I mean? Like, I was not expecting. So we’re going to the chamber banquet, and I just didn’t think anything. Like, I never saw on the website where you can nominate or vote for business of the year or anything. So going in, I had no idea, and no one ever had made any follow up calls to be like, hey, are you gonna be at the banquet? Are you, Ed, can you get Kristen to the banquet? So I’m like, yeah, let’s just go. We got nothing else going on. And, I mean, we really wanted to go, don’t get me wrong. But.

LM: But that’s funny that they didn’t.

KS: Right? Yeah. Yeah. Cause we could have easily. If you would have been, like, just come over to the brewery, I’d be like. Okay. We got to the banquet, at Ordinary fellow, which was a great event, a great space for it. And it was so fun to see everybody. It was well attended and sitting next to Carol from the chamber. And she’s a dear. I love her, and I have no idea. And she’s nervous because she’s got to go up and give some speeches. She’s like, they gave me ten slides. I’m like, you’re gonna be fine. Little did I know those slides were essentially about me. She didn’t tell me that. So, yeah, Harlow won business of the year. I was shocked and honored and just so impressed with, like I said, my team. It really comes down to my team. Like, they’re the face of Harlow. They’re out there doing the work. They just put up with my shenanigans. so, yeah, that was a surprise. And then sat back down, and they’re announcing they’re talking about citizen of the year. And I don’t even know what they’re saying.

LM: You’re, like, on that high?

KS: Yeah, totally on a high. The business of the year. It’s only been two years. This is amazing. And then Carol says, Kristen, you shouldn’t have sat back down. And it was like slow motion movie. Like, it’s not a Grammy or an Oscar. Or Emmy. But it felt. I’ve never been recognized for something like that. And having not even lived here three years, to be given that, like, it’s. It blows my mind. so completely shocked and just thankful and just full of gratitude for this town. And the thing is, the takeaway is I want to be better for this town. I want to do everything I do for this community. I haven’t lived around family, and I’ve been on my own forever. And so where we go, we want it to feel like a big connection. Like, we’re all in this together. People are looking out for each other, and we’ve definitely felt that in places we’ve lived, but never as much as here. so it was a huge honor. Like, I’m still speechless. It’s still crazy. I should have brought my awards and just put them right here.

LM: You should have brought them and plunked them down. Then we could take a picture with them, you have to take a selfie with them someday.

KS: Here’s your lead in.

LM: Yeah. Doing your job for you.

KS: Are you even a podcaster

LM: I mean, that’s why it’s bad about, like, if it’s, I mean, a friend or something.

KS: Yeah, just. Right, exactly.

LM: We talk about so many things, but, one of the things that I’ve told you this before that I admire the most about you and appreciate the most about you is the way that you build community. And I think that that citizen of the year award really, it reflected that or it was in recognition of that because you are so good at building community. You aren’t somebody who, like, makes friends and holds them. selfishly. You connect people. Exactly. You connect people. Like, I met you. I was like, oh, hey, aren’t you that person who owns, Aren’t you that person who owns Harlow? And you’re like, yeah, yeah, you should come to Palisade wine club. so you did the first time I met you, and, like, we went to one of the first Palisade wine clubs, and then we were in Palisade wine club. You’re like, oh, hey, I met this cool couple. You should meet them. And then we met Ben and Chloe, you know, who are great friends of ours now.

KS: Yes. Yes.

LM: And yours, too. It’s so, like, so many people are. I think it’s hard to have that generous kind of feeling where you want to just share. You want to share things with people, and you want to make. You want to build a community, you want to expand a community, you want to build other people’s communities. So I think that award was so much in recognition of that. And again, talk more about Palisade wine club, because that was a big part of that recognition, too, right? What you started with that.

KS: Yeah, it’s funny because it was such a. Palisade Wine club, its origin story cracks me up, because, literally, the thing we love about Palisade, especially in the off season, also during the year, but in the off season, is when you go to a winery and you run into people, you know, and it’s like, hey, I didn’t know you were going out tonight. This is great. We should meet up another time. But then you never get in touch, and you just, you know, randomly meet up again, and it’s so fun. So the thought was not only, I want to meet up with these people on a regular basis, I want it on the calendar, but also, I know what it’s like to have a business in the off season. In tourist towns, you struggle. You’re not sure what your hours should be, what your days should be. Some days, like, we open up and nobody comes in. You know, some days, I might have a $4 sale in January. So you just want to, like, realizing with these wineries, how can we support them? We all like going out. We haven’t stopped going out. So, anyways, it just becoming a. Became a very genuine. Let’s build a local happy hour club. Let’s reach out to the wineries. Pick a day during the week so they’re not super busy. If they were gonna have tourists in town or any events going on, let’s reach out ahead of time, let them know we’re coming. I always say, don’t give us a discount. Don’t, like, we want to support you. The goal is not for you to give us things. We just want to show up and be there for you guys. so it has been fantastic. This is our second season. I don’t know how many events a year. We’ve been doing, like, eight or ten. At least.

LM: At least ten, right?

KS: and it’s. We’ve had up to probably 80 people. and it’s always the people. I think the best thing is when Ed’s able to come. He travels for work here and there, so he tries to make as many as he can. But when he walks in one his biggest, biggest thing is always after the fact: I didn’t know who to go say hi to first.

LM: Oh, my gosh. It’s so hard.

KS: He’s like, it’s all the people I want to catch up with, and I don’t know where to start working the room or, you know, making, like, going to catch up. It is the coolest thing. Everybody is so excited. People bring snacks to share. I mean, I feel like we’ve connected so many friends through wine club of all ages. That’s what’s great too. Palisade Wine club is one of my favorite things in this town. It has bonded us. It helps us realize that supporting local year round is huge. some of the wineries have gone all the way and gotten food trucks, and even if they don’t, they’ve just really welcomed us with open arms. And it is, if anyone hasn’t joined, I think we’re up to 700 something members in that group. We probably should have had some questions, like, do you live in, in this area? Like, junction is fine.

LM: do you actually live here? Oh, yeah.

KS: But I think people see it on Facebook. We’re only on Facebook, we gotta get on Instagram and get the word out there, but I would say we have the same core group of 40 or 50 members that show up all the time, and it’s so fun. It’s my favorite thing.

LM: It’s definitely one of the things that cemented me here, because when we first moved here, we got right into the bike, the Monday night bike rides, and that was great. But then they stopped.

KS: Yeah.

LM: And then it was like, okay, well, now what are we gonna do? And then I met you, and you’re like, come to this wine club. And then that started right up in November. Like, this. This is great. I very, very appreciate that.

KS: I feel like there’s wineries we still need to get to. We really want to share the love with anybody. So if anybody listening wants to host us, we try to do off seasons, but I honestly think during the week, even sort of in season, we could still make it work. So if we haven’t reached out to you to host, I apologize. Please reach out to us, and we’d love to come and support you.

LM: I am curious about what you think is something that Palisade does really well, and then something like, as a town, and then something that you think that it can improve on.

KS: I absolutely love the events and the farmer’s market and the work that goes into those. I think people don’t realize or want to step back and zoom, out and see that there’s real people trying to make these events happen. They might not please everybody. I know it’s a lot when we get traffic in town for these events and people on bikes that people aren’t used to. I don’t know. I just feel like the town for what we are and continue to be growing into this agritourism destination. I think I just want grace from people that the town and the chamber and CAVE are doing the best they can. It’s a lot of work. It’s a lot of moving parts. I, for one, as a business owner and as a resident of Palisade, I like the events. I like the energy it brings. I feel so fortunate when people come in and say, oh, do you live here? Like, what’s it like? It’s as amazing as you think it is from the three days you’re here, it is as amazing. So I just hope we can all continue to support the organizations that do so much for the town. Things that could change in Palisade. I don’t know if I. I don’t know. Do you have an answer? I mean, not that I want to say. I wish we could figure out. And I know there’s plans in place to make it a more bike friendly town.

LM: Yeah. You know, that would be my answer.

KS: Yeah, they’re working on it. We’re gonna have designated bike areas, but that is something I wish we could really do more about.

LM: so. All right, so my last official question is, what’s your favorite Favorite thing about Palisade.

KS: My favorite thing about Palisade would be all of the events, from the big ones, from Winefest, from the farmers market, down to history night, history talks, down to trivia. excited to try the brunch at Sauvage that they’ll be starting this year. The yoga at wineries. Like, anything that anyone’s doing, everyone’s so creative and just wants to bring people in in a different, different way. And I love that about this town. I love. There’s always something to do. I love that you can ski and hike in a day. I love you can make it to Utah or Denver in no time. This is like magic. I love this place. And I love Lisa.

LM: It’s the best. Oh, you’re the best.

KS: I think one thing for me personally that I really want to improve on in my time in Palisade, which I’m not leaving. It’s home. I’m not going anywhere. I want to get more involved in going to the meetings and attending the ones on Zoom, the tab meetings. I think the tab meetings have been so informative when I’m able to zoom in on those. So I just. Everybody, what’s impressive about this town and this specifically my community that I found here, outside of the general community, which I love, but, like, my people that are here, is we’re all essentially newish to the Palisade area, for the most part, and extremely involved. And I think that’s the way you keep your community, tight knit, informed, and you just look out for each other. But I encourage anybody in town to just get involved and meet the people and go to the meetings and know what’s going on. Facebook, as we know, is, like, screaming into the void sometimes on things. And I don’t think a lot of changes can be made. And if you have a question for a business owner or a trustee or something, I think conversations. I think everyone in this town that I’ve met is willing to have a conversation. so I want to personally get more involved in a lot of the meetings and just. Just kind of know what’s going on. 

I’ll say to the, raising my kids. My kids are 14 and 18. we’ve been here almost three years. They’ve had a lot of places they’ve lived, a lot of communities, a lot of friendships. And I am so glad that we ended up here. They’re thriving. They’ve made the best of friends. Their teachers are amazing. Our son’s going off to college in the fall. Our daughter’s starting Palisade high school. And it’s just been so nice to see their growth. So if you see them at the store working, because, you know, free labor. Hashtag free labor. Not really. yeah, just have a conversation with my kids. They’re great people, and they want to know more about this community, and they feel like they’re a part of it, too. So stop in if you see Keegan or Genevieve working. Say hi. Have a talk with them.

LM: Well, and Keegan has been really involved in the school newspaper.

KS: Yeah.

LM: Which is really cool.

KS: Editor of the Paw Post. yeah. He’s very interested in community and politics, and it’s been fun to see things through his eyes, moving to all these cities and us ending up in a place where he wants to come over and chat with our friends about local issues and things. He absolutely loves it. And Genevieve could. I could skip town tomorrow, and she can run the stores for me. She is so good at it and has such an eye for things. So I feel like we’re doing a good job, Ed and I. I feel like, with the help of the places we’ve lived that have shaped them, life, is good.

LM: That’s a really good note to end on, actually. That’s super good.

KS: Good.

LM: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me and for being an amazing person and for being one of the people who really helped me feel like Palisade was home. So I really appreciate that. I always will.

KS: Yay. I’m sorry it took me so long to sit down with you. I sit down with you three times a week.

LM: We’ve been talking about doing this for, since I first met you. Yeah, you were like, I’m not ready. I’m not ready.

KS: Yeah. That was not you at all. You’re so talented. I just didn’t know I had things to say.

LM: Oh, my God. You have so many things to say. Yeah. You’re going to keep saying them, and I can’t wait to see what you do next.

KS: Thank you.

LM: Thank you very much.

KS: Cheers.

LM: Cheers.

Thanks to Geoff Roper for the music.

Thanks for listening. With love, from Palisade.    

E25: Something Fishy is Happening in Palisade!

On today’s Postcard from Palisade, we learn all about Palisade High School’s unique fish hatchery program, the fish they raise, and how they are released from the hatchery team. It’s a fishy good time!

For more about the hatchery, check out their website

Music: Riverbend by Geoff Roper.  


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

Nestled behind Palisade High School, there are a couple small, nondescript buildings perched on the bluff above the Colorado River. As you approach the old concrete block astronomy shed, you start to hear the sound of humming pumps and filters and smell the fresh aroma of live fish. But you’d still never guess that behind the door of the modest shed lies an efficient hatchery that is capable of raising 250 endangered razorback suckerfishes each year, carefully tended by a few dedicated student hatchery technicians.

This small operation is measurably impacting the Colorado River by releasing these 250 fish into the river each spring during a release day event that celebrates the hard work of these students, their long-term impact on the Colorado River ecosystem, and the fish themselves.

A local community favorite event, this year’s release will take place on Friday, May 3rd at 1:30pm at the boat launch at Riverbend Park.

On today’s Postcard from Palisade, we learn all about Palisade High School’s unique fish hatchery program, the fish they raise, and the release day from the key members of the fish hatchery team:

Kiera: hi, I’m Kiera. I am a hatchery technician. I’m a senior at Palisade.

Kale: I’m Kale. And I’m a hatchery technician, too. And I’m also a senior.

PS: I’m, Patrick Steele. I’m a science teacher at Palisade and run our hatchery program.

MG: And I am Mike Gross. I work for U.S. fish and wildlife service out of the Ouray national fish hatchery here in Grand Junction.

Join us to hear about the important fishy work happening in our community.

Let’s start at the beginning – how did PHS get a fish hatchery, anyway?

PS: the idea started where it was presented, to me, about ten years ago now, maybe eleven years ago, we took, my class to, the Ouray national fish hatchery, grand Valley unit in grand junction. And we did a tour there, and we’d been doing some tours there for a few years. and Mike, was always our tour guide. And, he just mentioned one of his goals was to get a fish hatchery at a high school at some point. and that’s when I said, well, Palisade high school is the perfect place for it. and so, basically from that moment on, we started talking about it and planning, and, after about five years of that, ah, planning and fundraising and all those things, we finally were able to make it happen.

LM: Why was this a goal for you personally?

MG: Way back in college, Lisa One of the cool classes I had in fish class, we got to tour a lot of the real small aquaculture operations in northern California. And one of the things that came up was a middle school that was raising endangered coho salmon. And that always just kind of stuck in my brain as, wow, what an incredible thing for a school to have as a utility for science. and yeah, so it’s always stuck in my brain. And again, I end up working with a lot of teachers here in the grand valley. And Mr. Steele’s class, every tour that would come into the fish hatchery for Mr. Steele’s classes just their questions were so on point, and his enthusiasm was so on point that it just seemed like kind of a no-brainer partnership if we could make it happen.

LM: So, Kiera and Kale, how did you get involved with this as students or what made you interested?

Kale: my mom works here at the school and she told me that there was a fish hatchery started up that was gonna be started up. The year that I came in was gonna be the year that they actually got fish and it was gonna be endangered fish with partnership, with the US fish and wildlife. I’m like, oh, that sounds fun. I love fishing. I love the outdoors. That’s something that I want to be a part of. So, when I first came to Palisade my freshman year, I had an environmental science class with Mr. Steele and I asked him about it. He’s like, you want to join? Fill out this little Google form. So I filled it out and then he was like, okay, you’re in. You can start going down doing some stuff. And we kept going down there with my class too, and did a bunch of stuff down there and it just really stuck with me.

Kiera: I knew about it my freshman year. like, I had a few friends who, you know, were closer to it than I. Than I was. I mean, I’d never had a class with Mr. Steele. but then my sophomore year, I developed an interest in doing marine biology as a potential career path. And I was like, how am I going to get any experience with this if I live, you know, in a landlocked state? And so I reached out to Mr. Steele and, it was like in the middle of the year, so I was able to take part in some of the end of the year activities, like pit tagging, and the release day. And then come my junior year, I started to get really involved. And that’s when I started going down every morning, and doing like the daily, hatchery activities and maintenance and stuff.

LM: So being a hatchery technician is. It’s different than just being in one of your classes, right? There’s more responsibilities involved with it?

PS: Absolutely. our technicians basically run the hatchery. every morning I, come in and, write them a little to do list of things that we need to get done that morning and that day. and they come in and bust that to do list out, you know. and then, my classes will come down and, we kind, of do more of the monitoring of water chemistry. You know, we’ll come down once a week or every other week and really hash out like the deep, the fine details of the water chemistry. and then also they’re involved. My class are also involved with kind of our days where we have to, weigh all the fish and do a feed to weight, ratio calculations and things like that. and so, they’re involved with that. These guys come down and help out and teach how to do all those things to my students. So they’re very well versed in all of those, techniques as well. So, when I say that our technicians are students, trying to make this a student run, kind of operation, it absolutely is. And they could run it themselves, any day. So it’s pretty awesome.

LM: That’s an awesome experience. And just, it’s so much more hands on. Like, personally, I think I learn so much more when I’m actually doing something than just, you know, hearing about it or reading about it. so you mentioned you were inspired, Mike, by a, hatchery in a middle school. How many, like, how many schools around the country have hatcheries? How common is this?

MG: very few around the country. Probably less than twelve. All said and done. And what is extra unique about this fish hatchery at Palisade High School is with them growing endangered razorback sucker. Every other student operated fish hatchery in the country pretty much raises salmon. and for the most part, in pretty, I don’t want to say wealthy parts of the country, but pretty wealthy parts of the country where this is a different operation is that these students and faculty are concentrating on kind of underappreciated endangered species and, making, making a big difference. There’s a long term vision of this with community involvement, raising these endangered species. That is somewhat of a game changer, it seems.

LM: Can you talk a little bit more about the endangered fish and why are they important? Like, why should people care about, the fact that we need to put endangered fish back in the river?

MG: So, so razorback suckers they’re really unique animals, and, yeah, a lot of really unique things about them. They’re the largest sucker fish in North America. So, so these animals, they get three, maybe even a little bigger than 3ft long. So they’re not like a little suckerfish in your aquarium. They’re like small puppy dog size. But more than that, being the largest suckerfish in North America, lots of other unique things and very important aspects of them. They play a very important part maintaining the health of the river out there. They’re like little vacuums out there, constantly cleaning. if there’s dead fish, they’ll suck on the dead fish, they’ll slurp up the slime. They’re opportunistic little cleaners out there. And so they play a very important part in maintaining the health of the river. Another very important thing about this species is they play a very important part in the food chain. What do impressive birds like to eat? Like bald eagles, they eat native fish, and bears eat native fish. And all of these animals depend on these native fish. And when these populations diminish and maybe even disappear, all of those animals are consequently affected as well. Another notable thing about them, they’re the only species in the genus Xyrauchen, which gets a little sciency. But for a science fish geek like myself, it’s a cool, notable aspect of these fish. Very unique animals.

LM: So if the palisade fish hatchery wasn’t growing, in addition to fish Hatchery you work at, if they weren’t growing and releasing them, would there be any in the river?

MG: There’s a lot of research going on, monitoring populations of these fish, trying to figure out a lot of these aspects. yeah, what’s going on with the populations? And that is kind of all to be determined.

LM: yeah it’s speculation.

PS: Hard to say. But I think, like, even when this whole, you know, you know, endangered fish Hatchery program started back in the nineties, in the mid nineties to late nineties, you know, when biologists were coming through this area trying to see if this was, you know, something that we need to, investigate a little bit more, you know, they found, I think, 13 razorback suckers in I don’t know how long, how many river miles, but across the entire valley, even into Utah. And I mean, that’s concerning, you know, that’s pretty concerning and that’s a lot of river miles, with a native fish, we’re very limited native fish population, knowing their importance in the ecosystem. And so, I think regardless, you know, our hatchery is a small operation, but, you know, every, healthy fish that we’re able to put back into the river and help to grow that population, is pretty important. And the awesome part of it is our students, you know, had a hand in that and they know, that they’re contributing to that.

Kale: And I can say like, I’ve helped out quite a bit and like going out on the river surveying fish and stuff and I’ve noticed like a big difference in like two years of doing stuff like that, that there’s been a little bit more because we caught, over 20 razorback suckers in 3 miles rather than 13 in 100.

PS: Yeah.

LM: that’s really cool. That’s so cool to be able to see that impact that you’re having.

MG: and there is speculation that razorbacks will hopefully be down-listed from endangered to threatened in the very near future. And if that does happen, that will be a pretty giant conservation win for fishes of the upper Colorado river.

LM: So the fish that are next door in the hatchery are now about how big? Maybe six inches big?

Kale: Probably four inches to ten inches.

LM: Okay, four to ten. So when you get them, at ah, the start of the year, how big are they?

Kale: About a half inch, I’d say maybe an inch. Maybe an inch.

LM: just little minnows. And then you raise them throughout the entire school year. And then what happens in May?

Kiera: in May we load them up into a trailer and we bring them to Riverbend park, where we release them. But during the release, it’s really special because we release each fish individually and it’s a huge community event. So we have members from all over the community, all over grand junction, all over the valley, as well as the students from our school. it’s really rewarding on that day to see all of your classmates lined up on the banks of the river, and we have a tradition where every release we have to kiss the fish, to, you know, wish it good luck on its journey through the river. but it’s a really special day.

MG: a neat thing about this year’s fish release outside of the fantastic work that all of these folks have done. And, ah, that’s the main purpose of the event, is to celebrate these folks, one of the people that are coming to celebrate the students and faculty is Jeff Corwin, the tv conservationist, which is incredible in my mind, just that he even knows about these guys operation. So something to look forward to.

PS: And I think too, you know, these guys here, students here have been a part of not just like a big community event like the release day, but they also take time out of their schedule to work different, community events to educate our public about these fish. They both have been involved with the, with the palisade outdoor heritage days, that the, that, CPW puts on. And they take fish from our hatchery and put them down there, for the public to see, and then they’re there to, educate those folks as they come by. And they’ve done an awesome job with that the last few years. they’ve also been involved with the. The water festival, at Los Colonias park. Right. And so they’ve, been part of, that, operation and education outreach program, too. And so, And so these students that run our hatchery aren’t just working at our hatchery. They’re doing what they have with what they can do, and they’re putting themselves out there, to educate the public as well, which is awesome. It’s great that it’s coming from students.

LM: how many fish do you release at a time, usually each year?

Kiera: Each year? we release, like, about Kale: about 250.

LM: Okay. Okay. And I saw this year’s special because it’s a special number of fish that are being released. Right.

Kiera: This is our, officially 1,000th fish released.

LM: So do you feel a little sad at all when you release them after you’ve spent the whole year raising them and growing them?

Kiera: personally, for me, it’s a little bit bittersweet. like, yes, we’ve been down here every single day raising these fish. but with that also comes a lot of pride in seeing what you have helped kind of grow, like, be, introduced into the ecosystem and the river and their new home. And so it’s very special, and it’s a little bit sad, but it’s mostly good feelings.

Kale: Yeah, I feel the same way. It’s kind of bittersweet. You hate to see them go, but you love to see them leave, because they’re kind of like your children for the year. You take care of them, feed them, give them water, clean up their tanks, and then you throw them into the river.

PS: Hope they survive.

Kale: Hope they survive.

PS: I think what’s awesome, too, with our students is they spend so much time with these fish that they get to know these fish almost personally. Right. We’ve had years where we had names for a lot of fish, you know? and, you know, this year we definitely have some character, unique characteristics of a few fish that, you know, that students identify, and they definitely give those fish some special names. So it’s really a, cool way, you know, that they grow that relationship with these fish, and that’s why it is bittersweet to them. You know, it is like, kind of like letting your puppy dog go and hoping for the best. And, yeah, our excitement is getting to see down the road when, you know, the, fish biologists, that are out collecting population samples come across our fish every once in a while, and, that’s a huge celebration, for us, knowing that they’re surviving and hopefully, getting to the age where they’re reproducing and being able to carry on the palisade hatchery, logo, name, whatever tag number. That’s right.

MG: And just to elaborate on what these folks were saying. Oh, one of the more technical, more technical things that they do throughout the school year, fish related, is putting in pit tags, which are passive integrated transponders, which are a permanent tag that goes inside the fish. And, these razorback suckers, they live to be upwards of 40 years old. And so when kale and Kiera are, what, like 57 years old, these fish that they’re growing this year, they’re hopefully still going to be swimming around out there, and the tags that they put in them will still be working. And, yeah, it’s hard to say all of the information that will come out of these fish in the next four decades, but it’s really cool.

LM: How big is the tag?

Kale: It’s like the size of a grain of rice.

Kiera: Yeah.

LM: Oh, wow.

Kale: when we inject it into them there, they’re

Kiera: they’re very aware.

Kale: They’re taking a nap.

MG: Yeah. And then kind of another cool thing about those tags is, like Mr. Steele said, a lot of these fish literally have names, and those names are going to be in the database. So decades down the road, somebody will be able to scan that, that tag and see, that’s Timmy number three. There’s Chad, ol Chad swimming around down in Ruby Horse thief, doing his thing, living the sucker life.

LM: That’s amazing. That’s so cool. So, how many students are involved with being hatchery technicians?

Kiera: right now?

Kale: Right now we have about three. Three that come down every day.

PS: We kind of range from five or six down to. We’ve had just two before. Right. and then, you know, and so that’s. That’s it’s a commitment. Right. There’s a level of commitment that’s involved with being down here every morning. and then also, you know, these, these technicians are. We rely on them on holidays and weekends and we’re on Christmas break and spring break and those types of things. And so, And so, you know, that’s. It takes that level of commitment and these students are, you know, special students that see that value and understand that responsibility. and so, yeah, it takes a different level of commitment, different than what we would just do in a regular class kind of thing. The nice part is, now that we’ve been doing this for a few years and students are becoming more and more aware of it and they’re involved with the release days. I think I’m sitting at ten students that want to be technicians next year, you know, and so, and so, yeah, we’re excited about those opportunities. We’re incorporating, a career pathway and slash internship program here at our school, to kind of focus on, you know, not just, well, the fish hatchery work, but also just kind of focusing more on natural resources in general and using the fish hatchery as a way to kind of, ah, help steer students into that path, that career pathway. and so, you know, as we build those programs, you know, we’ll definitely have more and more students, involved with that technician piece.

LM: Yeah, because you’re probably the VIPs on the release day. That’s probably a lot of fun.

PS: They run it all. It’s them, you know, we get to stand back and let them, celebrate their work, for sure.

Kale: They give the initial speech and then it’s all on us. Pass the torch.

PS: That’s right.

LM: And you are probably getting future co workers out of this. Out of this program, Mike. Right.

MG: Hopefully. All said and done. Yeah. I’m, very curious to see where Kale and Kiera are ten years from now in their professional world. See if this program actually did have an impact. But I’m very optimistic that these two folks in particular are going fishy places in the world.

PS: Absolutely. And the awesome part about that is already just in our short time of having, you know, our hatchery program here at Palisade High School. We have, students that are focusing on, that line of work, in school. You know, we have graduates that are in the fisheries fish, biology, program m at western state. And we have, a student that was involved in our very first planning stage of the hatchery and helping to fund raise. And she has graduated from Texas A and m and is working for, the, us fish and wildlife in California. And she’s doing a lot of the same kind of work, but with. On different fish species. and so, we have students that weren’t necessarily involved in the hatchery, per se, but they used the fish hatchery as lines of study, for their other science classes, in particular in our international baccalaureate program. And so, they’re, interested in. In that wildlife biology, in pursuing those. And so you never know where those degrees will take them and where they maybe, hopefully want to come back to their roots, and come back into this area and make this a focus of study. we had a graduate, from Palisade high school that didn’t have anything to do with the fish hatchery. And he was kind of a non traditional, college student. And he went back and got his fisheries biology degree at western and used our fish hatchery as part of. Of his senior seminar, project. And, Yeah, and so, I mean, it’s amazing, like, the lines of education and career paths that, this is, you know, kind of slowly starting to, take the students from here. Kiera: I know personally for me, like, you know, my freshman year coming into high school, I had no idea what I wanted to do. I was, like, kind of freaked out about it. I know it’s a freshman, a little crazy, but, you know, and I joined the Hatchery with the intention of doing marine biology. but over the past few years, just working with the Hatchery, I, like, this is what I want to do for the rest of my life. And I wouldn’t have gained that understanding without participating in the Hatchery. And so now I plan on pursuing a career in biology, and hopefully sticking to freshwater biology as opposed to marine biology. And, you know, that path wouldn’t have happened without the Hatchery. Kale: Yeah, same thing with me. When I first joined, I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do with my life. Still, I had a few different ideas, but being a part of the Hatchery really solidified that I want to work with fish and be a part of some sort of fish and wildlife agency or parks and wildlife something, and deal with, like, animals and fish.

LM: one thing I would love to hear from everybody is your favorite fact about fish, or what’s your favorite thing about fish personally?

Kale: my favorite thing or saying about it is caudal peduncle. It’s the little skinny part right before the tail fins, and it’s called the caudal peduncle. It’s just fun to say.

MG: You’re making me proud, Kale.

LM: Yeah, we were talking about that the other day.

PS: how about you, Kiera?

Kiera: I don’t know. This is a really tough question.

LM: You can go last if you want. Okay.

Kiera: Yeah.

LM: Okay.

PS: I mean, I love the colors of the fish, honestly. I’m a fly fisherman, and I love catching, you know, different species of fish. And, I think that. I think that one, thing about these, about our razorback suckers is you. That kind of gets overlooked is that they really are a beautiful fish. They’re very unique fish. and they have some beautiful colors. and they’re different. It is so much different than catching a trout or catching any other type of fish that people consider a trophy fish. Those types of things. when you really look at these fish and the different colors that they portray and the changes that they. They go about, you know, through their lives, you know, from the shape, with their. With their big keel, you know, humpback keel on their back, and then the just different color changes as they go. I always think that’s awesome. I mean, we even, you know, look at, their color changes when they’re stressed out. You know, Mike’s taught us about that and how to. How to identify that. And, I mean, we know they’re stressed, but, man, it’s kind of a neat color change. It’s pretty. It’s pretty, you know. but we also know that’s an indicator of, hey, we got to get these back in the water and let them mellow out for a little while. So, that. So that’s me. I love. I love looking at the different changes in their color.

MG: Yeah, that’s a great question, Lisa, and made me ponder a lot of things, and I could probably ramble on for hours. But I think for these particular species of fish that are endangered here locally, what kind of really gets me going is razorback suckers have been swimming around palisade for 5 million years, and a lot’s happened in the last 5 million years. To put that in perspective, they’ve been around palisade longer than Hawaii has been islands. And, yeah, again, Yellowstone has erupted three times since they’ve been swimming around here in Palisade. And so that just very. Yeah, very intriguing to me. Everything that nature has thrown at these animals and they’ve been able to survive for 5 million years. Very adaptive little, little guys.

Kiera: This is a really, really tough question because there are so many fascinating things about these fish. and I’m fascinated by all of it personally. but one of the many, many things that I have learned, as my experience, or during my experience as a hatchery technician, is over the past few years, we’ve had a few blind fish. And what’s really interesting about that is all of the blind fish that we’ve had grow to be a very, very dark shade. So, like, all of the fish, as they’re really little, are more of a silvery color. And then they grow into like, green and kind, of yellowy. but if we have a blind fish, they will present more black. and I find that really fascinating.

Kale: because they grow to their environment to increase their chance of survival and so they can blend in with the river

Kiera: but if all they can see is dark, then

LM: that’s so cool.

MG: It’s fascinating.

At this point, Kale had to step out to go to work

Kale: OK I’m going to go to work

After which we went got into the story of how Mike and Patrick originally got into their parallel lines of work.

MG: I think I probably got into this field due to my love for fishing. Throughout my younger life. I was always the kid out fishing. I don’t want to say out cutting high school and fishing, but that’s kind of long ago where how I became enthusiastic in this field. But, Yeah, so I have a love for fish, a love for nature, and it’s kind of manifested throughout the years for a love for just conservation in general. And, yeah, my whole family grew up here in the grand valley. We used to go fishing on the Colorado river here locally and down in ruby horse thief and whatnot. And we used to catch these fish before they were endangered. And it was a good part of my childhood, very good memories. And so being able to hopefully protect these fish and bring them back for future generations to enjoy, it’s a magical thing, kind of bringing full circle in my life.

PS: And I think, for me, I grew up here in Palisade, and, of course, spent a lot of time outdoors doing anything and everything that we could. you know, loved just getting out, period. Of course, we’d float the river and that kind of thing. And, I didn’t know about these fish growing up. It was never anything that I was ever taught or, ever just kind of came across, you know. and so, you know, my love for this area even just stems back to the knowing the importance of water through our area. And that was kind of where I, started, was kind of more in that conservation realm. And, becoming a teacher and things, that was kind of one of my goals is to just, you know, understand that, you know, you know, as we live here in this community, we have a direct connection with the Colorado river, with our agricultural areas and just being able to survive here. and then once I started learning as a teacher, started learning about these endangered species and that kind of thing, for me, to me, it was just like a light bulb kicked on. It was like, okay, here is our pathway to teach this correlation to really get students to connect with the river, and understanding that their responsibility of. Of helping to conserve water and understanding the connection that we all have with water here in western Colorado and specifically the Colorado river. And now we can bring something that’s living, that, relies on that water as well, not just us, but in a little bit different facet. and students can touch it and they can feel it and they can connect to it, and then they got to know that they’re releasing it into that river to, you know, hopefully sustain that ecosystem and also help sustain our population really, in the long run. And so, that was kind of my connection and my pathway to it all.

MG: this program has the potential, and it literally is serving as a blueprint for other operations like this that are popping up around the country. Currently, Uintah high School in near Vernal, Utah, is setting up, currently an operation modeled after this where they are going to be raising razorback sucker probably next year. And then, yeah, well, little, little operations are popping up like this, modeling after Mr. Steele’s fish hatchery here.

PS: Ah, which is. That’s pretty awesome. I think that that was kind of in the back of our minds, almost a goal for us, too, to show that if we can do this in this little 14 by 14 room and be able to, raise 250 fish a year and get so many students involved, those types of things that basically, if you, have access to water, our hatchery is run on city water. and so, that helps us a ton right there. We don’t have to clean it. We don’t have to disinfect it. It’s already ready to go. and so if you have access to water and you have, you know, some equipment, basic equipment, you can. You can have a hatchery, you know, as well. And, so getting schools to realize that it is a doable thing and it is a very valuable thing, I think is, incredible. And I also, think that, it’s just, it’s really an example of an awesome partnership, within our community, not just a partnership between Palisade high school and us fish and wildlife and, the upper Colorado river endangered species fish recovery program. Oh, my gosh. Anyways, but it’s also a partnership within community members, community entities that help to fund this project. and so many people, got involved with this, and the whole project has funded locally. we didn’t get out of the valley for any funding, which is amazing. and we well exceeded what we needed to get that which has helped to sustain the program and helped us to get equipment as we see fit. Because we didn’t know much about this going into it. I knew nothing about raising fish going into this, and so we’ve definitely, as a program, learned a ton about what goes into it all. And, the fact that we have students that are interested in it and that want, to be the people that are leading it and really running the program, is awesome. And so we’re excited that it, you know, that it will continue to grow and become mainstay here at Palisade High school. But also, like Mike said, a model for other schools.

Kiera: I know we touched on it a little bit, earlier, but, the hatchery has provided, students, myself and Mr. Steele’s classes with some incredible opportunities. Ah, for example, last year was the first year we got to go out and help spawn our fish. So, this batch is also special, not only because it’s our thousandth fish, but because we were a part of the spawning process for them. so we really were there from, like, you know, start to release, which was really special. And, for the past two years, we’ve had pathologists, ah, come out from. Where is it? Montana.

PS: Bozeman.

Kiera: Bozeman. Yeah, so every year we. In the past, we’ve sent samples of our fish to them so that way they can, you know, test it for, you know, any, harmful things that, you know, could accompany it into the river. and this year, and last year, that pathologist came out and did those tests with us. So we got to learn the process, of testing these fish as well as, you know, we got to get a much closer look at our fish. We got to dissect a few of them and see, you know, all of the inner workings of them, which was a really fascinating experience and.

LM: Yeah, you’re much less squeamish than I am.

Kiera: Well, I mean, it’s very like, you know, while it is sad that we have to cut into our fish, it is a good thing because we are able to test them for these potentially harmful bacteria and parasites and all that. but that was a really incredible opportunity. And I know, speaking for kale and myself, we have been able to gain a lot of connections, for future career paths with us fish and wildlife. and it’s just been an incredible opportunity.

MG: One of the neater things for me that I witnessed this year was watching Kiera present at the upper Colorado river endangered fish recovery program, their researchers meeting, where it’s. It’s a yearly event that has the top researchers up and down the Colorado river basin. I mean, really, really, really big hitters in the science community. And, yeah, Kiera presented there. She was the youngest person to ever present at that researchers meeting, which. Very impressive. Good job, Kiera.

Kiera: It was an incredible opportunity.

PS: I think another awesome part that. The fact that we’re here at a school, and so we have viewed this, Hatchery as like a living lab, you know, we have had students that have set up experiments, students like Kiera in our IB program, used the Hatchery, as her science, one of her science studies that she had to submit to the IB. And so she ran a year long study on the different feed types that we’ve been using and how it’s impacted growth rates. We’ve had students you use know the Hatchery to look at how light can, impact growth rate, in terms of the daylight time as it changes through the year. We’ve had students compare the Hatchery growth in terms of an indoor Hatchery versus, an ah, outdoor Hatchery, growths, in other areas, that grow razorback suckers, And so I think that’s the awesome part. Part of it is that we view it as a living lab and students that have ideas and that want to run tests and to see, help us understand these fish more and more. It’s pretty awesome. It’s pretty awesome opportunity for us. And then also, we’re working with the US fish and wildlife in terms of even the anesthesia, compounds that we use for our fish when we pit tag and when we do our final weigh and length tests, is an experimental piece, with razorback suckers. And so we’re excited to be able to conduct that study and report that data to us fish and wildlife. And hopefully our little hatchery can have a big impact, on some of those things down the road.

Kiera: another thing that I have been able to find through my work at the hatchery is, an internship, through Hutton. It’s a Hutton internship, and it’s run through American fisheries society. And essentially you apply and you get paired up with a mentor at a fish hatchery that is in your area. And It’s a summer internship program, and you get to go and spend the summer with your mentor doing all sorts of things, involving fish. So, for example, I would be going out with, them on the boat looking for my fish and the fish that we’ve raised here.

LM: And, you know, that’s awesome. So you’re going to be doing that this summer?

Kiera: hopefully. Fingers crossed. If it all works out.

LM: I’m sure it will!

PS: But then we, you know, and I think what’s cool about this is like, so our program just at our school is, has been spread through the valley. We have students. So Isabella’s here from Plateau Valley that wanted some opportunities to get involved in the fish hatchery. And so she comes down from Ponto valley once a week and does little things in the fish hatchery to help her learn more and more about that career, path as well. And so, yeah, word is spreading and, students are wanting to or seeing as a great opportunity to get involved with, and so it’s really starting to pick up more and more each year. We even have an art class, this semester that is working on, doing some old Japanese art styles with our razorbacks. And so, they’re gonna be doing a, it’s basically like a fish press with, rice paper and ink and things. And so they’re practicing on some models. We bought some toy, razorback suckers that they’re practicing on. And then, you know, we’ll, Yeah, anyways, get to be able to see their work from that. So we’re really excited about that.

LM: That’s cool. This is amazing. It’s just so cool to hear about all of this happening here. It’s pretty special.

PS: Absolutely.

LM: if people want to like just general community members, if anybody is interested in learning more beyond coming to the release party, what’s the best way for people to reach out and get involved or donate if they want to?

PS: We have a student generated website available, ah, On our palisade high school website, and if you go to, I think, the programs tab, if I recall. But you could even just do a simple search on the website itself and you’ll find the PHS fish hatchery website. And there’s a lot of information there that one of our former students put together and did that as a prize project. and then, Also there is opportunity for questions, or even setting up visits per se, those types of things. We have some platforms for them to fill out some information there. And then, yeah, and then if donations, you know, there’s some instructions on people, that would like to donate as well. So, yeah, without. Yeah, without donations and without funding. And we, you know, we’re trying to, you know, still maintain a lot of the. This kind of daily costs and things like that. and so, yeah, it’s. That helps a ton. So every little bit helps.

Kiera: We also have an Instagram as well @Phsfishhatchery.

Follow the @Phsfishhatchery insta for the latest about everything the PHS fish hatchery team is working on, including the release day…

MG: Hope to see you all there May 3 at 1:30 at Riverbend park. Come kiss a fish, Lisa.

LM: No, thanks. okay, well, thank you so much for spending time with me and also just for everything you do. This is really cool to learn about and such an exciting thing to have here.

LM: PHS’s school motto is:

Kiera: think globally, act locally.

LM: Think globally, act locally. The hatchery is a perfect example of that concept. Not only does it have an impact on the local environment, it has set off a chain reaction by inspiring other schools to open hatcheries and by inspiring students from other schools to come to Palisade to build on the foundation already in place here. I was blown away to learn about the important work being done by these community members.

Go check out the release day and celebrate their hard work!

Thanks for listening. With love, from Palisade.

Thanks to Geoff Roper for the music.  

E24: Celebrating One Year With the Things that Make Palisade So Special and New Music

March marks the one year anniversary of the Postcards from Palisade Podcast! Listen to find out what’s ahead for year two, to celebrate past guests’ favorite things about Palisade, and to hear the debut of the podcast’s new intro music, created by a local Palisadian!  

Music: Riverbend by Geoff Roper.


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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.

It’s hard to believe, but March marks the one year anniversary of the Postcards from Palisade podcast!

A year and a half ago I had an idea to make a podcast about Palisade, my new hometown; to learn all about the place by talking with fellow Palisade residents and sharing what I heard. I hoped it would help me grow my own community and, as a side benefit, help others expand their communities too.

It took me more than six months to get up the courage to actually get started. Six months of fighting that silly little voice in my head that was telling me I didn’t have the right equipment, or enough connections, or a decent recording spot, or the right to even think I could do something like this. But then one day I woke up and decided to go for it. I haven’t looked back since.

And now it’s been a whole year! So I just wanted to take a moment to pause and say: thank you so much for listening! I’m so glad that you all are along for the adventure. While this has been a ton of fun for me, I’m not sure I would have kept up with it if I didn’t hear that it’s been fun for you too.

When I hear things from you, like that my podcast with Christine inspired someone who hadn’t gone to yoga in years to try a class again, or that you learned something you didn’t know, or a business owner had someone mention they came in because of what they heard on an episode, or that those of you who are not physically in Palisade, but whose hearts are here, appreciate the updates on what’s happening in town (the essence of what a postcard is, right).

…well this is why I’m here! If I get to connect people while having a good excuse to be nosy and ask all the questions that are running through my head at all times, I’m calling that a win.

On this occasion, I thought it would be fun to listen back to past guests’ favorite things about Palisade. Here are a few of my favorites:

Danny Tebbenkamp of Paddleboard Adventure Company, from episode 2:

DT: it’s fun to like, go to certain place and see people you know from certain walks of life, around town and be able to just strike up a conversation. They say, as you’re shopping or out and about, don’t plan to – what you think might be a 20 minute stop to the grocery store is probably going to be like, 45 to an hour. Because you’re going to talk to people. So, that’s just a mindset that – back in Steamboat years ago, that’s kind of what it was, and I miss that. Steamboat’s just such a hustle bustle and busy – you see people, but everyone’s in such a rush now. Here everyone’s still like in the slow pace, anywhere you go you’re going to run into somebody that you know or kinda know, but they’re so friendly that they’re going to talk to you – like hey, aren’t you that guy…or how do I know you? So I just love the community aspect of just the closeness, kind of we’re all in it together.

Cassidee Shull of CAVE, from episode 3:

CS: It’s very friendly and it’s very tight knit. We just had an amazing event happen I think last weekend that was called Sing up the Sun that was kind of an homage or welcome to the equinox, and it was all just put on by a community member that just wanted to see a new event happen this time of year, which is a but slower for us. We’ve not yet hit spring, or, I’m sorry, early spring, like summer festivals. Farmer’s market’s not up yet. Our honeybee festival’s not here yet. And to see – I think the first one was last year but to watch that event take off and it’s all community-led and volunteer driven, and people came out with poems and dancing and costumes and puppets and I was like – this is amazing! And it’s all just a small community put-together.

Nelly Garcia Olmos of La Plaza, from episode 4:

NG: I am in love with the valley. Every time people ask me, would you go live somewhere, I say, no. And it’s – I come from Mexico City. A huge city. LM: Huge city! NG: Huge city! And when people tell me, you don’t want to go back to a huge city, I say, no! I’ve been here for such a long time. And it really took me long. To be able to say: this is my home. This is my home, too. It took me a long time. To feel welcome. To feel part of the community. And I don’t want that to happen to other people. That’s what I do. That’s the reason why I do everything I do. I don’t want the same feeling to go to our new people, because I know what my family and I went through. And I think that’s why – I think it’s so hard to think of another change again. To say, oh, now I’m going to go to another place. It’s not like language – when you learn a second language, you are able to learn many more. It doesn’t work like that! It’s different. But also, I miss the mountains. Every time I get to travel, even though I’ve been to such beautiful places, I miss the mountains, you know. Those beautiful skies. When the sun is going down, and you see the orange, and you see the teal in the sky, and the white, and all those beautiful colors – you don’t see that any other place.

Lisa aka Moose Levy Kral of Dancing in My Head Photography, from episode 7:

LK: I love it. I really like it. It’s a very warm community. I mean, I’m a city girl, so I have great stories now. Our neighbors used to have pigs that got loose. Matt and I have chased loose pigs, like, three times, I think. And just like, these stories that I get to say, these words coming out of my mouth. Like, there were pigs rolling around on our pool cover once. And they were over 200 pounds. And they’re like, you know, during the season the pool cover collects rainwater and stuff. The pigs got out and I’m looking out this window and there’s just a pig rolling around and I’m like…and Matt’s, I call Matt and I’m like, I don’t know what to do! And luckily the pool covers can hold up a lot of weight. I mean, I’ve stood on it before, it’s like a water bed almost. But, I was like, Matt, what do I do, the pigs are on the pool! And there were two others, like, looking at it. So Matt comes out and I’m like, oh the photographer in me, I have to record this. So Matt goes out and he’s like, herding them away from the pool and I have it on video. Sorry, this is a podcast and you can’t see it, but it’s like, a really funny video. LM: I can visualize it…I mean when you’re chasing are you trying to like grab the pig, – or were you just trying to herd it? LK: They were so big. So, one time they got little babies. This was the third time that they got pigs. They thought they had secured the, but they were so tiny that the little pigs got out, and those were the only pigs you could actually pick up and carry. Of course I have pictures of that too. But the other ones, the ones on our pool cover, there was no picking those guys up. They ended up being over 250 pounds, so what we had to do, was like, everybody had to grab something. Like a stick, a rake, our pool skimmer, whatever it was, and you have to, like – you need at least four people to kind of corner them off and like kind of run them back to the pen. And luckily one time when they got out, some guy was just driving down the highway and he pulled over and his dog was a herder. Because the neighbors weren’t home and it was just me and Matt and we’re like, trying to get these giant pigs. And this guy comes out and like finally the neighbors get home or their friends come over and so the herder dog saved the day. So, wrangling pigs. That’s another thing I love about Palisade – I get to tell stories like that. Mom, I wrangled pigs today!

Christine Moore of Christine Moore Yoga, from episode 8:

CM: I love being in a small community. For instance, when I had covid, I had little gifts of food left at my door. I know all my neighbors. I feel this real welcoming presence in all of that that’s so different. I lived in a townhouse in Boulder, the last one I lived in, for 20 years and I didn’t know my neighbors the way I know them here. I like how accessible it is to hiking and different – you know, it’s just beautiful to be out in nature here. And so I love that about Palisade. And I feel like it keeps growing and changing, and it’s just fun to be in a small town.

Wendy Videlock, Western Slope Poet Laureate, from episode 13:

WV: yeah Palisade is interesting um so the way I describe Palisade is well obviously we’re ag but we’re also very art which is a really interesting mix um so whatever Palisade does they want to do it well so if they’re going to do a peach they’re going to make the best damn peach you’ve ever had if they’re going to grow marijuana they’re going to grow the best pot if they’re going to make art they’re going to make good art and so Palisade has an interest in excellence and and this to me is pretty awesome

Laura Black of Mesa Park Fruit Co, from episode 14:

LB: it’s special and there’s like a camaraderie of with the local residents that is it’s just something cool and and I think when you’re farming I read this quote a while ago and it was something to the effect of like like a small town a small farming town like rides these these waves together right the highs and the lows because it’s very rare that like we’ll freeze and our neighbor doesn’t right so like we we’re all in this together to some extent it was actually it was really crazy earlier this year it was April end of April 25th 26 27th something like that when we had those freezes and and we have a wind machine over at my um dad’s property and so Brandon was up like running that and then the sprinklers were going in the cherry orchard and and I promise you C Road right there was busier at 3am and then it is during the day and it was even though no one was happy about being up doing what they were doing it was sort of like Brandon was like it was like this cool thing like we are all in this together we’re all out here like trying to do everything that we can to save our crop this year

Scott and Jessica Washkowiak of Field to Fork Organic Farm, from episode 15:

SW: the trains and the peaches JW: oh the trains everybody does really like the train actually SW: I I haven’t I up until this incident I really never had like ever was frightened by it or whatever JW: it’s kind of like this you know the part of American history SW: it’s just the quaintness of the community too I feel that like we’ll always kind of hear about our son and his day out in the in the general public and the big thing is is that over three quarters of all the ski resorts in the area are like two hours away JW: but that’s not in Palisade SW: no but but where Palisade lays is really cool JW: but also I think like the the best thing about Palisade as a farmer and a grower is the microclimate that we have here SW: yeah it’s ridiculous

And finally, from Hillary Eales of Mafia Princess Wine, from episode 18:

I love the community and I still do the people the farmers they’re there’s just this whole like culture around agriculture that I just think is amazing agricultural people no matter what they’re growing the culture is still the same and so coming here and like being part of this like farming community it was like instantly like home you know and I love that and I love like the cooperation between you know the majority of wineries want to help each other and are you know into that the ship rises with the tide you know all ships rise with the tide and like helping out everyone there’s there’s some outliers but of course that’s in any industry you know but it’s like I bought some fruit this year from Whitewater Hill we got some muscat because our Muscat like we already sold out of it because it was so popular and we don’t grow very much of it so they had some extra so I was like yeah I’ll take it and then Chloe their wine maker a day after we got the fruit she called or texted and she was like oh she called and she’s like hey like just want to make sure everything like went well you know the Talbott’s got you the fruit okay cuz they were the ones delivering it and processing and everything went good I was like well actually like we blew the bladder in our press while we were processing and she was like oh she’s like well just bring the fruit over here we’re going to finish up pressing our Moscato couple hours just bring the fruit over here and we’ll help you press it and I was like oh my gosh yes please like thank you went over she I mean it was her equipment so she had to but she helped press it helped clean everything stayed late I’m sure to help me out and then even the next week she like checked in and she was like hey were you able to get a replacement for your bladder for your press you know it’s just like that that community and even like we we still needed to bottle the last of our red and again like having issues getting glass and so I was like hey you guys have some extra bottles and they’re like oh yeah just like when you get your glass in replace it and picked up 60 cases of glass so I could bottle glass you know it’s it’s that kind of neighbor teamwork in one sense we’re competition but I always view it as like a friendly competition

LM: I’m looking forward to sharing another year of stories with you all. This is always a great season to start new things, and we have a bunch of new businesses to support in Palisade this year. New things to learn and new people to meet.

As spring rolls its warm blanket across the valley, as buds swell and burst and pollen tickles the nose, as bird chatter amongst themselves and the sun reminds us of more warmth to come, as the days get longer and traffic picks up and we start to look forward to (or dread) the events of the season: take this opportunity to do that thing you’ve been wanting to do.

So what else is next? You may have noticed that this episode didn’t start with any music. One of the things I’m looking forward to in the episodes to come is the new tune that will kick off each episode! I wanted to play it for you all by itself for its debut.

Local bike shop staple and musician Geoff Roper has created this amazing tune for the podcast. It’s inspired by the sounds of daily life in Palisade – so familiar to us all and part of the background of most episodes, since I record at people’s houses or businesses or in my own echoey rooms, instead of in a professional environment. Of course, when you ask a musician to make a song for you, nothing is going to be accidental. In this tune, the sounds are intentional, but they are instantly familiar. Enjoy.


Thanks, as always, for listening. Here’s to another year of community, stories, and fun. With love, from Palisade.

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.

E22: The Milky Way Enters Into Palisade’s Orbit, with Kathy and Scott Gilbert

Have you visited The Milky Way? As of Wednesday, 2/28, Kathy and Scott Gilbert are serving up sweet treats, savory snacks, and tasty drinks from their new shop at 330 Main Street in Palisade!

Wait, wasn’t it supposed to be called something different? We’ll get into that, along with all the yummy treats they’re planning to serve up, the fun surprises in store, and lots more, on today’s episode.

Find The Milky Way on Instagram @themilkywaypalisade

  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.

Tomorrow, Wednesday the 28th of February, Kathy and Scott Gilbert will be one step closer to their goal of total Palisade dessert domination!

That’s because tomorrow is the opening day of their new, eagerly awaited dessert shop, The Milky Way. Wait, wasn’t it supposed to be called something different? We’ll get into that, along with all the tasty treats they’re planning to serve up, the fun surprises in store, and lots more, on today’s Postcard From Palisade.

LM: we last talked in May and you’ve been a little busy since then.

KG: Teensy bit. Teensy bit busy.

LM: A few things have happened.

KG: Few things. Finally got our permit to build out, and we’ve been building since we got our permit in, what, July? Because that took a little longer than we thought it would be.

SG: And there’s a saying when you do things like this that takes twice as long and costs twice as much. And we were well past that, but almost done.

KG: Very close.

LM: Still, I think in the grand scheme of things, I mean, to have done this much since July is a lot.

KG: Oh, it feels eternal.

LM: A lot of work.

KG: It just feels eternal. Everything is shiny and new. Whether we wanted it to be or not.

SG: This time last year we were in escrow to buy the building.

KG: We’re like, oh, we’ll be open by June. It’ll be so easy.

SG: Foolishly thinking we would just quickly flip it and open. But, there’s a lot of permitting and rules and time and just. Yeah, now we know what it takes and we’re not going to do it again.

LM: So it’s the day before opening. what are you going to serve? What’s the concept?

KG: So primarily gelato and all things gelato. you can do gelato in a latte. You can do gelato Yeah. You flavor your latte with gelato. A scoop in there and it makes it extra, extra creamy because it’s no calories. It’s totally healthy. So we’ll have the gelato and then we’ll have about 20 to 30 different kinds of loose leaf teas. We’ll be focusing on teas. And we’ll be selling the loose leaf teas. And then we’ll also be selling spices. And then for food, we’ll have quite a few breakfast items. We’ll have a breakfast frittata, gluten free. And what else are we having? Oatmeal, cold and regular. And then, mini pancakes. I’m very excited about these. There’s a fancy name for it. Have you seen them? Like the profiterol? I can never say it. Yeah, there’s a fancy name for it. But they’re little pancakes. And then you pimp them out with Nutella and butter and powdered sugar. And then if you really want to make it healthy, then you add fruit to balance. It’s all about balance. And then, for lunchtime, we’ll be doing a line of grilled cheese. Plus all the pastries, we’ll be carrying all kinds of pastries. and we will be carrying kulina lani in the pastry case. And you can buy loaves of bread here.

SG: Candy.

KG: Oh, yeah, candy. We’ll be doing candy too. We’ll be doing, Enstroms candy. And then we have another distributor where we’ll be doing the fancy candies you can buy in a little box. And then macaroons and

SG: cakes.

KG: Cakes.

LM: Oh, my God. So much good stuff.

KG: We’re aiming for dessert. And then we’ll have some fruit. We’ll have some fruit in the grab and go too, because balance.

SG: at its core, it’s a dessert shop, but it’s got a lot surrounding it to make it a you could have your whole meal here too. But if it’s a dessert shop theme.

KG: Because dessert is great. Life is worth dessert.

LM: Absolutely. So when we talked in May, this was going to be the sempre cafe.

SG that was the working title

LM: But now…

KG: that was our working title.

LM: now what’s the latest?

Electrician: is now a bad time?

LM: did I mention that there was a lot going on when we met? The electrician had just stopped by to hook up the sweet retro light fixture that was directly over the table where we had been sitting, causing us to move over to another part of the shop.

LM: All right, so we’ve relocated over to the counter. Okay. What were we talking about?

KG: I don’t know.

LM: Oh, the name.

KG: The name. It just wasn’t working.

SG: Well, the kids didn’t like it. I liked it.

KG: I didn’t like it. You’re the only one who liked it.

SG: So it became the working title.

KG: Yeah. It has to still say sempre cafe on all of the plans, because there’s no way the architect is going to change them at this point.

LM: Right.

KG: But it’s called the Milky Way

KG: the whole line of drink menus that we have, there’s some fun named things in there, like, what was it, the raspberry retrograde? What was the other one? The Armstrong.

SG: this kind of mid century, atomic age things started to develop, so the name was changed to reflect what it was becoming.

KG: Yeah, because you can’t change the shape of the building. The building is definitely mid century, and you can’t change that. So we leaned into it bigly. It all came together. We were a little skeptical at times. Like, is this the right choice? I’m not sure, but we’re committed, so let’s keep going.

SG: I always assume everything’s a mistake until proven otherwise.

KG: That is true.

LM: So Milky Way. Awesome menu. What are the hours going to be like?

KG: we’re going to be open as the market supports. So probably for the first month, we will be closed Monday and Tuesday just so we can get our bearings. But let’s see, so what? That would be Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday, 08:00 a.m.. to 06:00 p.m. And then Friday and Saturday open later. We’re just not sure it’s going to be kind of a work in progress.

SG: That’ll change as it gets warmer. as the town’s traffic flow gets back to the summer.

KG: The touristy. And people want ice cream more and gelato. Sorry, I didn’t say ice cream. People want gelato more when it’s not 28 degrees out.

LM: Right?

KG: It’s 80. Let’s have ice cream

LM: no I mean a scoop of gelato in a latte, that’s a winter treat.

KG: You can always just do an affogato too. Just do a little affogato, which is nice.

LM: Yeah, that’s a winter thing for sure.

KG: Again, no calories. But it’s really good gelato. It’s really, really good gelato.

SG: It’s distributed from Denver, but the company is actually from Italy.

KG: Yeah.

LM: So it’s the real deal.

KG: It is, excellent. It is truly excellent gelato. And we’re leading off with just scoops of gelato for starters. But then we’ll be branching out quickly into milkshakes with it. and then I like to call it gelato nachos. You take some scoops, and then you put cool toppings on it and sauce, and then you dip your little wafer chips and you’ve got nachos. And if you share it with a friend, it has no calories.

LM: There you go. This is going to be amazing. what’s the difference between gelato and ice cream?

KG: Gelato is a little bit warmer, kept at a warmer temperature, and it’s creamier. And it’s actually less calories I think.

SG: it’s richer.

KG: It’s richer. No, it actually is. but it’s richer. But it has less things in it, for lack of a better word. It’s more pure.

SG: It’s more dense.

KG: Yeah, it’s more dense.

LM: less air. that would be more dense.

KG: And it’s just so good. It’s really good. And we’ll have always on tap. We’ll always have one that’s a sorbet. So if anyone has a dairy and that will change. Our flavors will change all the time.

LM: of the things that you’re going to be serving, what’s your personal favorite?

KG: That’s a tough one. I mean, gelato, probably the hazelnut gelato, the hazelnut chocolate. That would be my favorite thing.

SG: Those who know us, for the coffee bus, and the ice cream truck, we will still have our usual line of coffee drinks. So I like the vanilla chai.

KG: You like the dirty chai.

SG: The dirty chai, yeah.

KG: And now we can get it sugar free. We have a distributor that we can get better chai from and have some more options, but there’s like a sugar free one, so less guilt. That’s his favorite drink though.

SG: Yeah. So we’ll still have everything that you were getting on the trucks too.

LM: And the vending machine. So the small art vending machine is here.

KG: Small art vending machine. And some more oddities in there. Some little odd things like trying to think, can I give that away? Some little retro toys that we grew up with and that sort of thing. Oh, I remember that. Oh, that’s so cool.

LM: You still going to have a local artist in there for some of the stuff?

KG: We will still be having some local artists. by the time this is broadcast, the pictures done by a local artist will be outside and she’ll be putting her stuff in the vending machine as well. And she’s done an amazing job on our art. I’m very excited about those.

SC: tell about the courtyard?

KG: Oh, yeah, the courtyard. Okay. Yeah, they’re starting that any moment. They came today to start it. So, we will have all outdoor seating as well. so it’ll be nice and covered and shady with a fountain and plants. And we’ll have, I don’t know how many seats out there. 15-20. More like lots of seating out there.

LM: Awesome.

KG: So we want this to be a fun place to hang out and enjoy yourself. That’s the goal. Trying to figure out how to put one of those, igloos that they have at the maverick out there in the winter. I really want one of those. They’re just so cool.

LM: Totally fits the theme too.

KG: That’s what I think

LM: it does. I wonder if that’s your patio.

KG: I wonder if that’s that would be dominic from spectrum

LM: your cable! Okay, what else do we definitely want to get? do you want to talk about any of, the components of the store? What should people get really excited about seeing or walking in?

KG: Well, besides the bathroom, the gelato case is lovely. what else?

SG: yeah, the gelato case we’re going to do. It’s going to be the sculpted look. It’s just nice to look at. It’s got the decorations.

KG: It will be pretty

LM: like the peaks and then the

KG: Yes. And you put little sample like, if it’s a strawberry gelato, you put cut strawberries on it. If it’s the hazelnut chocolate, you put Ferrer Rocher on it. You can do that too. So you can take a Ferrer Rocher and have it just pour onto the latte. The latte shots pour onto it and melt it. And then you can pour the whole thing onto the gelato. And it’s like inception affogato, I’m like all about that.

LM: Wow. Was it hard to find suppliers for any of the ingredients

KG: not really. Not really. I don’t think. I mean, equipment, yeah, but the suppliers, the gelato. No, we’ve got a really good company. We had to go, of course, field test it. It’s excellent.

SG: You haven’t mentioned the retail yet.

KG: Oh, yeah, we have retail. Sorry. There’s a lot going on. So we will have a small retail section. Not huge, just small. and we’ll have an entire line of spices and entire line of teas. And then retail themed that it’ll kind of change every month as we go. It’ll change like, we’re starting off with mid century modern just because it’s really fun. And I found some great products. And then as we get into the bee festival, we’ll have more of that. And then going into summer, more of that. That will change all the time. The retail, if you see it, it probably won’t be back. So kind of keep changing it all the time. Our Instagram wall. I love my Instagram wall.

LM: What’s this?

KG: That is at the end when you walk in, you will see a couch and two chairs, a nice little conversation area. And on the wall behind it, the decorations will change seasonally as well. So we highly encourage you to take a selfie at the Instagram wall and post it because social media is key. please tag us because we love attention. I like to see pictures, like we do the farmers market. And we’re incredibly busy, and there’s, like, no photo of us out there at all. Wonder how my bus looked, because I can’t get off and take a picture.

LM: Oh, my gosh. I can’t even get up close to it to order.

KG: Crazy, right?

LM: it’s so busy.

KG: Yeah, it’s crazy. But we’ll be doing the bus again next year in the same spot. So Sundays will be interesting.

LM: Yeah, Sundays will be wild.

KG: It’ll be fun, right?

SG: Yeah. The trucks will be events only with still a presence at the farmers market. but this will be kind of our anchor. And then go into events only on the trucks. And there’ll be plenty of events.

KG: Yes. But food truck life is hard. It’s really hard. Like, let me just take everything I might possibly need and put it in this tiny little space and then drive and hope that it doesn’t break down or blow up, but it’s fine. It all works.

SG: This store this building does not have a motor in it.

KG: No, I’m not mad about that at all.

LM: That’ll be nice.

SG: Will it start? Will it make it?

KG: You walk in and you turn on the lights and that’s it. You’re there. Do you want to pause or. Hi, Dominic. I got the text that your name is Dominic. So Wifi…

Cable guy: got you. What’s..

KG: Follow me.

Cable guy: I see you’re under a lot of construction right now.

SG: This is a little more chaotic.

KG: We weren’t expecting this much chaos today. There was chaos this morning, but this is some next level now. Let’s do a podcast. It’ll be quiet in here. Sure.

LM: the last few months have brought visible changes to the facade of the Milky Way. The teal exterior has been repainted a rich cream color. Behind the papered over windows, even more changes have been taking place. Kathy and Scott have spent months working to renovate this former gallery space into a cafe. The interior walls are a calming powder blue, the trim is a bright white. Metal accents are a deep gold and the wooden countertops are stained a rich dark brown, coated with layers of thick epoxy. The floors are a smooth grey concrete.

Walking in, the first thing you’ll notice is the gelato case. Clean, sparkling, and filled with multicolored rectangles of deliciousness, it’s a bit overwhelming to behold.

Metal countertops behind the gelato case hold up a shiny new espresso machine, amongst other equipment. Swinging doors with charming circular windows lead into the kitchen.

Directly to the right is the retail section where Percy, the vending machine that had been posted up outside the Ordinary Fellow, now resides, along with other fun and delicious discoveries.

And then the rest of the space is filled with cream colored tables and chairs, with a back door leading out to a paved patio with more seating, covered with shade awnings. The overall feeling blends a sense of milky calm with a wild sugar rush in a totally unique way.

KG: I think the prettiest things in here, I have to say, I think the prettiest things are the countertop, the checkout counter with the rounded edge, with the brass pole, and then the kitchen doors. The kitchen doors are my favorite thing, I think.

LM: I agree.

SG: We’re getting good feedback on our open sign too.

KG: which is on. I think I’ll turn the open sign off.

SG: it was a bit of a risk because nobody does an open sign like that. But we wanted to do something different.

LM: And you’ll probably have a sign out front, too. Some sort of hanging sign or something

SG: like an aframe or something.

KG: I know what I want to do, but I don’t know if you’re going to like what I want to do. I wanted to have a mannequin, and I want to have the mannequin just say, like, hi. We’re open and holding a basket with the menus if they want to look at it.

SG: Let’s look in the town code.

KG: You’re hoping there’s a mannequin section that I can’t, please don’t let Kathy do that. They have the robot ones that do like, they wave and they move and it’s a little creepy. I won’t do that. Mostly because I don’t have power right there. Otherwise I would.

LM: yet

KG: Oh, bathroom. The bathroom is very unique. That’s all I’m going to say. You’re going to want to see the bathroom. I’m very proud of it.

LM: that’s all

KG: That’s all I’m going to say. It has lots of space.

SG: It ended up being bigger than the kitchen.

KG: Yeah, it actually did

SG: by code. So we might as well use it.

KG: We might as well decorate it. Extremely decorated. We’ll go with that. Let’s let that be a surprise.

LM: I’m not going to say anything.

KG: Not going to say anything till they see it.

LM: Okay. That’s a fun surprise. I feel like you have a lot of fun little surprises and kind of interesting and fun things for people to find.

KG: The goal is to find something new every time you come in to see something new.

SG: And we want to revolve things around. So it is new not every day, but for every season.

KG: the goal is to have a lot of events here during the week. In the summer, Friday, Saturday. We’re just trying to survive. We’re all just trying to survive tourist season. But we want to do some events here that are just fun for the town people. Ooh let’s do a we talked about a couple of wineries, like doing a wine gelato pairing one night. Doesn’t that sound fancy?

LM: Wonderful.

KG: And then we’ll do game nights and trivia nights and just fun. We just want to have fun. because this is kind of a fun place.

LM: And that’s kind of what’s missing too, because there’s a lot of music Friday Saturdays, which I’m not complaining about I love it, very happy.

KG: Right. It’s great but when you’re industry. You can’t go and do that. We’ll be here.

LM: But that’s already kind of going on and drawing people away. So it makes sense to during the week when there’s less to do, when locals are like, I’m bored, I’m off work I want to do something fun.

KG: especially in the winter.

LM: yes, that would be cool.

KG: January and February are hard.

LM: What’s your pitch to get people to come in here? What are you going to tell them?

KG: god you put the pressure on me like that. fun treats. Fun experience. Something palisade has never seen before. The style has never been seen here before.

SG: Our tagline is you are here.

KG: You are here. You’re at the Milky Way. So you are here.

SG: We’ll see you here.

KG: We’ll see you here.

LM: See you at the Milky Way! 330 Main Street, Palisade. And don’t forget to tag those Instagram wall photos and share the love. But please, save me some of that chocolate hazelnut gelato!

Thanks for listening. With love, from Palisade.

E21: Palisade Trail Guide with Rondo Buecheler of Palisade Cycle and Shuttle

Rondo Buecheler is co-owner of Palisade Cycle and Shuttle, Palisade’s local bike and river rental shop.

Rondo and I went on a grand tour of his life, from sleeping under the I-70 bridge and working at the Liv in the late seventies to summers spent in a dory on the Grand Canyon and winters on the slopes at Powderhorn to opening multiple successful businesses across the Grand Valley.

We dug into the history of the Palisade Plunge trail, exciting updates on other local trails, and why Palisade is such a ridiculously amazing place to live if you love the outdoors. We also talked about the wildest things that have happened to him out on the trail, tourists and biking, his legacy and true passion, and why it is so important to strive to make your own backyard a great place.

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.

Rondo Buecheler is co-owner of Palisade Cycle and Shuttle, Palisade’s local bike and river rental shop.

Rondo and I sat down in the shop and went on a grand tour of his life, from sleeping under the I-70 bridge and working at the Liv when he first moved to Palisade in the late seventies, to summers spent in a dory on the Grand Canyon and winters on the slopes at Powderhorn, to opening multiple successful businesses across the Grand Valley.

Rondo and I got into the history of the Palisade Plunge trail, he shared some exciting updates on future local trails like the Riverfront Trail, Horse Mountain, and Coal Canyon, and why Palisade is such a ridiculously amazing place to live if you love the outdoors. We also talked about the wildest things that have happened to him out on the trail, tourists and biking, his legacy and true passion, and why it is so important to strive to make your own backyard a great place.

Join us for the Palisade Trail (and Life) Guide, on today’s Postcard from Palisade.

As I was doing a sound check, Rondo gave the best intro, which I had to keep to start out with, even though I was accidentally using the wrong input device for the recording…

RB: Hi there. My name is Rondo, and I’m here to talk about Palisade.

LM: you have a good radio voice.

RB: Thank you.

After I figured out what I was doing wrong, we dove right into the conversation.

LM: So how long have you lived in the area?

RB: I moved to Colorado, actually, in 1977. And actually, my first job was working at the livery.

LM: No way.

RB: Yeah, I was trying to get a job at Powderhorn and got a job at the livery. I’d worked at Lake Powell and lived under the bridge when it rained. The colorado the interstate goes over the freeway, and then finally got a job at Powderhorn on ski patrol and then stayed. So I lived in Mesa, and then when I raised my kids, I married, a beautiful lady with two kids. She lived in fruita. So I started a bike shop there and then. Speak of the devil, there’s my daughter. I’ll call her back later.

LM: Okay, sounds good. so before we go too far, can you introduce yourself? Your name?

RB: Hi my name is Rondo Buecheler, but I go by Rondo and I’m co owner with Scott Winans of Palisade Cycle and shuttle. And we are the local bike shop in Palisade. And then we offer shuttles up to the Palisade plunge. And then we can also shuttle winery bikes out to east orchard Mesa and people can ride back. And we do limited service here and very limited, retail. We really pretty much just sell our rental bikes. We’re not a big shop you would go to to buy a new bike, necessarily. And we are just the unofficial visitor center for the town of Palisade because we are open seven days a week from march into December. And we’re right on the corner here. We have one of the best locations in town and people stop by and visit with us. So it’s just a fun little social bike shop in a beautiful community.

LM: How long has the shop been open? So you’ve been here since 77. But when did you open the shop?

RB: we opened the shop in 2007.

LM: Okay.

RB: I had a shop and a bike shop in fruita, over the edge sports, and I sold that at that time. And, the first service manager there, Scott Winans, was a good friend of mine. We both had this vision of bike trails at this end of the valley, mesa slopes all the way up to the top of the mesa. So we decided to come out here and start a shop here and work on the trail system. So, same business plan as Fruita. There was very little fruita had. Kokopelli trail was, told about how that was going to become this next bike mecca. so opened up over the edge in Fruita and then worked with 1000 other people on developing fruita for ten years. And then Scott and me are basically doing the same thing out here, coming out here, working with a thousand other people, very involved with the community. Copmoba, your local agencies, BLM, forest service, parks and wildlife to develop, trails for biking. Some of the trails we’ve worked on, horses can go on and you can hike them all for this end of the valley.

LM: So it’s going to be really hard to just talk to you for an hour because there’s so much that you’ve done and you do, and there’s so many questions I want to ask you, but I think probably the thing that I think of the most when I hear, or people say the most when I hear about you or they talk about you, is the plunge trail, obviously. You’re very associated with that.

RB: correct. We are. And it’s not just me again, I’m just one of many, many people. three people really should be thanked for the plunge. My business partner, Scott Winans, he just worked incredibly hard on her for ten years. And then Mike Jones and Chris Pickens with the BLM, those two guys from our partners in the government worked incredibly hard to take this vision of a trail off the top of the mesa and make it happen. And it’s still a raw, rough trail. It’s going to be several years before a larger user group gets to use it just because of the inaccessibility and the challenging terrain that it goes through. But it’s a vision that’s a reality that now is just being fine tuned for a few years and then every year we should have more and more riders do it.

LM: Okay.

RB: But it’s definitely an adventure trail and we’re very proud to have been part of it.

LM: Awesome. Yeah. So what does it mean to you to have been a part of something that big?

RB: it means a lot I guess, personally. My legacy is to have developed several businesses in town bike related that have led to making western Colorado, the grand Valley, Grand Junction, Fruita, loma, palisade into a biking destination and the last key to a biking destination. So we have local riding, the lunch loops, then we have Fruita area which is some destination. You’ve got camping in north Fruita desert, but you’ve got the Kokopelli, you’ve got the north Fruita, Rabbit Valley. So we had all this incredible desert riding here and incredible road riding. We’ve got the Alphabet ride you can do out in Fruita where you just took all the roads that are alphabetically named. And then you’ve got the riverfront trail, which I’ve also been on the riverfront commission. We’re trying to get that done, the monument. But we have lift service riding at Powderhorn. But we didn’t have those epic rides, a shuttled epic ride. So this is the first of maybe some more shuttled epic rides in the grand valley. So we have it all right here.

LM: Yeah. Well when you talk about making it more accessible, what does that mean? Or what would that look like? The plunge trail?

RB: What do you mean by accessible? Okay, so right now, a trail when it’s infancy, when it’s brand new, is raw, it’s rougher, it’s narrower, it gets overgrown, it has more rocks on it, it’s susceptible to weather like flash floods and stuff like that. So it takes a while to wear a trail in to where a larger user group can use it. So right now it’s got some exposure, it’s got some rocky areas and it’s long and it does start on top of a beautiful 10,000 foot mesa, but end up at 4500ft along the Colorado river in the stinking hot desert. So it’s an adventure ride that has a limited user group that would ride it right now. Again, when we tell people, we talk about it, we tell them it’s almost two different trails. You have the mesa top section and you have the plunge section of Palisade. We recommend that people do the plunge section. It can either be done as a 21 or 17 miles trail down to the valley. And that is pretty darn epic in itself. And then if you’re okay with that, you can add more to it. But it’s a challenging trail at this point.

LM: Sure. Yeah. So building a trail is just one piece of it. It’s complicated. You have to work with a lot of people to get there. But then maintaining it over time is never ending.

RB: No, it’s never ending. And that’s the challenge right now, is taking a raw trail and working it. we’re hopefully applying for some grants, to get some reworking on one section in the forest service from the place called Otto’s wall. It’s this switchback wall section. That’s just incredible. Off the tippy top of the mesa, through the cliff section, through the lava flow, and then to the first crossing of lands end road and that section, we’re hopefully going to get a grant to work on that and improve it and then just due to the inaccessibility of it. It’s hard to go do trail days up there. We work on the lower part and such. But to get, especially with volunteers to get them up there. We had used a trail group last year. Ross Mittleton with Department of Health had his trail crew go work up there for a week and they basically wanted to camp there to make it more effective. And it didn’t work out due to weather challenges. But you need to almost camp on the trail for a week or so and do work on it. And there’s very few trails that are that inaccessible like the other trails that people compare it to. The whole enchilada in moab, the monarch crest trail, they have all sorts of roads crisscrossing it, so you can get in and work on sections. But the inaccessibility of this trail once you hit lands end road, the last 17 miles, there’s one bailout that will go through town of Palisade property down to Cottonwood. But you can’t drive a vehicle there, it’s private to get up through it. So you can bail out there, but there’s no other way to get into it. So you do little projects and then figure out how to get home before dark.

LM: That’s a challenge.

RB: It is a challenge, yeah.

LM: And the bail out’s new, right? That was in the last few months or so?

RB: the bailout’s always been there because there’s some trails up into the watershed. But, the town of Palisade, BLM, nobody wanted us to broadcast that as a trail in itself, because it does go through some area, some country that is special to the people in Palisade, which is your watershed. Both grand Junction and Palisade have this watershed on the mesa that’s worth billions of dollars. It’s incredible. It’s amazing. And they really try to protect it, and they didn’t want a mainstream trail going through that. So, we had a tragedy up there that was a fatality. very sad. And after that point, it was determined that maybe we should mark the bailout for emergency use only.

LM: Okay

RB: So it’s well marked now. So if anybody does get in trouble, because it is such a long trail and it rides a little more challenging than some people think, they do have that option to bailing out and coming down. You can be in Palisade in, like, half hour, 40 minutes from the bailout, and there’s water. Ten minutes from the bailout, you’re in a creek.

LM: Okay.

RB: where you could drink if you had to and cool yourself down.

LM: Makes sense. So dealing with all of these different governmental agencies and the whole list of things that you listed before, private landowners, all the other people who have some interest in a project like this, how do you keep it on track? How do you not just get frustrated?

RB: Well, it was pretty easy for me because I put Scott Winans in charge of that.

LM: OK that’s a Scott question!

RB: Scott Winans was president of CopMOBA. He’s been, a board member, past president, just very involved with copMOBA for many, many years. And we needed an advocacy group to help do the trail. And Scott, as part of CopMOBA, was that person. And he is an incredibly well organized, very diplomatic, very, well spoken. He is the type of person that you want when you’re trying to get all these different people. Because we had. So we had Town of Palisade was involved. City of grand junction because of their watershed, BLM, forest service, Colorado parks and wildlife, private, property owners, leasees. So, the van Winkle ranch leases most of grand junction. And working with that family, which have been incredible, they’re just a great old time cowboy family. it took somebody to do that. And Scott was that person. And then the two, guys I mentioned from the BLM, Chris Pickens, Mike Jones. You know, government people can do what they want, but those guys just really put their heart and soul into this project, too, to make it happen on a governmental way. And then all the other partners, the people work with, all these other entities came together, and just to make this happen.

LM: So finding the right people

RB: it is definitely the right people. And it’s patience and time and money. Time and money. You can do anything. So it’s somebody that’s taking the time and then finding the funds to do something like this. And it’s a lot of people, but it takes. Scott and me came in here with this vision, so we were motivated by fear and greed. So that helps out know both this. And then the fruita project we’re coming into towns with limited riding. I’ve always believed that if you start a business, you shouldn’t start one that you’re taking away from somebody that’s there. So, like, when I started my second shop in Fruita, I was looking for a spot. I didn’t want to do one in grand junction because there were already bike shops there, and there’s a limited amount of business. So it’s always fun to start something from scratch. So, fruita, we proved it could be done, and we came out here to do this. Although this was much more challenging. We were the ones, too, that, instigated getting the palisade rim trail turned into a legal trail. So Scott and me paid for the concept plan for that. There was a series of, social trails up in that area, and we started the process by hiring someone to come out and do the concept, which, in turn, the BLM took over to turn the rim trail into what it is today.

LM: Okay. Oh I didn’t know that, that’s awesome. Well thank you for that!

RB: Well, it’s part of contributing to the community, and it’s part of creating a business. You start with nothing, and then you create all parts of it. So we’ve started the shop here without impacting any other business that was here, and we’ve contributed to the community. The taxes we pay as a business, the people we bring in that support other businesses, and just turning palisade into a community that people want to live here because of the recreational opportunities.

LM: Absolutely. So other trails you mentioned around here, you mentioned the riverfront trail, and you’re pretty involved with one riverfront, right.

RB: I just term limited out, but I’m on the committee, though, for getting the riverfront trail completed to this end of the valley.

LM: Yeah.

RB: So it’s a vision that was started many, many years ago. Again, a thousand people have been involved in that, and it’s all the way to Loma, and now it’s time to finish it to Palisade. And it’s supposed to it connects all the pearls of the grand valley, which are the state parks. So it’s supposed to end up at Island Acres State park. But right now, there’s a group that’s working on getting it to Palisade. There’s actually a work group. That’s where I’m off to a meeting after this with one riverfront and a bunch of partners to try to figure out how to get it to Palisade. And then from there, we can continue on to island acres.

LM: Okay. That would be amazing. And so you’re looking at now, or one riverfront is looking at, I believe, building the path along existing roadways instead of trying to go through private land along the river.

RB: Actually, we’re doing it well it might end up that way because that’s what ended up going to fruita. They had to go different routes. The vision is along the river, but there’s property owners that have beautiful properties, especially between Palisade and Clifton, that if I owned that property and my house was right along the river, I wouldn’t want a bike path in front of it. So we’re working around those people that don’t want to, and then working with other landowners that do say, oh, yeah, we can put a trail through here. It’s not going to affect my use of it. And then where it can’t do that. We’re looking at options, and there’s several options out there. We have three main ones that we’re looking at, and we’ve got $100,000 grant. So we’re working with a consultant to try to identify of these main three options. And maybe there’s one we haven’t thought of yet, which would be the best way to get it, to Palisade and Riverbend park. Because it is part of Riverbend park is part of the riverfront through there. And then from then highway six out, to the freeway, and then to cameo and island acres.

LM: Okay. I’m really looking forward to that.

RB: So am I. In my lifetime.

LM: Yeah. Okay. I was going to ask you what you thought the timing was.

RB: I want to live to be 100, but I’d like the trail to be done so I could ride.

LM: I’d love to just be able, get on the trail. Ride all the way out to fruita.

RB: Yeah, no, it’d be great. And then there’s some other options, are looking at some other trail alignments that could be really cool, that hopefully will become a reality again sooner than later. But all this, again, it takes people to dedicate their time. Most of these people that are working on all these projects, the mountain bike trails and the trails like the riverfront are led by volunteers working with government entities to make it happen.

LM: a couple of other trail things I want to talk about, and then we can move on to other things.

RB: That’s okay.

LM: so I don’t even want to get into the canal paths, but the canal paths, do you think that will ever happen?

RB: I have no idea. I’m not going to just speculate. It happens in other communities. Whether it’ll happen here, it’s up to, again, all the different players, from the canal companies or board of directors to property owners. any canal that does have go through private property where there’s easements. That’s a big question. Versus, say, the government canal. The high line canal is a government canal, and they own all the easements. So maybe there’s an option to do something out there. And again, as time changes, board members change, partners change, just the whole culture of canals and what they were for. Can they be used for recreation that could change over time, and maybe they are, but there’s a lot of players involved, and I wouldn’t want to speculate because I don’t want to jinx anything. so we’ll see down the road, but there’s a lot of people that are involved now, in all these different entities. Maybe it’s something that will happen, but it’s got to work for everybody. And there’s a lot of, challenges to make this opportunity happen. So we’ll see.

LM: There’s more to do there. A lot more to do. if.

RB: There’s a lot more to do there, and you just can’t be forceful. Yeah, we’re going to have trails on all these canals because you have to be sympathetic to the people that have the canals and the property owners that have canals and the safety for the people that possibly could use it. So it’s a pretty complicated issue, but we’ll see what’s happened. It’s happening elsewhere, and we’ll see what the future holds for canals here in the valley.

LM: Cool. Yeah. Just seems like such a great opportunity for trails. I mean, not that I obviously love to bike and, I want more trails. So on, that note, tell me about horse Mountain. What’s happening there?

RB: So horse Mountain is BLM, and it is in their management plan to allow, several types of recreation out there. But again, it’s not high on the list at the moment due to the BLM here has done an incredible job promoting bike trails. And the big trail now is the old spanish trail area. the trails up by east orchard Mesa, and that’s what everybody’s focusing on at the moment. So down the road. Yeah, it is eyed for possible, bike trails. Another area that we’re working with, too, would maybe be some more stuff out cameo. The book cliffs right behind us up here. There’s already some roads and trails up coal canyon. So there’s some opportunities there again, you know, things happen with private landholders, government agencies, town of Palisade. So there’s some options out there, too, that would probably could happen faster maybe than horse mountain, so. But horse mountain but again, there’s access issues because, the legal access is from desert Highlands subdivision. I don’t know if any of them are thrilled to put, that’s where the trailhead is. But the county doesn’t put trailheads in. And then getting access and that terrain up there is interesting because it’s, your shales basically with lava rock everywhere. So you build a trail, you clear all the lava rock out. After the next rain, the lava rock’s back.

LM: Yeah, it’s wild.

RB: So maybe on some of the slopes where you’ve got more sediment over the lava. But that’s the challenging spot out there. And we did have, we used to do races out, sink creek area on the other side of it. There’s some cool riding out there, but it, again, is, used by a lot of user groups and some of the motorized user groups, majority of them are responsible, good riders that care. There’s a few people that we had some trails out there, and there’s trash dumping. So that’s just the wild west out there. But there’s opportunity. It’s just, again, someone’s at some point going to have to be the ramrod, to make that happen. And it’s in our minds, but we’ll see. But the BLM is pretty busy at the moment, so it’s not like on the top of their list. A lot of energy is going toward that new trail system, and then energy is going toward finishing the plunge.

LM: Okay.

RB: So we can have 30,000 people a year come ride it.

LM: Wow.

RB: And then whenever you build a trail, the other challenges is just day to day maintenance and maintaining of them. We’ve got this incredible trail system in the valley, and all of the trails need constant maintenance. So, again, how many trail systems can we have in the valley that the valley can maintain? CopMOBA does a great job, but it’s a volunteer organization. There needs to be a countywide, statewide, maybe a multi government entity trail crew that’s a full time job that works on these bike trails here, and then you just have to look at funding. But that, to me, would be an awesome thing to see. But again, bikers, when you look in the big scheme of things for the county, from the homeless people to potholes to bike trails, you’ve got a justify is there are there enough users, which there could be in this valley because people come here, but, to do something like that. But that’s the big thing is these maintenance plans for all these trails. We come up with maintenance for the plunge. We go out and talk to other businesses. And the economy, with the pandemic, things are coming back now. So hopefully we had a lot of businesses sign on to contribute to that, and that sort of went away for a while. But hopefully it comes back now. And hopefully the revenue that people see the plunge bring to the valley, along with the other trails, makes them want to contribute to maintain them.

LM: Yeah, makes sense. Yeah. How do you measure that? How do you measure exactly what’s tied to people coming to bike the plunge?

RB: There’s ways. It’s out there. They can measure it. And I don’t know all the details, but you can see what mountain biking has brought to the grand valley, which is a lot. hunting, fishing might not be quite as popular as they once were. Fishing is, but it’s brought a lot of people in. It’s a whole different user group that contributes to everything else that historically has been here. One of the challenges the county has, like, we’re doing all this recreation on public lands that in the past were used for extraction oil and gas, primarily coal, all around us here. So we’re replacing some of that with recreation. But recreation jobs traditionally do not pay what the extractive energies jobs were. So the challenge is now on the recreation industry, to pay livable wages to their staff that work here. And that’s like a big challenge with everybody. so we can contribute what other industries used to from recreation.

LM: Sure, makes sense. So, just shifting to you personally, I assume that you like to ride your bike.

RB: I do, yeah. I started my first bike shop at Powderhorn just to get a deal on a bike. Stupid idea. Should have just bought one.

LM: So what’s your favorite trail, personally? Like, what do you love to get out and ride?

RB: Personally, I would say I do like the rim trail once I’ve done the climb. and the other end of the valley, horse thief bench was always my favorite. It’s just got a little bit of everything on it from view to, some interesting moves and just neat out in that area. I ride the upper plunge a lot now. So the part from highway 65 to Otto’s wall section to shirttail point and connect a lot up there. I live in Mesa. So one of the reasons we came out here because it’s so stinking hot in the summertime. Well, let’s ride up there. So I love riding on those trails. So I ride that trail a lot. Do the plunge to Powderhorn. so I’m up there quite a bit.

LM: I just went downhill biking at Powderhorn this last summer. First time I’ve ever done downhill biking. So fun. I’m totally hooked on it now.

RB: It’s fun. I work on the bike patrol of powderhorn.

LM: Okay.

RB: So I’m up know at least once a week usually, or try to be once a week or so. and my grandkids all love riding up there.

LM: Yeah.

RB: So again, it’s a nice addition. Not many valleys have everything from lift service to epic trails to incredible day cross country riding. That’s along the I 70 quarter.

LM: Ah.

RB: So it’s pretty cool. But Powderhorn. Yeah, they’ve got some really nice trails up there. Hopefully that’ll keep expanding. Their summers grow to be as big as their winters someday.

LM: Yeah, that’d be great. what’s the toughest situation you’ve ever been out on a trail and what did you learn from it? that you want to talk about?

RB: No, I’ve been involved in some rescues out in the early days of fruita. I had one where a child went off a ledge and it was pre cell phone so I had to send someone, he was unconscious to go out to get a phone to call, to get that person stable, to get a helicopter in to help the helicopter crew because there’s just two of them and a couple of riders evacuate this child out of a canyon and get them there. So that was probably the most interesting, I would say. Others are just being on just some of the spots we have. especially when you’re exploring, you’re out looking for new trails and where they could go and you’re just out in the middle of nowhere. If something breaks, you have a long walk.

LM: so you’ve had a few long walks.

RB: I’ve had some long walks, yeah, everybody has. but yeah, I have not personally had anything horrific happen to me, which is, knock on wood. It’s a blessing, for all the miles that I’ve ridden.

LM: Okay. What happened to the kid? Was the kid okay?

RB: Yeah, he was fine eventually.

LM: Yeah. I mean, now, it’s amazing to think about how easy it is to really, if you have the right tools, you can summon emergency services so much more easily than before.

RB: Yeah, I’m thinking of getting an inreach, because they’re pretty cool now, and things happen. And where people are riding, the way the young people are riding now, my grandson, all my grandkids, how they’re riding at their age is stuff that I never would have dreamed of doing. And for whatever reason, they’re going big, because all the videos of people going big, people get hurt, and they get hurt in these situations. Thank gosh. We have mesa county search and rescue. They do an incredible job of getting people and the fire departments, along with the other government entities, getting people out of stupid predicaments that they get into in, just challenging terrain and locations. And we have a ton of riding. And a lot of the trails in the valley, some of the stuff out in fruita, the book cliffs along with the plunge and stuff are. You’re out there, so nothing’s easy.

LM: Yeah. Right. You’re far from the trailhead, and it’s not a smooth ride back to the trailhead. Usually. It’s usually pretty challenging.

RB: And then powderhorn, we’ve had some challenging up there because, again, downhilling, these people are going fast, going big, gaps, rocks, whatever.

LM: Yeah, it’s exciting. These kind of trails didn’t really exist before. You know, you didn’t have the opportunity to do things like this.

RB: No. And you didn’t have, the trails have been here for a while, but you didn’t have the equipment. When I first started riding, both Scott and me, Scott’s toured around a lot of the world on a bike. I did a lot of bike packing back in the 80s. but the equipment you had couldn’t let you couldn’t go big. You would just fall before you could get very big. And now the equipment that they have and then the skills that these kids have, it’s pretty amazing. Equipment is a lot of it. How the bikes have changed.

LM: Yeah. So here at the shop, at your shop, you mentioned you rent a lot of bikes.

RB: We do

LM: you rent cruisers for wine tours and, bikes for, some of the mountain bike trails around here. so those are two very different groups of people. I’m sure there’s some overlap, but

RB: they are, very interesting.

LM: What do you recommend for each group to have the best experience here? What do you tell them before they go?

RB: We’ll start with the winery rides. It’s real popular. This is the only spot in the world you can hit 25 wineries on a day on a bike. if you’re good

LM: physically, I don’t know about that!

RB: so those people that come in, we have regular cruisers because we have the five mile, a seven mile. You can combine them for this twelve mile ride and the wineries right around here and they’re great for just a pedal cruiser. And then we do have a pretty big fleet of, ecruisers that you can go farther or if you’re, say you’re riding with a parent or someone that maybe isn’t as good a shape they can be on that. but, the ebikes are definitely becoming really popular, especially when it’s hot out or it’s windy even doing the twelve mile loop. They’re great, they’re popular. But the big thing is just respect where you’re at. People come here to have a good time. And unfortunately in this area, or fortunately for all of us, a good time involves drinking. We have the, dispensaries. So the big thing we try to pre educate people is if you’re going to come here, be aware of that, don’t become too impaired. Don’t go get a bike ride to the dispensary, and then hit a winery, and then don’t drink water or eat all day long and while sitting in the sun without a hat. so we just try to educate people. I’m, on the tourism advisory council. We’re actually working with a mentor to come up with how to ride palisade. so you can just respect the people, the lifestyle, the area you’re coming to, but still have a great time. and the big thing is just watch what you eat and drink, drink lots of water, stay in the shade a bit, wear a hat. And the bikes are kind of cool. I think you don’t get as impaired as easily than sitting in a limo, although that’s a great way to go wine tasting or a van because you’re somewhere and then you’re out, you’re actively moving, sweating, and then you stop again.

LM: Takes more time to get from stop to stop.

RB: Right. But we’re very aware of what they’re doing and we really try to educate them. If someone does get impaired, we will come get you and your bike and gladly bring you back, so you can start again the next day.

LM: that’s a nice added service.

RB: Yeah. And then mountain biking again. Most people that come here, our two mountain bike trails are the rim trail and the plunge. They’re both challenging trails. Rim trail has that climb to start with. So, like, if someone does ask a big question is, hey, how do I know if I can ride the plunge trail? Is there anything? And we go. If you can ride the whole rim trail and you’re not intimidated by some of the exposure, the terrain, because the bottom part of it can come out the lower rim trail. If you can ride all that and think it’s great, don’t mind the heat, then that’s a good primer for doing the plunge. And again, depending upon your ability. But most people, we would recommend to do the bottom 21 miles first, although there is a lot of people that show up and do the whole kit and caboodle, and they’re done in 3 hours going, wow, that was great.

LM: Wow. Have you ever talked to anybody out of doing the plunge?

RB: Oh, yeah, we have. you don’t necessarily talk them out. You just want to explain to them the challenges, the exposures, and let them make the right choice for their ability. Because it is hard to talk to somebody not knowing their ability if you haven’t ridden with them. But, yeah, we try to educate them so they can make good choices. Where to start. If you would need the bailout, that option is there. Just, maybe ride the top part. It’s 110 degrees in the valley. Riding the bottom part is great if you’re riding by 7:00 in the morning, so you’re off early and being prepared, having the right equipment. We’ll look at people’s bikes. If you see someone show up with a bike that’s not appropriate, you try to go, hey, are you sure you know what you’re doing? Having water, having food, repair parts so they can fix most common things and just good. It’s common sense. So, yeah, we do talk people out of it. There’s no ebikes allowed on any of the trails out here, so we educate people that you can’t ride them here. There’s other spots to ride them in the valley. but this isn’t the best place. Should I turn that off?

LM: Does it just stay on like that?

RB: It comes on and off. It’s that heater, but I can turn it off for a while.

RB: How am I doing?

LM: Good. Great. How do you think you’re doing?

RB: Fine. I’m just rambling. I’ve rambled my whole life.

LM: I mean, that’s kind of what a podcast is, is just listening to people ramble.

RB: Okay.

LM: At the end of the day, that’s what it is. Okay. So we talked a lot about biking. Oh, wait, I had one more question about biking at the end of last season. You were doing some group rides last fall. Do you think you’re going to start doing anything like regular bike shop rides in the future?

RB: We’d like to. Yeah, we will. We’re going to do that again. The challenge is for mountain biking here. It’s the rim trail. You can ride after work. and that again is a smaller user group because of the climb. but we’ll do the rides. We’ll ride around town, the road rides, we will do some where we meet somewhere at a trailhead, lunch loop, go out to maybe Loma, or fruita, and do out there. So, yes, we’re planning on doing something like that. our hours are such, though we have a limited staff here and our hours are long. We’re open from basically nine to six. By the time stragglers get back, it’s late and we have a limited staff. But yeah, we want to do that. We like to be involved in the community. We’re part of this community, and it’s fun to do that. And there’s other businesses in town that do the group rides also. So we encourage everybody to look at what everybody offers.

LM: Yeah, I’m really involved with the Bike Palisade group and the, Monday night rides. But I mean, that’s really just a fun ride.

RB: That is. That’s a fun ride where you end up at Pali Thai and a beer.

LM: Yeah, exactly.

RB: but, yeah, we’re going to try. We will do more of that this year. We have a really cool staff. Everybody is returning from last year. just about everybody that works here in the summer is the ski patrol of powderhorn in the winter. So it works perfect. As soon as they’re done ski patrol, they start here, and as soon as they’re done here, they start ski patrol. So it’s a perfect lifestyle for people looking for nontraditional where you have different jobs that are fun, exciting.

LM: Ok so I asked you think all the bike questions I have. But I know you do more than just renting bikes here. I know that you also rent river craft or things to float..

RB: right we do, so my passion was river running. I was a river guide for 40 years for this really unique company, Grand Canyon Dories. At over the edge and here, we like to have some river involvement. My partner, Scott likes to float the river. So we did teach paddleboarding for many years. We’ve sort of gotten out of that because there’s a couple other businesses that are doing it and there was just too many people teaching. But we do rent and we rent paddleboards and inflatable kayaks and tubes. And the river is this incredible resource for the whole grand valley. It’d be nice to have the Colorado river designated as a river trail someday, starting here and ending up down in Loma. but we really encourage, if you’re here, like to do a bike ride, either a mountain bike ride. And we didn’t talk about rental mountain bikes yet.

LM: No, we didn’t.

RB: We do do that. But if you’re coming here, it’s another thing to do in Palisade. that involves drinking. but no, you don’t have to. But it’s a great. Kids. I take my grandkids out all the time. It’s just a great opportunity in Palisade to float. We have the four mile palisade to Palisade section, which is beautiful. At the end of the day, the color is changing on the cliffs. As long as there’s enough water to get through the, grand valley, irrigators diversion what an incredible float you have through town and then all the way down to 32 road. So we do rent and provide shuttles with reservations to do the float. We were the first to offer that and really encourage people to do it wisely. When you rent from us, you get a life jacket, you get some instructions, what you’re using. and again, ask you to use common sense. And have a good safe time.

LM: do you have a favorite section of river around here or in the world that you’ve floated?

RB: I worked most of my career in the Grand Canyon, and then worked quite a bit up in the northwest. so I would say every river has its own personality. The grand is the grand canyon, so everybody should do that at least once in your life. But the other rivers we have locally, the Colorado through grand junction is a great float. You go up to Glenwood, you’ve got the roaring fork, which is like doing a home tour in a boat. You got all those big mansions all around you. other rivers that are really fun nearby. I love Lodore, Deso, so there’s a lot. And each of them has a personality. So I like each of them. But my favorite again was I was very fortunate to work in the Grand Canyon for this crazy guy, Martin Litton, and all the crazy people that worked for Dories for many, many years.

LM: Were you in an actual dory?

RB: Yeah, I have my own here. this summer. You can go float through town. You should read a book called the Emerald Mile. It’s about the high water of 1983, the politics of the high water, the dam and everything, and about three friends, Rudy, Wren and Kenton, who set the speed record in a dory on the grand Canyon. And just an incredible book by Kevin Fedarko.

LM: I’ll check that out

RB: yeah, it was a cool culture. It was just very unique.

LM: That’s exciting

RB: yeah. when the water is high. Here we go run, the little rapid above the freeway right there, the diversion there. And that’s really fun. you can put in at cameo and take out in town, so it adds, another dimension. If you want to go do that, call in the spring. I’ll be around. I’m retired from river running commercially, but I still kept my dory.

LM: I’m still trying to get over some of my fears of being on whitewater, so I’m working on it. I’ve done a few trips this last year.

RB: where did you go?

LM: desolation. Got stuck on a rock.
Pause for a fact check! It was actually Split Mountain Canyon – a different section of the Green River a bit farther north of Desolation Canyon. But my fear is accurate. OK, back to the conversation.

RB: what kind of boat were you? Were you in a ducky then?

LM: no, in a raft.

RB: Okay.

LM: Yeah. we did Ruby horsethief twice. The first time was at the peak.

RB: there’s so much fun when it’s high, though.

LM: It was my first time on, like, a moving river. I’ve done a lot of lakes, still water, like, in the northeast. It was terrifying. You know I made it through, but

RB: OK that would be intimidating. River people like the high water. We love high water. You don’t have to row as much. It’s more exciting. rapids are bigger.

LM: I’m working up to it. Yeah, but it’s fun. I mean, the culture and just the feeling of being on the river and especially being out overnight for a couple of nights. It’s so much fun.

RB: I like that. Most of the trips I did were 16 to 19 days. And I just love the camping part of it as much as the adventure of everything else and then the side hikes and all that. But, no, we have a great opportunity here, to float the river. You can learn how to kayak, learn how to paddleboard, and take the family out. It’s a great family river through town

LM: right because this stretch through town is pretty tame.

RB: Very tame through the whole grand valley. It’s great. It’s a float. And the whole county, all the towns are very into river access, so we’ve got quite a few boat ramps. The city is just finishing up a new one down by 24 road. They’re redoing one down there. so we have just a lot of access. Hopefully we get more down the road. Palisade is working on a beach and working on putting a new ramp there, in the next year or so. So again, it’s another reason we live here, for the outdoor opportunities that we can do after work. How many people can go float after work? How many people can go for a bike ride after work? How many people can get off work till noon, drive to powderhorn and ski the afternoon and then come back home? it’s, pretty cool. If you want to use it, there’s a lot to do here. Hiking, horseback riding, motorsports. It’s just a very cool spot.

LM: Yeah, I love it. Very happy to have found it. so is there anything else that, I didn’t already ask you about that you’d want to talk about?

RB: Mountain bikes. We do mountain bikes, so we do rent mountain bikes. We have a fleet of mountain bikes that we rent, for the plunge, for the rim, or we’re trying to position ourselves as the gateway to the grand valley. So say you’re coming in to ride in the grand valley for a few days, stay in Palisade. We’ve got the wine country inn and we’ve got the spoke and vine. We have b&b the wine Valley Inn homestead. we’ve got homestead, which is just a really cool property along the river. We have the base camp rv park. So to me, if you’re going to come to the grand valley, this is the spot you want to stay and base out of the gateway. And then you can do your little day excursions to Loma fruita, to Grand Junction,

LM: right it’s like 45 minutes to get there

RB: to the top of the grand mesa. you, can just do day excursions and stay in this town. Because again, you’ve got the wineries, you’ve got some nightlife with the distillery, the brewery, Clark’s, local places like three five seven and the livery. It’s just a fun area to stay at, and do things. So we rent mountain bikes to be used all over the valley. We’re seeing people do this trifecta where they’re coming in from around the country and they’re going like flying, into Denver. You could do it to junction, but getting a car, buzzing out, hitting the whole enchilada in moab, then hitting us for the plunge and hitting the monarch crest trail and then flying back home. So doing this epic shuttled ride road trip.

LM: wow

RB: and again, none of this would be here without the enthusiasm, knowledge, and hard work of my business partner, Scott Winans, who’s incredible. And the plunge wouldn’t be here again. He’s very instrumental in making the valley what it is as a riding community also. So we’ll always thank him and give him his credit that he’s earned.

LM: Definitely. Yeah. well, thank you and Scott, but thank you for everything you’ve done, too. I think you’re very modest. but I know you’re involved with a lot, too. So we appreciate that.

RB: Yeah, I’ve done a bunch. This has been pretty cool. It’s been a fun life to do all these different things. for a while, I was talking at schools about nontraditional lifestyles, and it starts with a very patient wife and then just doing all these different jobs. So, in the summer, I’m boating and I’m biking, then I’m skiing, and, there’s a lot of opportunity for young people that are looking for more of a lifestyle, that’s nontraditional. You can do it.

LM: I love that. Yeah. Right. Everyone should not want to go sit behind a desk every day.

RB: No. And I think it’s changing. The young people today are realizing they just don’t go work for a company for 30 years, get their retirement, and be done. You want to live your life, especially while you’re young, while you’re active, and you’ve got your health and your strength and everything. Go do all the wild stuff. And then when you get older, that’s kind of what I did. The reverse retirement. My, wife teases me, how can I retire when I’ve never really had a job? But I did all the stuff younger, and now I’m still doing it, but not nearly at the same level. But I’m okay with it because I’ve been at the forefront of all these I hate to say the word extreme sports, but adventuresome sports back in the day.

LM: so what’s the best way for other people to get involved? If somebody hears this and they’re like, you know, I’d love to get involved with helping build this trail or maintain this trail.

RB: A couple things. Number one, Copmoba is our local trail advocacy group. We need young people to get involved with that because biking is changing the type of bike trails people are looking to ride now versus what was popular when I was younger. It’s flow trails more, maybe extremish, but it’s different. So Copmoba is this great advocacy group that we need young people to get involved with. So the trails of the future are trails for future riders. riverfront commission with this vision of getting this trail through the valley and beyond. Once we get it through the valley, then we want to interconnect. You’ve got grand junction. They’ve got an urban trails group.

Get on a committee, one Riverfront is a good one. Palisade has some committees. We have our tourism advisory council and parks and rec. But get involved in your community and make your backyard cool. If everybody works to make their backyard cool. So everybody’s backyards are cool. It’s just this big playground, but it takes people to be involved. And I know looking at my kids, it’s harder now because parents, I think, are doing a lot for their kids that maybe they didn’t used to. So time is harder, but make time to get involved in your community. And when you read things out there, be a voice in it, because we can create this valley to be whatever we want, and it will change over then it changed in the time I’ve been here, and it will change in the next 40 years. I’m excited to see. Hopefully I’ll be around, maybe not 40, but for a while, just to see what the next group of people come in here to do with it.

LM: Yeah.

RB: And still keep its charm. And it’s fun and not overcrowded. And everybody gets along. And again, a lot of it’s like building these bike trails. It’s all these different user groups getting together and working together. So the bikers working with the horse people working with the motorized vehicle people working with the government entities and the communities and the people that have been here historically, that maybe change is scary and, not what they wanted, but it could maybe happen in a respectful way. So we build this really cool community while honoring the past and the people that are currently here.

LM: That’s a really good mission statement and a good thing to end on, I think.

RB: Thank you very much.

LM: Thank you so much for your time. I appreciate it.

RB: Yeah, nice to meet you. Nice to talk. Come back this summer, you guys. We open sometime in March.

LM: Sometime.

RB: Yeah. Well, depending upon the weather. First part of march.

LM: Okay.

RB: but it’s weather dependent.

LM: I’m ready for it to be nice so.

RB: Support us through bikes and boating.

LM: Yes. Support your local bike shop.

RB: Right? Yeah. And river

LM: and river shop

RB: and river rental shop

LM: What a fun conversation. I hope it inspires to get out on a trail or on the river, to pick up a shovel or do whatever you can to help, to work to make your own backyard cool.

Thanks for listening. With love, from Palisade.

E20: Growing Palisade with the Palisade Chamber of Commerce’s Jessica Burford

Jessica Burford, President & CEO of the Palisade Chamber of Commerce, is one of the biggest boosters of Palisade businesses – and not just because it’s her job. In addition to running a few of the biggest events held in town (um, Peach Fest, anyone?!?), Jessica is working to make the Chamber the go-to place for local businesses and the Palisade community and to be the driver of thoughtful growth in our small town.

As the snow streamed down and my old heater clanked, Jessica and I chatted about the biggest challenges facing the Palisade business community, what types of businesses she’d love to see open up here, why the Chamber’s goals always tie back to the town’s heritage, what the Chamber is doing to help fill the town’s vacant properties with productive businesses, and why she will never not answer a question from a resident or visitor, no matter how wild those questions may bee…

Music by Romarecord1973 from Pixabay.  


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Welcome to Postcards from Palisade, the podcast that brings you a snapshot of life in our slice of western Colorado. I’m Lisa McNamara.

Palisade in January is quiet. Restful, hibernating, as snowy and cold as it gets. Some local businesses shut down for a bit to enjoy some time off and prepare for the next busy season. Others take the opportunity to launch while it’s less busy – like the new Artful Cup coffee shop downtown or the Palisade Picnic cafe just west of downtown. But generally, things are pretty quiet around here in January as everyone prepares for the year to come.

One snowy winter morning last December, Jessica Burford, President & CEO of the Palisade Chamber of Commerce, strolled over to my office with a mug full of coffee. Jessica is one of the biggest boosters of Palisade businesses, and not just because it’s her job. In addition to running a few of the biggest events held in town (um, Peach Fest, anyone?!?), Jessica is working to make the Chamber the go-to place for local businesses and the Palisade community and to be the driver of thoughtful growth in our small town.

As the snow streamed down and my old heater clanked, Jessica and I chatted about the biggest challenges facing the Palisade business community, what types of businesses she’d love to see open up here, why the Chamber’s goals always tie back to the town’s heritage, what the Chamber is doing to help fill the town’s vacant properties with productive businesses, and why she will never not answer a question from a resident or visitor, no matter how wild those questions may bee.

All that and more, on today’s Postcard from Palisade – Growing Palisade Sustainably.

JB: I’m Jessica Burford with the Palisade Chamber of Commerce president and CEO I joined um as the president and CEO in um June of 2022 so I’ve been there about a year and a half now and very excited to be here thank you for having me

LM: thanks for coming in so I’m catching you a week after the Palisade old-fashioned Christmas do you feel recovered from that at all

JB: we’re not quite a week out we are honestly we very much look forward to that event it’s kind of um a little bit of our redemption we like planning events and and hosting events events um Peach Fest is a lot though it’s a it’s a big animal and old-fashioned Christmas gives us the opportunity to really reconnect with our local community um and our local businesses and so we really love it um and I think it went really really well this year so we’re pretty excited about it

LM: yeah it was nice that it wasn’t actually freezing out it was kind of a reasonable temperature

JB: it was a beautiful day it had snowed in the morning um so it was a little sick out initially but then the sun came out and you could easily walk from space to space and without even a jacket

LM: so tell me how did you get into this career path or how did you get into this role

JB: um I sold heating and air conditioning for 13 years like that I kind of grew up in that industry I um started out at Hercules Industries when I was um I think 20 years old and um yeah worked for them for 11 years and then moved into some bid spec work with another company um and I had a wedding event planning certification I’ve got my nutrition certification and I had a a amazing boss an amazing Mentor retire and it gave me the opportunity to think about maybe what else I wanted to do so I went into Hospitality sales because I always thought I wanted to plan weddings and um quickly learned how rigorous Hospitality sales is but loved it I had it again a great boss a great mentor there um and she really challenged me to do more and then I um went went and did some heart work for a while left there to help Mosaic do fundraising for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and such a rewarding experience I was sitting on the board for the Pali chamber at that time and we just got our notice of our third um director turning in her notice in four years so um Julianne had been here for a long time and then we had another director um that was there for about two years and then another director that was there for only nine months um and I just couldn’t sleep at night so I said maybe maybe this is for me I am very passionate about helping businesses my husband and I have a business on Horizon Drive and I knew how much the Palisade chamber specifically in this community had rewarded us and I wanted to pass that on so I asked the board if I could put in my my hat and they said absolutely and trusted me enough to take on this role and it’s been very challenging and very rewarding all at the same time

LM: I know um it does have a reputation of being a really challenging role and you kind of referred to the history of the last few people who have not been here too long why do you think that is why do you think it’s so challenging

JB: um I think for for a while the chamber hasn’t had a really clear vision so there may have been a lot of like spinning wheels and all kinds of directions throwing things against the wall you know seeing what sticks um I feel like the board that we have now has been extremely supportive and we have very good strategic plan so that’s like my North Star it’s it’s easy when we have a plan easier anyway when we have a plan in place like that so I can constantly refer back to it I don’t know that we were super engaged in Palisade tourism before and that’s fun and rewarding and that’s really our Focus because that is a major driver in our economy um and just having the right team in place it’s really hard if you don’t have the right people with you to go along that Journey with you so I feel like right now we have a really amazing team as well

LM: nice yeah so you really kind of pull all the pieces together and um what is the Strategic Vision or what you know what do you see as the chamber’s role in Palisade

JB: um we want to remain really rooted to our heritage I I think we had we still very much value cross community collaboration but not at the risk of um neglecting our local businesses so we want that to be our first and foremost priority making sure we really understand the needs of our Growers um and then our downtown businesses um and our lodging partners helps us really move forward I feel like in a more sustainable Direction so we’re really excited about you know reconnecting with our roots and making that our constant of Are We being true to Palisade Heritage are we being true to what our Growers need from us are we being true to what our downtown businesses really need from us or are we just trying to grow and at what cost

LM: interesting yeah so kind of balanced growth or thoughtful growth almost

JB: for sure

LM: would you say

JB: I would say it it’s been a process and I do think that we have some work to do in our strategic plan but I think the work that we’ve done the last year and a half has helped us tremendously reconnect where where it matters

LM: yeah yeah I think um it’s you do a lot so not only the big events that everybody knows about but all of the individual member events and networking opportunities and classes and I mean there’s a lot that you organize and offer to members and also that members of the public can join too sometimes so it’s a lot

JB: yeah yeah we try to have a good mix of both we offer public events and then events that add value to our members um we’ve really grown our lunch and learn program that we have monthly um we had a great turnout this last week with um Ryan Robertson came from Palisade or from Powder Horn and um spoke about how we drive that winter business and we had a really it almost became um kind of a work session or um a round table discussion really of some brainstorming ideas of the ways that we can really thrive in the winter months as well so that was very rewarding and then um yeah we have all the community events and then we are also really um engaged again in initiatives that matter to the chamber to Economic Development and policy so we’re sitting on four workforce development committee or boards right now throughout the community um to try to streamline some of the systems and Not Duplicate so much make it easier for employers make it easier for students to get internships and apprenticeships and um make it easier for the community as a whole to really understand how that could work and how they could find Value in um the work that we do and find that develop I guess that homegrown Workforce

LM: yeah so I almost see it as like um to me like from my view as a chamber member um it’s almost like you’re a facilitator for conversations or you know bringing people together that wouldn’t otherwise have that person to do that or that kind of venue to do it like for example over the summer with the bike you know the bike grumbling the bike issues the complaints about uh drunk tourists on bikes that were maybe maybe here every year but maybe a little louder this year um you know I really uh appreciate the fact that you know you guys kind of sprang into action and said we’re going to host a a conversation on this a listening session for the community um to talk about ideas and solutions and what we can do to make it better and I don’t think that there are I can’t think of other than the town which isn’t quite the right venue there really isn’t another venue for that kind of conversation to happen which I appreciate

JB: I really think that’s the chambers role um you mentioned all the events that we do but we really want to move forward and be seen as the catalyst the convener and the champion for you for your business um so convener is one of our priorities how do we connect you with the resources that you need how do we connect you with the right people to have the right conversation so again there’s not that duplication of efforts and I do think that we have our hand on the pulse and we kind of know what’s going on in a really broad umbrella um so we’re able to jump in and be like hey that’s already happening let’s bring them to meet with you and we can figure out a really great solution for our community

LM: so how do you know when you’re successful

JB: oh well um honestly I me success by the people around me um I I like I said I’m very blessed with a a really amazing board who has my back they’re very supportive and I’m have a really great team I have a wonderful husband who is very patient with the fact that I’m gone so much um and I have two amazing children who I love to be around and um have seen I have a 10-year-old and 20-year-old so I’ve seen them kind of grow into their own and that’s really rewarding and I have a really close relationship with my family and friends here in the community very well rooted so really that’s how I measure successes like the the people I’m surrounded with and um how we care for one another

LM: what do you think is maybe from your perspective both either as a person or as the CEO of the Chamber of Commerce what do you think is the biggest challenge to businesses in Palisade or that they’re facing right now

JB: um I I do think that year round business or that winter lull is a major challenge right now um we are brainstorming some I like I said we’re brainstorming ideas of ways that we can make that as it’s snowing or you know dumping snow outside which is very magical in Palisade by the way

LM: yes it’s beautiful

JB: but we’re looking for ways that we can collaborate with other communities even like how do we get visitors to Moab who really have that have figured out that year round business um to come to Palisade how do we partner better with maybe Ouray and Montrose to send visitors here Glenwood so some of those surrounding areas where it’s an easy day trip from wherever they else they might be staying to Palisade and getting them to come here initially and then next time be like I want to oh I want to I’m staying in Palisade next time because then I can drink all the wine or I can hang out at The Distillery longer you know all of those things that we we really love and value here because they come and they see we’re hanging out there we’re having a good time we’re very hospitable and so I think that’s part of the solution is just sharing that culture of Palisade on a little bit broader scale I think there’s a lot of pressure in the community for our businesses and for the chamber um from residents um about what we should be doing and I think we can be better at educating like it’s a long process we can’t make these changes happen and overnight we really want to make sure that it’s a very great space to live and a great space to visit and I know there’s been some friction in the community with um it’s when we have those huge events come in it’s not feels like all of a sudden it’s not a great space to live and they want to leave town or they get frustrated because people are blocking their driveways things like that and we were very aware we we’re really focusing on how can we fix that how can we make it a better solution because we do want it to be a great space for every every one not just our visitors even though we talk a lot about that’s our Focus that’s not our sole Focus we want it to be a great space for our our business members and for our residents so with I think we get a lot of I think businesses hear it a lot from residents and we hear it a lot from residents that those times they’re not happy and that that hurts my heart you know that makes me sad because I want I we really do want a great space for everyone

LM: mhm that’s a tough thing to balance though because you have have thousands of people coming into a community of you know what less than 3,000 people so it’s it it’s going to be friction it’s going to be a balance um personally I love it I love the weekends that are really Lively and then I love how it just quiets down after so personally I like the mix the mix of the two

JB: I really love it too I um obviously I wouldn’t be working at the chamber if I didn’t like the push and the um kind of the constant feeling of what’s something exciting and what’s next um we have no monotony at the chamber that’s for sure it’s different every day um which I love that’s why I love my job so much um and that’s why my employees love their jobs so much too they love that every day is a new challenge um we we do too we love the hustle and bustle with the events we loved like I said this last weekend old fashioned Christmas and the way that we did the layout a little bit differently but the pleasant surprise happened that it did work out the way we kind of anticipated it would and we had tons of business downtown and tons of business at the market I think we have opportunity with other festivals to do kind of a similar thing where we kind of spread it out um to make it maybe a little bit um less of a Major Impact but overall better impact for everyone um but yeah we love the like the drive that comes with these events and then the calm down afterwards um so we can take a little break reset it’s very nice it’s very quiet in Palisade today

LM: yeah

JB: and we’re taking the opportunity to kind of clean up after last weekend um start doing thinking about inventory we did strategic planning with my staff for next year so that they can be on the same page with our board so it allows us to kind of reset and get ready for what’s next

LM: that’s so important and I that kind of leads into a little bit um what’s next so I know one of the things that you’ve been working on is um more of like  Downtown Development district and now I don’t know if and I’ll edit this out if it doesn’t relate but I suspect that it relates to the fact that there are um there’s some frustration with um businesses who want to come downtown being able to find the available space to come downtown and then spaces that are available not actually you know being available for use or being developed um it does it relate to that at all

JB: yeah absolutely 100% um we’re yeah we’re definitely I did a um tour with um GJ Grand Junction economic partnership um a few weeks ago and we just walked downtown and and went through all the vacant buildings and all of the businesses that are up for lease right now or for sale in our downtown area and then we also hit River Road um and looked at that property and um uh so that they could kind of help us come up with a plan but we’re also taking some rural Downtown Development courses so we can look at becoming like an official Main Street um within the state of Colorado we I think might be the only one in Mesa County if we can make it happen

LM: cool

JB: so that would be really exciting for us and then with that we get the tools and the resources available to us to come up with a really great comprehensive plan that helps us um really develop downtown that in a way that’s very sustainable and attractive as well

LM: interesting you know luckily the downtown itself is is pretty full but it’s like as soon as you start getting away a street or two away um there’s so much potential for what could go there

JB: so much potential yeah and I think that bringing all of our stakeholders in to have these constructive conversations several times so we really get an idea of what everyone is wanting what our businesses are wanting what our residents are wanting what the town of Palisade is expecting and needing and wanting um and then the building owners so that’s you know not always the business owner so we need to bring these building owners in as well to say this is our hope and we’re hoping that you’ll work with us on this and um I know over at 305 main we have amazing building owners who are always ready to help Palisade and help us with the next thing um we have a great really relationship with them and we call them often on can we do this what do you think about this they are just even with um holiday like this time of year they’re really committed to like decorating the whole building now and um because they want to brighten things up downtown and make it a very attractive space to come dine in the middle of winter you know it’s dark at 5 o’clock so let’s light it up down here downtown here so it’s more approachable and I like that they’re thinking about those things as well and they’ve given a lot of thought to how they um keep occupancy in that building so it’s half residential and half professional space and um I think it works really really well in that space and um kind of using the model that they have to fill up the rest of the spaces that might not be completely full

LM: interesting yeah so what what what is what would be your vision for a a main Street kind of it’s like a it’s not a certification or what what are they what is it like a designation

JB: yeah I guess yeah a designation would be a great thing to call it

LM: okay so say you get that we get that in town um what does that look like like what would the downtown look like then

JB: honestly it would look like accessibility for everyone um it’s very hard to do in a historical uh area such as ours but I think it’s very possible making sure that sidewalks are clean and level and easily accessible to all is one of my priorities and um I think many of our priorities is making it easy for everyone to come downtown and walk around or roll around whatever they they need to do and um I think that we also have a unique opportunity to really highlight all of our 100 plus year old buildings we just got our official historical plaque and I think we can work towards that for a lot of spaces down here the Packing Shed that sits on the railroad track is on our radar we talk to the Hies often about um like their Vision what what would they want to do with that space and you know it’s complicated it’s going to take a major major renovation to make that a workable space but they’re committed to figuring that out so I’m really happy about that

LM: you’re talking about the like the historic where it says the palisade building what people think was an old train station

JB: they think it’s an old train station and it wasn’t yes yep that’s the space

LM: I love that building I would absolutely love to see something go in there you know my worst nightmare would be that it gets torn down like that would be so sad

JB: no and I know the he don’t want that we certainly don’t want that um and I think we’re trying to take steps to make sure that doesn’t happen there are grant opportunities available for older buildings like that and so we’re looking GJEP is helping us also look at those opportunities so that we can make sure it do does stand and um it is a it’s a really cool unique space inside and we want to highlight that for Palisade it would be a a landmark building for sure

LM: absolutely uh do you have any hints about what they are thinking about doing there that you can share or

JB: no there’s no solid plans right now um it’s just finding the resources so that we can make anything happen

LM: okay okay all right

JB: and they’re I think we’re all open to ideas as long as it’s productive and sustainable

LM: mhm right that makes sense no that’s that’s a hard thing to figure out because it’s going to be a big investment in the building um to probably bring it up to code and put in any sort of you know if you do a restaurant it doesn’t have a kitchen like there’s going to be a lot of work that has to go into it

JB: Millions yeah so a lot of work uh and I think we’ll have to have the right investor or the right grant up for the challenge

LM: yeah yeah but it could be amazing so big part of your role I know is that uh visitors might walk into the chamber and you answer their questions so you probably field a wide range of questions or comments or things 

JB: yeah we joke that we need to start a journal and we joke with the other Chambers as as well that we need to start a journal or some sort of uh running document maybe its own Instagram page or something where we can just put up all these memes of the questions that we get asked it’s it can be quite comical at times

LM: I was going to ask what’s the funniest or most outrageous like complaint that you’ve received or question that you’ve received

JB: we’ve had a lot of questions about um like utilities we get a lot of utility questions um and we’re not we’re not the town we’re not a government entity um

LM: like how do I pay my power bill

JB: yeah how do I pay my power bill um the sidewalk in front of my house or the road in front of my house or the you know the park um things like that so those are fortunately we have a very close relationship with the town and it’s easy to say hey we got this we got this call today and I know you’re working on it but maybe call them back um but we’ve had some people be very insistent or one individual specifically be very insistent that we come remove the bees on their property so um so good thing that we have a great relationship with the insectary and they know who to call and um so again convener right like it’s good thing that we have great connections Community Wide that we can help um when we get some of those interesting phone calls we’ve I’ve also had someone um call or email me I can’t remember asking me to come remove a tree that was the roots were growing up in their Canal or in their pump house I can’t remember the situation for sure so yeah just a lot of questions that we’re like oh my gosh I I I wouldn’t even know how to begin helping you but we always want to help we want to be unreasonably eager to help our community so we always always always try to find the answer

LM: that’s really nice that you don’t just say like sorry that’s not my that’s not my department

JB: I I have a mentality that nothing is not my job and I expect my staff to never if they ever say that’s not my job they’re not in the right place

LM: yeah just just another piece of building that relationship in the community though so that’s really cool um how about like from a tourist is there anything that they’ve walked in and ask for that you’re just like do you know where you are right now

JB: um we actually were talking about this and I don’t think it’s weird at all I actually think it’s something that we as a community could really look at and I have honestly our interns really excited about looking at this right now but um creating kind of a road map of spaces that people can go that don’t include alcohol

LM: oh right

JB: um like I love wine I love The Distillery I love all of those things um but we need to be very conscientious of those that don’t drink and how do we design the perfect day for them as well and so our intern is working on some itineraries right now that are that don’t include liquor alcohol and so I’m really excited to see what he comes up with and I think it’s a very valid question and we get asked quite often um and also it’s often from um older people we have a we just know statistically we have older visitors that come to Palisade and so we see a lot of that foot traffic into the chamber because they are great conversationalists and they want that personal connection and we’re happy to welcome them in um so figuring out things that are not super outdoor recreation either not super active or figuring out Solutions where they can still participate in a lot of our outdoor recreation possibilities um in a way that works for them in their abilities

LM: yeah that makes sense so you’re not just sending everybody down the plunge yeah or anything like that right maybe go to the maybe go to River Bend and kind to bike on that nice paved Trail

JB: yeah

LM: um yeah cool makes sense um yeah so tell me about the other things you’re working on so it sounds like there’s a lot of other things kind of in progress like there’s an app there’s the radio show on um kafm like what other things are you doing JB: yeah we’re about to launch our Pali Community app so we’re pretty excited about that the um adventure Guide that we put out every year that goes to visitors centers all across the state and into um parts of Utah um will also now be digitally available on that app

LM: that makes so much sense

JB: yeah and it’ll be a great space to have a community calendar so people can submit to the chamber calendar will show up on that app it’s a free app nobody has to pay to download it um so we can put QR codes around town and guests can scan it and get the app on their phone and see what’s going on but more importantly our residents can also scan that app get it on their phone and see what’s going on and we’re really excited about that opportunity I think in the past we’ve offered deals and opportunities specifically targeted targeted at visitors and this is we’re hoping that this will be more targeted towards locals

LM: interesting

JB: so we’re excited about that what else did you asked about

LM: uh the radio show

JB: the radio show yeah so Jason Van Hooten with Grand Valley grapes and Grains and I have started a pali and Co um or pali and company radio show on kafm um during the community hour once a month second Wednesdays of the month and it’s going really well we kind of get the opportunity to do this but a little bit quicker 15 minute scale so it’s a quick listen um and we have a lot of fun Jason’s a blast to work with he’s got a great personality so I’m pretty excited that he was kind of his idea and um kafm had been asking me to start a radio show since even before I worked at the chamber and I was really resistant and then when I got to the chamber I certainly didn’t have time initially um so finally they they got me I like to say and it’s been a lot of fun and I’m learning a ton we have the the talbott brothers on our very first show and to see I love the way that they banter back and forth and to see just like their passion and knowledge for all the work that they’re doing was really exciting

LM: that’s cool

JB: I’m so excited to have it and have it running forward so that we can educate the community we are again trying to remain rooted so it’ll be pretty agriculture focused I think um but with that we know that our Growers been like contribute so much to the community so we like to hear how else like other than than growing and focusing on that year round production which it is a year round production people don’t realize it just because they’re not picking peaches right now doesn’t mean they’re not working very hard so helping people understand that and what they’re doing in quote unquote off season and then yeah how they give back to their Community is one of our biggest um focuses of this show

LM: long term like looking back 5 years 10 years from now what would make what would you see in palisade that would make you say okay I did my job I’m happy like I accomplished what I wanted to

JB: honestly we want the chamber to be the trusted resource we want you to come to us when you have a problem and we’ll help you find a solution we may not be able to do it for you but we will help connect you with the right people the right resources to make things happen and I think we talked a little bit about the turnover and the transitions um and it has um not built a strong Foundation of trust with the chamber in the last few years and I think that it’s really my dream and my hope for our community for the chamber to be the trusted resource

LM: just specifically to Palisade businesses what do you think is missing here what would you really like to see in town that we don’t have now

JB: the I kid you not the number one question we get and I know that La Plaza has a similar or some they have a thrift shop over there but we get questions all the time about an antique store or a thrift shop and I think it would like our town lends itself to that so much with all the rich history I would love to see that come in you I can’t even tell you how many times we get asked that throughout the summer

LM: that totally makes sense because when you go to an that’s probably going to pick that up but um yeah not a professional studio here but of course when you go out on a summer drive you’re going out to little towns small towns you want to see what what is they local antique store have yeah what are the interesting things I can find here I can see that

JB: yeah

LM: so all right I’ll go there

JB: I think it would be a great benefit to our to our community honestly and I would also love to see um a space where I’m like I’m sorry I can’t think the heater was a little distracting but I would love to see a um I don’t know how to explain explain this very well um because I only have like examples of names of other businesses like it but um in Cabo Jeff and jody um with spoke and Vine motel and Fidel’s told us to go visit this um working farm there that has a restaurant right in the middle of it and then also has all these boutique stores that kind of line up around it and fresh fried donuts in one little area and you can walk around the gardens and walk around where the where they grow things and you can see where they’re picking your veggies and making your lunch and I would love to see us have a little space like that I think it would be a huge draw to our community and so I’ve been picking on some of our some of our investors some of our Growers to create that space and I’ve even told them where they can do that so

LM: yeah that would be amazing and there’s so many different places that would lend themselves to that sort of function so

JB: I know Talbotts does great job of catering to visitors um they and they have their unique thing with the live music and um football nights and all the things they have going on there Clarkes does an amazing job of that as well with their carriage rides and just their their level of hospitality for both both families is really Beyond none they’re the example we use often but this would be kind of a not a One-Stop shop but a a place where people can see kind of everything that Palisade has to offer in one little space and they can get an amazing meal so that’s the dream right

LM: that sounds lovely that sounds lovely okay so give me the pitch on why a local business should join the chamber

JB: um again we are that convener so the resources that you think you might be lacking maybe we have the way for you to find those and get and get you the information that you need we offer a lot of continuing education monthly as we mentioned we offer great opportunities for you to network and networking in Palisade is the best way to network you cannot beat it we

LM: it’s fun

JB: yeah it’s fun

LM: and productive

JB: we’re the fun one right um we have we have the best people here and I encourage you to join and come out and meet meet our community meet our people because they will help you grow your business I guarantee it if you know them and trust them and vice versa they will help you grow and Thrive so I really encourage you to join the chamber and engage because if you’re not engaging you’re not going to get the benefit for sure

LM: yeah yeah cool okay what else didn’t I ask you that you want to share with people if anything

JB: um I don’t know we talked a lot about tourism and I think we’re very committed and I think I would just mention that I’m taking the Colorado Tourism leadership Journey course right now I sit on our tourism Advisory board so I can be your liaison um I can I can be the voice of local business if you’re ah have an opinion have a a comment have a solution motion um I would love to take it to tab for you um but we also encourage you to come they’re open meetings they are they are part of the town of Palisade so it’s a government meeting they’re open for anyone and anyone can come make public comment so I also encourage you to engage in your community that way um I think that’s what I would say overall is if you are struggling and you have really great ideas and strong feelings about things engage and come see what people what we are working on already um and then maybe it might change your mind about some things I think education is always key like come come engage come see what we’re doing and then please offer your advice because we need we need your we need your input we need your help we need your support so I would just say that I I encourage everyone to get to know their neighbor and engage

LM: that’s a really good point and thank you so much for bringing up tab because it is when I first moved here you know being able to listen in on these things was a really great way to understand what are people working on in the community what what do they care about you know what are their passions and kind of who’s doing what and the great thing about tab I mean the hours are tough I think um but you can always connect by zoom and so you know you can you can be multitasking and working and still listening in if you just want to catch up on what’s Happening like as a resident you can view the meeting on zoom and kind of be doing other things at the same time

JB: I completely agree it’s the only um I think government or town ran meeting that is still available on zoom and I think we um I I didn’t have any say in this but I think that others did kind of push to make that available still on Zoom for that exact reason it is a little bit weird timing weird day of the week um but we want anybody to be able to engage if they they can so we’ve been able to offer that on zoom and you can even do public comment via Zoom

LM: yeah yeah which was different than uh the town meetings you actually would have to go in which makes sense but no I think that flexibility is great because it’s just an acknowledgment that no maybe the time isn’t the best but there still is a way for people to participate and then to make time in the future if you really feel passionately about something you can always go in person but no I’m I’m really glad that you brought up the the tab meetings because um if anybody is wondering what’s happening in town you can find out you know you can call in and find out what are the priorities what are people working on it’s all open for everybody

JB: yeah absolutely and the Chamber we again we’re a nonprofit we’re not a government ran organization but we are a board board ran organization and the same is true there if you have something to say or just want to see what we talk about in our board meetings you’re are welcome to come and observe um and you’re welcome to submit a comment as well so we and honestly I encourage that because we don’t know um unless you tell us

LM: right yeah

JB: we can’t make a change unless we know

LM: right y makes sense well thank you so much for your time I just really appreciate you coming in and chatting with me and I feel like I learned a few things and a couple good reminders too so

JB: I’m geeking out I listen to your podcast all the time so I was really honored that you invited me on thank you so much

LM: aww thanks

JB: to be um sitting here knowing all the guests that you’ve had on so far it’s really humbling so thank you all the Palisade celebrities right

LM: yeah we’re working on it I just unfortunately I don’t have enough time to focus on this like this is all I want to do but

JB: you I can tell you you’re very passionate about it so I’m excited for you and um I think that the work that you’re doing helps the chamber as well because we are the people that you’re interviewing I think are all chamber members we I mean we have a pretty engaged Palisade business community so a lot of our Palisade businesses are members of the chamber and so it helps us kind of educate our community on what our businesses are doing by sharing your podcast so thank you

LM: awesome thank you so much — Jessica has been leading the Chamber for a little over a year and a half, but she has already done so much to grow the local community. What do you think about the Chamber’s goals? What else do you want to see happening in Palisade? Let me know at lisa(at)postcardsfrompalisade.com – we might dive into this more on an upcoming episode. Thanks for listening. With love, from Palisade.  

E19: Road Trip! Dolores River Canyon Country with Bella Harris of Colorado Wildlands Project

We already have one national monument nearby…what if we had another? Bella Harris of the Colorado Wildlands Project explains why her organization is advocating for the creation of a National Monument for the Dolores River Canyon Country, not only to protect the natural environment, but also to preserve and honor the layers of human history of the area.

Bella explains why land protections for the Dolores have bipartisan support when so little does today. We chat about the most effective ways to change bad outdoors behavior, why no one with water allotments needs to be worried about losing water, and why she’s not concerned about a monument designation “ruining” the area.

Also – listen closely to find out which local winery is extra invested in the effort to protect the Dolores, how you can help, and lots more!

For more about the Colorado Wildlands Project: cowildlands.org

Petition link: protectthedolores.org

Bella’s email: bella@cowildlands.org

Music by Romarecord1973 from Pixabay.    


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Welcome to Postcards from Palisade, the podcast about the people and places that make our slice of western Colorado wonderful. I’m Lisa McNamara.

So we already have one national monument nearby…what if we had another? Today I’m talking with Bella Harris of the Colorado Wildlands Project. The Colorado Wildlands Project works to protect wild public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management. One of their major goals is creating a National Monument in the Dolores River Canyon Country, south of Gateway. Bella, based in Palisade, is a Wildlands Campaigner.

Bella explains to me why a National Monument is so important, not only to protect the natural environment, but to preserve and honor the layers of human history of the area, from the ancestral homeland of the Ute Mountain Ute tribe to the more recent work sites of the miners whose sacrifices contributed to the Manhattan project. Yes, that Manhattan project!

Bella explains the difference between the proposed National Conservation Area currently moving through the bureaucracy of DC and the National Monument that her organization is advocating, and why these ideas actually have bipartisan support, when so little does today. We chat about the most effective ways to change bad outdoors behavior, why no one with water allotments needs to be worried about losing water – at least, not because of the monument, and why she’s not concerned about a monument designation “ruining” the area.

Also – listen closely to find out which local winery is extra invested in the effort to protect the Dolores, how you can help, and lots more. Let’s take a late fall road trip to the Dolores River Canyon Country on today’s Postcard from Palisade. 

LM: thank you so much for coming in

BH: thank you for having me I’m really happy to be here

LM: I am really I was really excited to talk to you and this is well let’s talk about who you are first so if you could introduce yourself

BH: so my name is Bella Harris my role is the wildlands campaigner at the Colorado wildlands project we’re a very small nonprofit here at based in Grand Junction it’s me and two other employees and overall our organization works to advocate for and protect Wilderness quality and wild public lands that are based in western Colorado

LM: how did you get into doing this

BH: I’m actually really happy that’s your first question I was in college back in Fort Collins I was actually getting my PhD in environmental Communications and science Communications I decided that I didn’t want to be going down the academic route anymore and so I dropped out of school and I quit my job and I moved back home

I’m from Grand Junction originally and so I moved back home here and started working at a local children’s museum here in town just kind of doing front desk management stuff and one day my high school social studies teacher came in and we recognized each other and I told them I said you know this this museum is great but I I would really prefer to be using my Master’s Degree in a job that’s a little bit more fulfilling than this and he said well I don’t know what you’ve seen but my best friend from like back in my 20s is hiring for a community organizer in environmental advocacy you may want to look into it

LM: that is so funny

BH: and I looked it up and that day that he told me was the day that the application for the job closed and so I took the rest of the day to write up an application and I got it

LM: that is wow

BH: and so I I I bring him lots of treats for his family as often as I can because I’m very thankful to him for getting me set up with this job but that’s how I found it

LM: that is so awesome I I mean because there aren’t probably a ton of jobs in that field here in this area it’s not a huge area and then

BH: yeah you know Grand Junction’s really been changing at least from when I went to when I graduated high school here back in 2014 back then there really there was nothing it was a lot of oil and gas jobs around just the economy was a lot more towards that spectrum and honestly since I left and came back it’s incredible how fast the Grand Junction slash Palisade Fruita just the Grand Valley Community has changed as a whole

it is much more environmentally focused now at at least from what I see from where it used to be I mean I go by Trail life brewing in Grand Junction or the Palisade Brewing here in town and I see so many people that are mountain bikers climbers skiers there people that are recreating in the outdoors all the time and so I think there are a lot of opportunities for environmental jobs here I think it when I had first come back a lot of these jobs ebb and flow with the season

LM: yeah

BH: there’s definitely more available at warmer times of the year than there are colder times of the year and that’s just the nature of we’re outside a lot of the time

LM: right

BH: so I think that was my biggest issue there but there’s there’s a lot of incredible organizations here in town that are doing really similar work to us

LM: so the Colorado wildlands project what are are your main goals or what are the kind of main priorities that you’re working on

BH: so our mission really is to protect wild we say wild public lands managed by the BLM in western Colorado so that’s you know Wilderness quality public lands that are protected by Wilderness designations or Wilderness study areas or not protected there’s many many acres of land that are wilderness quality that are not protected

we use a couple different ways to define that there really isn’t a clear definition of wilderness lands but an absence of like a certain percentage of roads like below a certain percentage of roads not a lot of housing development difficult to get to maybe having to backpack into some of these lands it’s just a you know having really really rich ecosystems for rare plants and wildlife all of these are things that can conglomerate together to define wilderness so that’s what we focus on on those lands that are managed by the BLM we work in a couple different ways we work in political advocacy for these lands as well as getting new protections long-term permanent protections designated on these lands

LM: because for somebody who isn’t really familiar with the the many complicated years of land management and land protection I think for just the person on the street they might say oh well it’s Bureau of Land Management land it’s protected already

BH: yeah

LM: but if you have ever been to some blm land you know that basically anything goes

BH: yes yeah

LM: so it is it’s set aside in a like how would you describe like the level of protection it has compared to what you would want it to have

BH: and so I’ll just bring up for for example because this is what I’m hoping to talk about the most is the Dolores River Canyon Country that is surrounding the Dolores River so I’ll I’ll just bring up that area of BLM land for example there are small designated Wilderness study areas throughout the Dolores landscape they sort of go along the river but they’re sporadic they’re not connected and they only again protect little segments along the river not really doing a lot to protect the the river and the surrounding desert landscape as a whole

and so yes those are great they keep future oil and gas leasing from being able to be developed on those lands as well as keeping more aggressive forms of maybe off-road recreation off those lands and it’s some really good longer term protections but on the other parts of that landscape in the Dolores there is active mining operations oil and gas leasing and if you drive through through it you will see a a lot of disruption on the landscape from those operations

and so that is something one of our other employees his name is Soren Jasperson he lives in Steamboat Springs he’s our field director and his main goal is to actually be physically getting through this landscape and documenting some of this damage on some of these lands that don’t have protection yet so that we use real evidence you know and pictures and testimonies to be able to advocate for them and I think that’s a really special difficult job that he has but he does a great job at it

LM: sounds awesome I’ve been over in that area and just exploring that area and it’s so it is kind of it’s hard to get to it’s incredibly beautiful uh it’s disconnected from a lot of major cities it’s mostly off dirt roads and things like that so I think that it’s easy to it’s easy for people not to ever have known that it’s there or to forget about it

BH: exactly

LM: and one of the things that I was really surprised to see in that area is that there’s a lot of like uranium mines and things like that which is interesting

BH: what I think is something really special about the Dolores is not I mean not only is it an incredibly rich landscape and biodiversity but there’s a whole other value to the Dolores and that’s its different layers of history it is the ancestral land of the Ute Mountain Ute tribe and so that’s a huge part of that history there you can go through if you know where to look you can find petroglyphs hieroglyphs throughout the whole area

it’s really really rich in in that in that indigenous history but there’s also a very rich and important history in uranium mining in that area and I think that’s something that you know in addition to all the other values of the Dolores needs to be protected there are many families and bloodlines of people in Naturita near Gateway Nucla that have a very important history where their you know great grandparents great grandparents helped move the US forward in our history and you know whether you want to look at this as a good thing or a bad thing but in our efforts in the cold war and World War II the Manhattan Project was almost solely supplied by uranium that came from the Dolores

I think that that’s one of the biggest I don’t want to say complaints but questions that I get when I talk about our efforts to create a new National monument in this area is people are automatically assuming that we want to erase that history and try to say no we don’t want mining here at all we just want it to have this natural beauty and that’s not the case we do have plans put in place to have interpretive messaging highlighting this history again the you know there’s there’s the scenic beauty but then these different types of human history that are present in the area we really want to preserve that and honor that

LM: yeah that makes sense I saw last spring I think it was last spring there is actually a bill introduced it was bipartisan support from our Colorado lawmakers to create is it a national or natural Conservation Area

BH: National Conservation Area

LM: okay so how is that different from a national monument and what would the path be to create something like a National Monument instead of a National Conservation Area

BH: yeah so what we say is that we love the idea of this NCA being being produced and this and so this NCA is proposed on the area of the dolores is actually more so near the town of Dolores near like Montezuma County actually Dolores County

LM: that’s only a little piece of the river

BH: exactly so and that’s what’s been proposed as the National Conservation area right now

LM: interesting

BH: and that is again a National Conservation Area is a very long-term very durable protection plan for that area but as you just stated it only looks at a very small portion of the river and again what we’re proposing is that we want more of the river to be protected than than just that small area

Overall the Colorado wildlands project as well as our coalition of other conservationists organizations and stakeholders are coming together and asking for solutions that protect the entirety of the lower Dolores River Canyon Country from the McPhee Dam in Southwest Colorado to the Utah state line and that includes lands in Montrose and Mesa counties so that’s all the land of the Dolores that’s near us such as slick Rock Canyon and the hanging Flume Confluence area and all the areas near gateway

so that’s why we wanted to propose a National Monument because really the main reason is that a National Monument is able to encompass more acreage than other protection plans would and we hope to get as much of the canyon land surrounding the river I like to say that because it really kind of is a buffer around the river as as much as possible

LM: even just for the NCA I was really surprised to see that it had bipartisan support because almost nothing does now so why why do you think that is

BH: I think that protecting land surrounding the Dolores River checks off a lot of boxes for a lot of peoples and a lot of political interests so a lot of individual interests a lot of political interests it helps recreators be able to protect the land that they want to recreate on it ensures that you know like us as environmental groups that we have protected wildlands we have protected habitat but a lot of times it also makes sure that water is staying in the area and that it can benefit agricultural landscapes and there’s when you are protecting a river system like that it it really benefits a lot of different stakeholder interests and I was really happy to see that you know several people including Bennett and Hickenlooper both are very supportive of that National Conservation Area that’s really great to hear

LM: yeah one of the articles that I read in the Colorado Sun from last spring also talked about a survey that had been done of voters in the area where over 75% of the people they surveyed were supportive of a national monument in the area which again if you were to ask me just kind of my gut feel I never would have guessed that so it’s really interesting to see that this does seem to be something that everybody kind of can come around and support

BH: and something too I just want to say about that survey 90% of people in that survey said that they wanted some form of permanent protection on the Dolores so even a higher percent were in support of something of a protective effort

LM: that’s amazing and so you know it’s like okay everybody’s behind it the local people want it why can’t what does it take to just make it happen

BH: a lot of these designations that are put in by the BLM Wilderness study areas or the National Conservation Area are done through the Senate however when you’re looking at a National Monument a National Monument can only be designated presidentially it takes whoever is president at the time to sign off and say that they declare an area a national monument

and so what our goal is and I say us and I’m referring to the wildlands project but I’m also referring to the coalition as a whole we are in a coalition of several other nonprofits across Colorado working together towards this effort and we want to create a sense of political inevitability where if it’s President Biden whoever is president after him feels like it’s the obvious choice to do this because they’re they’re hearing about it over and over and over again and because so many people are saying we need this land to be protected that it’s just at the forefront of their mind

so again it’s that it’s that inevitability that we’re hoping to be creating

LM: so how do you do that how do you keep that in front of people and like make them not forget about it other than going on a local podcast

BH: I think that there’s two separate parts to that right there’s grassroots organizing which is a lot of what I do and that’s educating the public on and I don’t like to say educating the public on like the Dolores and why it’s important I I more so like to frame it as though I like to encourage people to see how their own lives and their own livelihoods are connected to this landscape and help them discover that for themselves

it you know it doesn’t work if I if I just go up to you and say you should like blah blah blah River because it’s important and then I say okay sign this that’s not I wouldn’t want that you know and so something that I’ve learned over the years is I think that I’ve succeeded in my goal of organizing in grassroots communities by again helping people develop that personal relationship and even if that takes time sometimes that’s not done in one visit that they have with me at a tabling event it’s it’s them thinking okay well this is my job in this valley how is that connected to what’s going on there this is my family history in this area how is that connected to these efforts that are going on there and if they can think about that more I I have had success you know

and and luckily I am able to show many many people across the Grand Valley pretty quickly how their lives are connected to the Dolores but I think a bigger part of that too is trying to help people families find accessible ways to get out there a lot of people think that you can only get on the Dolores by boating it and that’s not true there’s a lot of easy hikes there’s a lot of difficult hikes there are incredible views you can get by stepping 50 feet out of your car and it’s an hour away from Grand Junction

I say it I’m mainly referring to Gateway that’s a really good kind of starting point to get to a lot of areas great accessible camping and I want people to know that they don’t have to be a world-class rafter to be able to get out there or an intense backpacker to be able to get out there so but then the other part of that where my boss our director Scott Braden what he focuses on more is the the opposite of that grassroots effort which is the grasstops efforts

so a lot more of his work is talking to very influential people in our community whether that’s politicians influential business owners or leaders of other groups organizations coalitions that have a lot of say within the Grand Valley and working with them to try to gain support and if the support is not there to try to find some middle ground so you know he’s the one that’s going out to Denver to talk to our elected officials out there and over to DC to talk to our elected officials out there

and it’s two very different types of organizing and I feel like I always like to say that Scott and I really compliment each other well we have very different skill sets that complement each other but that work really well in those two separate areas of organizing and there’s definitely overlap there

we just had a screening last night of our there was a film that was made sort of talking about this effort to to create permanent protections on the Dolores its called the river of Sorrows and we did have a like a touring of the film a couple months ago but this this one was a little bit later in the season

we had it at the University at Colorado Mesa University and I thought that was a really cool sort of overlap between our efforts to try to gain public support because from my end I had several students and teachers there who I’ve been working with for the students to like problem solve and create their own solutions for challenges in the area and I was so happy that they a ton of them came but at the same time time we had the mayor of Grand Junction there to speak Anna Stout was there and it was a very good mingling of grassroots and grasstops efforts of a bunch of people that have fallen in love with this landscape

LM: there there’s an older movie River of Sorrow that’s out that’s kind of similar but maybe like 8-10 years old or so

BH: I think made back in 2016

LM: 16 okay

BH: they were both made by the same company by Cody Perry he is an incredible charismatic fun-loving advocate for the Dolores he’s an he’s an amazing filmmaker just being able to talk to him is a treat really he’s so passionate and he’s so I’m just going to repeat it again he is the definition of charisma

LM: that’s awesome

BH: and is a really great honestly like spokesperson for for our efforts and so he’s the filmmaker for both of those incredibly kind person he and his wife his wife works at the Dolores River boating Advocates and who is another very big player in our coalition efforts and they both live down in Dolores

you know the film is incredible the river of Sorrows it’s it’s it’s made me cry time and time again especially like the interviews he’s able to get and some of the people that he has speaking in it come with the most incredible stories and the most amazing backgrounds

but at the same time I really want people to remember that you know the film follows two pack rafters people that are trying to boat the Dolores when it is its seven single digit seven CFS and that there is a whole canyon country surrounding that river to explore and that even if the river is not flowing there’s there is so much beauty beyond the river and I hope that people take the time to go out there even if they can’t access the river or if they or if it’s or if it’s not flowing

LM: that’s a really good point yeah that you don’t want people to get too focused on on just the river to the exclusion of everything else that there is around there yeah good point

it’s really hard not to talk about water though and like water in the west and water rights and everything and I think a lot of people when they hear about preserving an area they worry about what they’re going to lose so in this situation though it it seems like well and now correct me if I’m wrong but based on what I’ve read it seems like the water kind of allotments and allocations that are already in place like those can’t be touched those aren’t going anywhere so

BH: you’re completely right it doesn’t matter what kind of protections we get put on this if we got a National Monument to go on the upper and lower Dolores it wouldn’t be changing the flow of the McPhee Dam it wouldn’t be changing the priority that this landscape gets of water coming from the McPhee Dam which in itself is a very complicated issue

a lot of that water you know yes a lot of it is going to large scale agriculture there is also a huge promised allotment that is supposed to be going to the Ute Mountain Ute tribe and their efforts to have clean drinking water and agricultural efforts are they really getting that allotted amount of water not always you know

but it’s not as easy as just oh if we took out the dam everything would be okay you know that would put a lot of communities in jeopardy so it’s a it’s a very complicated issue and that’s why for myself and my organizing efforts I’ve really been just trying to encourage people to find beauty and find positivity and find potential and opportunity in the canyon country and really focus on the canyon country

LM: the other negative and again this is not my personal opinion but just other things that that people say or other concerns that they express when they hear about designating an area as a monument or national park or something like that is like oh there’s going to be tons of tourists they’re going to overrun the place and it’s just going to become another Moab you know like everything everything that I hear is like oh it’s just gonna be another Moab um so how do you like are you concerned about that and then how do you counter that kind of objection

BH: yeah so I’m very happy you brought this up because it’s one of my favorite things to talk about with people when they bring it up to me I want to first say that I completely understand that there are a lot of landscapes across the US in Moab even here in Colorado if we look at Hanging Lake if we look at Maroon Bells you know when I was in college and I was studying in Environmental Conservation we would refer to this as an area being loved to death and that they’re overrun with people

And a lot of people are choosing to make decisions in recreation on that landscape that are not beneficial to the integrity of the landscape or future people wanting to get out and enjoy it this might be my own just blind optimism into the future but I am very I strongly believe that when you have a landscape like this and if we got a National Monument designated let’s just say it happened tomorrow there would be a lot more resources available to create better more effective interpretation in the area that would encourage safe recreation and recreation for the purpose of conservation

and I really I I encourage anybody listening to this to instead of thinking that human impact on a landscape is initially going to be bad and that it is in opposition to environmental protection and to landscape conservation let’s think of it as an influencing factor to conservation human humans belong in nature nature belongs in us

and we if we look at recreation and human impact on these landscapes as something that can be used to benefit conservation and I don’t mean that it’s always going to benefit but at least that it’s an influencing factor and not an opposing factor I think that that could really shift conversations around how we try to guide recreation in a way that it does reach that goal

a lot of my background in my professional background is in Environmental Education and we a lot of times focus on instead of if we see somebody not picking up after their dog if we see somebody with a motorized vehicle in a natural area area instead of just saying oh I’m going to call the ranger on you you’re going to get a fine and get in trouble I’m going to go up and say hey it seems like you’re really enjoying what you’re doing but did you know that you know this is how dog poop being left out could affect the landscape and if you’re coming back here next week like how often do you come out here if you come back here do you want to see that same pile of poop here or a different pile of poop and if your friends are coming out here with you do you think they’re going to want to see that

and I try to encourage people to gain a sense of personal responsibility and and and it doesn’t always work out and I understand that but I really believe heavily in the power of personal responsibility when it comes to sustainable recreation

LM: and I can see how that approach and that attitude would be would still have a lot more success than just yelling at somebody making them feel defensive and angry and like just uh that seems like it would actually get through to more people like you’re not going to get through to everybody but more people than the other approach

BH: and I think the same goes for the Dolores I it makes me really sad actually when I hear people say oh but we don’t want that area to be taken away from us like that’s our special I hear a lot of recreators or just users of the Dolores say oh but that’s like my playground you know where they kind of see it as though they’re like this is an area that not that many people know of and we want to keep it that way you know what are your kids going to say to that I mean like maybe your children you’ll be able to show them cool places but what about their friends what about their future classmates you know don’t you want them to be able to get out there too

and that’s what I like to bring up to people is you know the more people that we can get out on a landscape to recreate sustainably and responsibly and and again a National Monument designation would be able to get more resources into the area to be able to do that better and guide that better I think that’s the best future we could we could possibly want and so that these areas don’t just get ignored and then engulfed in ulterior uses like oil and gas drilling because nobody’s out there nobody sees it happening

LM: good point like share your toys right

BH: yeah

LM: so how can people get involved if they want to help

BH: yes so we do have a public petition that we have available it is you can find it at the official protectthedolores.org

LM: okay

BH: it’s a very easy just online petition you can also put a little blurb about why you love the Dolores and public lands in general that’s a great first step a big part of us being able to succeed in this work is getting enough people publicly voicing their support and that’s a hard thing to do for a lot of people I understand that and so that’s a really great first step

for anybody that wants to go beyond that we are always looking for people who are open to and excited to write letters to the editor to local newspapers like the Daily Sentinel or opinion editorials especially when it comes to LTEs or letters the editor we have drafted ones that we can give you and that you can change up the way that you you want it to reflect your voice and that’s of course just if you don’t think you have the time to write one you know and then we make it super easy just give you the the link that you can submit it to

and that is incredibly helpful because that’s showing a grasstops section of our community which is local news and local you know communications like that showing them that people want this to happen so that’s an incredibly beneficial way that people can help out you can reach out to me and and I can get you set up with that

we you know and if you want to take the time on your own you know write a letter to Senator Bennett or Senator Hickenlooper you know Senator Bennett especially is very very interested in this work we recently did get him out on the landscape in a field trip and he was excited to public to publicly state that he wanted permanent protections on the Dolores and so I think writing to him or to Hickenlooper

I was talking about some of these fifth grade students that I worked with a couple months ago I believe they’re writing a letter to Biden to ask for these permanent protections which I think is incredibly special so those are ways

and then you know if you sign up for like the Colorado Wildland project mailing list we don’t send out a lot but we do send out invitations to any Dolores related events that are going on we try to be involved in every one that’s going on within anywhere near the Grand Valley we can help you get there you know attending those events is a huge way to support us

soon and I’m very happy to actually talk about this this kind of to the public now we are working with a local winery here in Palisade called Sauvage Spectrum to get a custom wine label for the Dolores put on on some bottles and so once that comes out purchasing those 10% of the profits are going to be going to the wildlands project directly that benefits our work into the future

and you know if there’s ways that you you can that you think you can support us in a way that I haven’t mentioned again reach out to me I’ll stay I’ll I’ll stay in contact you can call me you can email me I love to talk with people in our community

I would love to be getting some new pictures from people of the Dolores that we can post on our social media that we can post on our website that we can make fliers out of obviously we’ll credit anybody who sends them to us but I would love to have those or if you you have a unique perspective on the landscape we’re always looking for speakers at different events you can have the chance to speak at some sort of like a storytelling event about your your unique experiences on the landscape so there’s a lot of different ways that you can help

LM: that’s awesome so how can people reach you what’s your I’ll put the link in there in the notes

BH: so you can um email me Bella(at)cowildlands.org I’m not going to put my phone number out there and also just if you look up the Colorado wildlands project website again we’re a very small group of people you’ll pretty quickly find me in the staff page and you can email me through there as well

LM: alright well it’s awesome to talk to you I can tell that you are just so passionate about this and you can tell it really inspires you and excites you to work in this industry

BH: it does you know something that I think inspires me that I’ve gained inspiration for the most since getting this job and being in this land landscape is looking at the issues of access in the Dolores because it just made me really sad to see so many people feeling like they couldn’t really get out onto the landscape because they weren’t able to raft they weren’t able to boat or spend multiple days out on the landscape camping

I mean if you can camp out there oh my god the stars will blow your mind but not everybody has that option not everybody has that ability to access the area in that way I I’ve never boated the Dolores and sometimes you know people are a little shocked by that I work in this coalition and I have never had the opportunity to be able to afford or have the gear to boat the Dolores the only

and I love the area I’ve spent days and days out there but it’s just been through driving around it hiking it seeing the incredible geology of the area the plants and the wildlife of the area seeing some of the very unique ecosystems out there if you all want to look up a really cool thing look up the Unaweep seep so in unaweep Canyon there is a very unique ecosystem called the seep where it’s basically a riparian ecosystem on the side of a hill

LM: cool

BH: and because of water that’s seeping out of the mountain it’s beautiful you know go find those areas

and that’s I think that’s where my passion really comes from is I want people to know that even if getting a National Monument out there takes a long time even if it doesn’t happen we have our own slice of Utah super close to us right there and then we can be supporting local Colorado economies by going there going to the general store in Gateway and I just hope that any of you out there choose to take a day trip out there

LM: yeah yeah perfect fall drive winter drive I mean anytime drive awesome well thank you so much it’s great to talk to you I can’t wait to go back now to go back and just visit again but thank you so much for your time

BH: thank you

LM: When we moved to Palisade, one of the first things I did was pore over the maps of the surrounding area, taking in all the nearby adventures. The Dolores, squiggling through a section of land south of Gateway, tucked behind the La Sals, immediately caught my attention.

Soon after, on a weekend adventure, Paul and I headed that way via Unaweep canyon, through Gateway and what my friend LisaMarie laughed at me for calling Naturita, on our way to some of our favorite mountain biking trails by Norwood.

Have you been over that way? You know when you think an area’s going to be great, but then it’s so much more? Like, how are people not just constantly gushing about this place?

Go check it out, then sign that petition to make the area a national monument. There’s a link to it in the show notes. Write a letter to the president with your kids, with your friends. Wouldn’t it be cool to help make something big happen in our lifetimes?

Thanks for listening. With love, from Palisade.

E18: Hillary Eales, the Mafia Princess of Western Colorado Wine

What’s a mafia princess doing running a winery in Western Colorado? The name might have started as an inside joke between friends, but the wine is serious business.

Hillary Eales spent six years at Meadery of the Rockies, Talon Winery, and St. Katherine’s Cellars before taking the leap and buying a winery and vineyard that she could make her own, alongside her husband, Casey. And Mafia Princess Wines was born.

Casey takes care of the grapes while working full time, Hillary takes care of the winemaking and tasting room, and they both take care of a couple sweet kids, an adorable dog, a cat that remained unseen, a few sheep, and a bunch of chickens.

Hillary and I tasted some of their Beaujolais Nouveau-style Colorado Nuovo in their cozy tasting room while we chatted about her path to the Grand Valley, how she went from EMT to winemaker, the wines she’s most excited about making, why biodynamic principles are a no-brainer when it comes to vineyard management, and about building an intentional community – making your own family away from family.

And of course, we got into some of those stories that led to her nickname.

For more about Mafia Princess Wines: mafiaprincesswines.com

Music by Romarecord1973 from Pixabay.  


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Welcome to Postcards from Palisade, the podcast about the people and places that make this slice of western Colorado wonderful. I’m Lisa McNamara.

What’s a mafia princess doing running a winery in Western Colorado? The name might have started as an inside joke between friends, but the wine is serious business. Hillary Eales spent six years at Meadery of the Rockies, Talon Winery, and St. Katherine’s Cellars before taking the leap and buying a winery and vineyard that she could make her own alongside her husband, Casey. Casey takes care of the grapes while working full time, Hillary takes care of the winemaking and tasting room, and they both take care of a couple sweet kids, an adorable dog, a few sheep, and a bunch of chickens.

Hillary and I tasted some of their Beaujolais Nouveau style Colorado Nuovo in their cozy tasting room while we chatted about her path to the Grand Valley, how she went from EMT to winemaker, the wines she’s most excited about making, why biodynamic principles are a no-brainer when it comes to vineyard management, and about building an intentional community – making your own family away from family. And of course, we get into some of those stories that led to her nickname.

All that and more, on today’s Postcard from Palisade.

Also, I had the cutest sound checkers on this episode:

Kids: I love everybody and I love Lucy
LM: you’re silly
Kids: you Lucy
LM: no I’m Lisa
Kids: Lisa Lucy Tucy


LM: oh my god

HE: that’s our sheep they’re in the yard right now because we need to move their fence we have like so they we usually run them in the vineyard but we need to move the fence out there so we usually move them up here and then move the fence and then move them back

LM: cool well thank you so much for taking the time to meet with me um I love to just start by having people introduce themselves and what you do and um just like any little bit of background you want to share about yourself

HE: ok so I’m Hillary Eales I’m part owner and wine maker for Mafia Princess Wines um my husband Casey is my partner and he’s still nursing full time but he also manages the vineyard full time so life is a little hectic and then add in two kids that are four and six and that adds to that but it’s great

LM: and some sheep looks like

HE: and some sheep and some chickens and of course a dog and a cat and a whole bunch of vines

LM: so how did you get into owning a winery and making wine

HE: uh so I got into wine via Craigslist so we moved here um in 2014 so it’s been nine years and I was a EMT before so we moved up here and I was going to try to get a job on the ambulance again and then there wasn’t anything available so applied for 911 dispatch went through the whole like hiring process which was like 5 hours of testing a panel interview and an interview with a psychiatrist and then didn’t get the job and by that point they had uh a position on the ambulance open and so I was like oh can I just transfer my application and they’re like no you can’t apply for another public service position for a year

LM: what

HE: and I guess it’s just like government because it’s all a city run and so I was like okay so I’ll just find something for a year and then go back to working on the ambulance and so applied for a bunch of stuff and then saw a position for cellar and grounds like entry level at Meadery of the Rockies in Palisade and I was like oh that’d be kind of cool like we had we kept bees back in Texas before we moved planned on keeping bees again here so I was like well I’ll work there for a while I’ll learn a little bit maybe I’ll learn enough to be able to make my my own honey wine someday and like that’ll be that

and then started working there and pretty soon realized like there’s opportunity to move up into wine making without having to go back to school which was a big deal for me because I’m not super good at school I’m very good at hands-on stuff and and to be able to make as much if not more than you do on an ambulance because with you’re an EMT you make like squat on an ambulance and decided since Casey’s a nurse that it would be nice to not both be in stressful jobs with crazy schedules and so decided to stay there and just kind of see what happened

and so it was really a good experience because Meadery of the Rockies is part of Talon and St Katherine Cellars and so I made the wine for all three and I worked up to head wine maker position and like so in 6 years I think I figured cuz we could ferment all year round because of doing the honey and the fruit so in the six years I think I did about 150 fermentations

LM: wow

HE: which is a lot

LM: that’s a lot

HE: and um and then doing honey wines and fruit wines they both do weird things that grape wines don’t and no one has put a a whole lot of money into like research or anything because there’s just not a lot of it out there and so it was a lot of problem solving and like talking to the lab and being like hey this weird thing happened and what do you think it is and trying to figure out solutions uh which was really fun and but then after like six years my husband he had planned on going back to school to be a nurse anesthetist and so we were going through the pro like he was putting in applications had an interview um the school that he really wanted to go to was in uh Portland and this was like 2020 that he really started doing applications and stuff 2019 2020 and so of course Portland was like burning itself to the ground at that time so he’s like well there goes the top school that I really wanted to go to and then we just started talking you know especially as like covid hit and work became even more and life and everything just became more stressful and he was second guessing staying in medicine anyways and so it’s like all right like if you’re not going to go back to school for this like we got to figure out something else cuz he’s just ready for something different

and uh instead of you know we can either invest in schooling of a different kind or we could find something else to invest in and but the idea was when he went to school I would quit and be home with the kids and so it’s like all right like I still want to make that transition and figure out how to make it work

so I ended up quitting in January of 21 to be home with the kids and so I had about a year and we still hadn’t decided what we were doing with ourselves and and I was doing consulting started a consulting business and so because of that I was at VinCo the wine and grape symposium that Grand Junction does every year in January and I had a booth there and I ran in to Brett Neil who used to own this place and he owns Stony Mesa Winery in Cedaredge and so I was chatting with him because I’ve known him for years and just asked you know how things were going what was new cuz I hadn’t seen him since I had quit the winery and so he told me that he was thinking about selling his place in Grand Junction and I was like huh I was like I didn’t know you had a place in Grand Junction so tell me about it

so he tells me it’s 7 and a half acres has tasting room production area a two-bedroom apartment and I was like huh if you’re thinking about selling we’re thinking about buying and then I went home to Casey and I was like so I told someone we were going to buy their vineyard and we’re going to go look at it tomorrow hope that’s cool with you and you know it was like hindsight like months later that I was telling someone this story and I was like he could have just said I was being crazy and not gone like I’m really kind of lucky that he was game to like even come and look at the place

but we came and we looked at it and just fell in love with it I feel like it’s kind of this like hidden gem of a location like it’s off the beaten path but you can see Mount Garfield the Monument the Mesa I mean it’s just so peaceful and and so we’re like well let’s let’s just see if we can figure out how to make it work cuz if we can figure out the finances on a nursing salary then like we should do it and so it took us about five months to figure out financing it was definitely a struggle and it was there was times that I was like I are we making the right choice like this is this is a huge leap you know what if we try it and totally fail like all all those what ifs you know

and then Casey came home from work one day and he came in and it was like a really bad day at work and he’s like you know what I’m just so tired of being cussed at and yelled at and pissed on and shit on and thrown up on he’s like I’m just ready to work with vines that just sit there and are vines it’s like okay we’re making the right decision like just keep pressing forward through like all the mess

and like even the week of close in was probably the most stressful week of my life like as we like tied up lose ends made sure we had like the cash for the down payment and even like our we worked with an insurance broker to get insurance for the place they were rejected from like 15 different places because we were a new business and new farmers and no one wanted to take a chance and so we got insurance like 30 minutes before our closing time and it’s like

LM: my God

HE: it’s like so crazy

LM: down to the wire

HE: yeah and then of course like you’ve probably bought a house right you know it’s so weird you like go and you sign your name a million times and then it’s like all right you own a home

LM: here you go

HE: really

LM: this is yours now

HE: are you sure and then nowadays like half the time you don’t even get keys when you close like it’s just this whole weird thing but but yeah so we closed and then we came out with with the Neils to the property and opened someone the patio it was this like really surreal like feeling

LM: oh that’s sweet though so sort of like a hand over almost like yeah

HE: yeah and the the Neils were really great like they they included almost all the farm equipment we needed basically all of it a lot of wine equipment that he wasn’t using anymore and so it made it that much more feasible that we were able to roll those equipment costs into the purchase price and um so yeah so it was it was really great

LM: well so what do we have in our glass here like what what kind of wines do you grow what kind of grapes do you grow I mean what kind of grapes do you grow what kind of wines are you making what do we have here

HE: uh so this wine since you said you like red it’s the only red I have right now released this is our Colorado Nuovo

LM: oop

HE: so so we did this in a Beaujolais Nouveau style

LM: that was a very aggressive swirl for people listening

HE: yes these glasses I love them but they’re not the easiest to swirl it does

LM: I am an aggressive swirler oo that’s awesome

HE: yeah so we did this in a Beaujolais style because I I just love the tradition around Beaujolais um you know Beaujolais is a region in France where we named ours Colorado and then Nuovo means new in Italian

LM: mhm

HE: and so the tradition though for the French is that you harvest ferment bottle and release by the third Thursday of November which happens to be Thanksgiving for us is kind of awesome they do a whole race from the wineries to the stores which I think is cool and then it’s supposed to be like a celebration of end of harvest beginning of a new year and so I just love like that whole concept and just the whole concept of having like an easy drinking fun red wine it’s like red wines can take themselves too seriously sometimes and so having something a little lighter and just fun and then this one is a blend of Crimson Cabernet and Merlot

LM: I’ll just slowly swirl it yeah that’s awesome I love Beaujolais Nouveau is so much fun and that would be if we could get more producers around here or more wine stores to actually like stock more varieties that would be really fun because it’s always really fun to just get different you know more than just the George Debouf or you know the one that you can get everywhere like get a bunch of different ones to try side by side and see the variations and

HE: yeah well

LM and actually add this into it

HE: I’m excited cuz um the full monty liquors that used to be College liquors like they’re going to do a Beaujolais release this year and they’re going to feature this our new wine that we just started we started fermentation on September 30th which was actually the same time we started it last year which is kind of fun I thought it would be later this year cuz harvest started later this year it’s a weird year so but he he said the same thing he’s like more people should be doing Beaujolais I’m going to try to like promote it more

and then I had a customer who was talking about how like France has the whole race or I was telling him about that and he’s like oh you guys should get other wineries to do Beaujolais and then do like a bike race I was like that’d be so much fun I was like but

LM: that’d be so cool

HE: it’s November like it could be gorgeous or it could be like

LM: it could be terrible

HE: terrible yeah it would always be an adventure

LM: either mountain bikes or road bikes then

HE: yeah that’s true I’m totally in I love well maybe I should talk to some wi sounds amazing try to get it rolling for next year l this year

LM: oh my gosh yeah if I could oh that sounds amazing totally in

HE: all right well maybe we should make it happen yeah okay I got I wuss when it comes to weather and like biking in the cold like my rule of thumb is it has to be at least 45 and sunny so

LM: 45 is kind of our cut off too yeah sunny you know either way but definitely warmer than 45 cuz below that your hands get too cold no matter how many gloves you’re wearing

HE: I agree yeah I’m I’m solar powered so it has to be if it’s going to be cold

LM: awesome I love it okay I got sidetracked though so like what other kind of grapes do you grow and what wines are you going to make this year

LM: yeah so we have a muscat canelli Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot a little bit of Gewurztraminer and Riesling I think that’s all of it and then we we planted Crimson Cabernet and Cab Franc this year and we’ll do some more planting next year but I’m super excited this year because we have more than double the crop than we had last year and a lot of that is like last year the vines were still recovering from the freeze in 2020 we just had we had more time to tend to the vineyard than Brett did cuz this was like low on his priority list cuz he has like 30 acres up in Cedaredge like he was already spread real thin and and so we we do we’ve got more than double the crop which is awesome am uh I’m not sure where I’m going to put everything like if I have tank space but we’re going to make it work but it’s cool because so this year the majority of our vineyard is our Riesling or the largest percentage is in Riesling um and our Riesling was actually planted in 1982 so it’s one of the oldest vineyards still in production in Colorado which I think is really cool

LM: oh wow that is really cool

HE: um I mean the vines are starting to show their age a little bit we we have like a 10 year replanting plan but um but because the majority of it is Riesling then I’m going to split the Riesling this year and I’m going to make a sparkling Riesling which I’m super excited about

LM: awesome

HE: and I still haven’t figured out exactly what method I would love to actually take the sparkly I would love to take half of it and do a pet nat and then take the other half and do like a traditional so you could like have side by side like from the same tank and everything so I think that’d be super cool

LM: that would be really cool

HE: that really depends on my glass company getting me glass on time cuz they’ve not emailed me back

LM: so you bottle age it then or ferment it

HE: so for pet nats the difference between like pet nats and Champagnes is um for a pet nat you towards the end of primary fermentation you go ahead and bottle it and let it finish in bottle and then for champagne you finish primary and then you bottle it and you dose it with more yeast and sugar and then most time with champagne you also age it for 1 to three years I don’t know that I’m patient enough for that or have enough room but um we’ll see

LM: later vintages

HE: yeah like first is just making the wine and then I’ll figure it out

LM: that’s cool so it sounds like you’re doing some more experimental stuff and like some interesting things that other people aren’t necessarily doing doing here

HE: yeah yeah the other thing um that we have we have we did actually just bottle our um our other 2022 red which we’re calling the Tommy Gunner I just haven’t I don’t have labels yet so I haven’t released it but I’m excited like this one we it’s a blend of Suzau and Cabernet Sauvignon and then I have these Flex Cube tanks that they’re a poly tank but the company that makes them patented this polymer that breathes like a barrel so you can mimic like aging in

LM: that’s cool

HE: yeah and it’s super cool especially for the Grand Valley it is so freaking dry here that you can’t store barrels dry you can’t like there’s just so many issues you get so much evaporation and so I I think it’s a really like smart way to go you save a lot of water and space and um less chance of bacteria growing in it than you do it with wood and so what I did with this blend is I actually fermented in the tank with oak staves so I could like mimic a barrel fermentation but with a red wine which you actually can’t barrel ferment a red wine because of the skins and seeds like you would never get it out but since it’s a tank I mean it was a pain to get it out but I was able to do it and so and we also left it on the skins we didn’t press for 10 months

LM: wow

HE: so normally you press like at the end of fermentation or maybe two weeks afterwards uh we didn’t press for 10 months

LM: oh wow

HE: and and so like I found doing that like just gives this like really big mouth feel without like being super harsh tannic a lot of Colorado wines do tend to be like really acidic up front especially if they’re young really acidic up front kind of a mid palette gap and then a lot of tannin on the finish and I found during this method like really fills in a lot of that mid palette and kind of rounds out the tannins and stuff so it’s it’s really cool so I think we’ll probably do that with of our reds and this year we actually have enough Merlot to do a straight red Merlot which is exciting last year we just did a dry rosé of Merlot because that was and then the Colorado Nuovo but we have way more this year and it’s like almost like I don’t know what to do with all my Merlot right now

LM: awesome I love Merlot um but yeah it sounds like you’re just you’re kind of flexible based on what you have and that’s interesting just to kind of say like okay here’s what I have what am I going to do with it and just always kind of of coming up with new new solutions or new ideas for what you have

HE: yeah and I I think it’s fun too because we’re we’re small enough and we’re not distributing I mean we’ll probably eventually distribute and have like a few main stays like we’ll always do a Nuovo we’ll probably always do like a dry Rose of Merlot and um a Rielsing but then like I just want to kind of do whatever you know depending on growing season what we what we have in stock what we I don’t know get a wild hair and decide to do something crazy I don’t know we’ll see

LM: well okay so I know when you’re naming your business there’s so much thought that goes into it like I’ve named a lot of things and you just like think and think and think about like what’s the best name so I I’m just so curious about you know I’m sure everybody asks but what’s a mafia princess doing in the Grand Valley you know so much of the Wild West is like cowboys and Native Americans and prospectors and miners and like probably people running away from the mafia like honestly there are probably a lot of people who were just like I got to go west to escape what’s happening in my life but so yeah so how did you come up with a name and uh why did you decide to kind of bring that um that like different lore to the West

HE: yeah so we um my great-grandparents immigrated from Italy and every time we go back to New York to visit you always hear all these crazy Mafia stories and like one time I was driving around with my aunt and my grandma who still lived there and they were talking about how like the Russian mafia had moved in and how terrible it was because they didn’t have the same ethics as the Italian mafia and it was causing all kinds of problems and I was like 16ish at this point so really understood all the ramifications of those other stories I’d heard over the years and so I was like wait like those stories were true my grandma’s like oh yeah then I heard more stories

and so I told a friend and she nicknamed me Mafia princess and so just and it kind of stuck and so when we were um starting the winery and even before that we kicked around like if we ever started a winery like what would we name it we kicked around some ideas and it was actually Casey who was like well it’s obvious you just name it Mafia princess like I was like really like are you sure and then as we actually started a winery it’s like all right I guess like we’ll go with that and then it’s actually been really fun cuz as I share stories um I get other people’s stories

so like our Merlot Rose that we have I named it wedding day Rose and I named her that to share the story of how my grandparents great- grandparents got married cuz they actually had an arranged marriage after immigrating so 1920s New York they had an arranged marriage and supposedly like how it happened is the families arranged it and my Grandma Rose got all dressed up and my uh grandfather Joseph had the chance to look at her and decide if he really wanted to marry her

LM: like just look at her

HE: yes

LM: don’t talk to her just look at her

HE: and so I guess he liked what he saw and they they got married and had five kids and stayed married for 60 some years til he passed away so it worked um I mean it’s a family tradition I’m glad to not carry on like I can’t imagine but um but yeah and then I I’ve so I’ve told customers that and then I’ve had lots of them be like oh yeah like my grandparents or great-grandparents immigrated and several of them have had arranged marriages either before immigrating or like after immigrating and like one one customer was telling me that that was really common then around immigration just because of financial reasons and making sure if you pool your money together you’re more likely to succeed and be able to make it and so it just kind of interesting

and then hearing you know other people’s stories been really fun um and also just digging into my own family history and you know like I actually knew both my great-grandparents which I feel very fortunate because most people didn’t but like digging into and really thinking about the timeline of everything of all those stories I heard you know because it’s like if I I’m pretty sure my grandma said that my great-grandmother Rose was like 16 when she got married which isn’t an uncommon for that time frame

LM: yeah back then

HE: but then the the other story that I love is that before she got married um she had a mafia Don who was interested in marrying her and her family didn’t want her to marry him and so they hid her in the mountains of New York for like 9 months

LM: oh my gosh

HE: and so then I’m doing math and I’m like wait like if she got married at 16 and she had a mafia Don interested for at least 9 months before that she was probably like 14 15

LM: oh gosh

HE: and then I’m like well maybe that’s why they actually did the arranged marriage just to make sure like she’s off the market

LM: let’s get her married wow yeah that’s fascinating man and so one of the things you say on your website is that you want to like reclaim the idea of family and loyalty and excellence and you know all those kind of things that were maybe like a little twisted by that concept of family so I thought that was really interesting

HE: yeah that was one of the things when we we bought this place and we were um really talking about it and my husband and I are both Christians and so we were praying about it and praying about like whether we should do this and what this would look like and decided you know it wasn’t just about building a business and a winery and you know those things are great but it’s like building community and providing a place that people can go and like have some peace and like just a little haven from the craziness of the world and and building that sense of community in family and I think especially after covid I I am an introvert by nature and was going crazy during covid like and realized how important community is

LM: same

HE: and how little community people have these days especially when you take work away a lot of times that’s the only community people have is at work and so it’s like we really want to build that community that family you know that that family that’s not blood and neither of us have family here like nowhere close to here and so we’ve really had to build that community and it’s not easy to do and so being able to provide a space for people to do that I think is also important

it’s actually really cool like we did for Wine Fest we did this big Italian family style dinner and we set up on our patio just like one long table and we had 28 people and I made like a bunch of family recipes and like it was super fun and there like so many people afterwards are like we either said like they never experienced something like that or like there was a lady who she told me after for the dinner she’s like you know I come from a Mexican family and this is what Thanksgiving looked like every year and just brought back memories from that or like one guy that said he was stationed in Russia and they would always do like a big meal for Thanksgiving with all the other guys and that sense of camraderie and family like away from family and he said like he hadn’t experienced anything like that since being in Russia

LM: oh wow

HE: and I was like that’s so I mean it’s so sad on one hand and then I’m like like I’m so glad you could find that here you you know

LM: you can provide that same feeling that’s really cool

HE: yeah and it’s just it’s so I think it’s just so necessary a lot of people don’t get that from their own family

LM: yeah absolutely no and you know I had a very similar experience during covid I always thought I was an introvert and you know didn’t wasn’t really was way really totally too focused on my job and to the exclusion of anything else and yeah that made me just realize that that was not important at all and the most important thing was having a community that made me feel happy and like I could give back to other people and help people and you know just have fun together so I totally feel you um that was a lot of the reason I want to start the podcast is like well let’s get people meeting their neighbors and hearing from other people in the community that they haven’t maybe heard from finding out what’s going on and then finding about these places that there are that that they might you know like fit with like this might be exactly what they’re looking for so I totally hear you there and that’s that’s really cool to have that opportunity and then to get that feedback from people that it’s like you’re having the impact that you wanted to have

HE: yeah

LM: that’s cool

HE: yeah it was it was a really cool experience I like one point while we were serving the dinner I was like paused for a second while I’m like going crazy in the kitchen and it’s like hearing people just constant chatter and laughter and it’s like okay this is much like well worth the effort and you know and it was stressful cuz it was the first one but it was it was so rewarding

LM: are you doing any kind of regular events or anything like throughout the season I know we’re at the end of the season here but

HE: yeah so during the season we did sunset sips where we stayed open until a little after sunset cuz the sunsets from our patio are just amazing and we’d get a food truck out and we did so we do that the last Friday of every month and we’ll do that again next year and then we might try to do it twice a month like we’ll see it’s so it’s so hard when you’re starting a business to be like what works what do people want like we found out July is a terrible month to do something outside like no one came cuz it was so blazing hot

LM: right yeah and sometimes there’s just so much going on that it is it’s hard to yeah it’s hard to kind of compete with everybody

HE: yeah

LM: too um well that’s cool though I’m I’m excited for that I’ll look forward to that next year um are you going to do any more dinners like that or you think maybe just around winefest

HE: we’re actually thinking about doing one in the spring as well and then so we’ll do the annual around Wine Fest and then do one in the spring um probably in May I don’t really know I got to figure that out and then we we did our grand opening let me think when it was it was um May 22nd and so so we’ll probably do like an anniversary thing then and it’s actually kind of cool cuz we closed May 25th so it’s almost like a year from the date that we closed we we were able to do our grand opening and

LM: wow

HE: yeah and then it’s also like crazy when it’s like we do our grand opening it’s like oh my gosh I can’t believe we’ve had this place a year already you know that we’re already in our second harvest is just insane but you know time flies when you’re having fun

LM: yeah right now the tourist season is kind of winding down a little bit but you are I mean when you own and run and a winery and a vineyard you are just shifting into like your most busy wine making time right now right so do you think like through the next few like months and winter and everything you’re just going to be focused on like making wine and working on getting all of that stuff into whatever it needs to get into

HE: yeah the the goal for us is to have the bulk of wine making done by Thanksgiving and then and some of that is like getting the Nuovo done and in bottle um we last year we bottled uh November 22nd and released it the 23rd which was the Wednesday before Thanksgiving I mean like we just got it done in time I would like to maybe have a little bit more leeway this year but we’ll see how it goes but then we can hopefully take some time off in December you know I also though probably what’ll happen is I’ll do most of my wine making get the bulk of it done like I said by Thanksgiving and then December is going to be like catching up on computer work I have like this whole list of like okay I need to deep clean the house the house is a disaster um make sure everyone’s got clothes for winter like I’m realizing as it gets colder I was like my kids don’t have any warm clothes

LM: just life maintenance

HE: yeah life stuff it’s like the other day cuz this last week was like we harvested all of our Merlot and it ended up being like 5 days straight of harvesting and then processing some of well processing all of it so it ended up being like 5 days straight harvest and then the nights we were processing usually what happens is we pick all day and then we like have dinner and hang out with the kids put them to bed and then we process our grapes after we put them to bed and then we’re up till like 1:00 at night and then get up the next day and harvest again we were able to like break up to where we were processing grapes every other day so there was only like three nights that we were up till midnight 1:00

LM: oh my gosh

HE: um and then when we hit Sunday we like like we’re going to sleep in and then we’ll just finish it we were picking till 7:00 at night like but we finished but yeah by like Sunday I was like I have no food in the house like nothing I was like I need to at least go to the grocery store and get something I bought pizza that’s what we had so

LM: hey that works

HE: that works

LM: totally so you don’t have anybody who works for you at all

HE: no it’s just us yeah and it’s it’s worked out okay um last year was a lot more manageable with just the two of us and and we were able to get a lot of like friends and stuff that came out and helped and um this year we have more than twice as many grapes which adds you know more than

LM: twice as much work

HE: and then um Casey’s schedules really sucked at the hospital cuz we could we’d only pick around the days he was off and last year he was off a lot more weekends and then of course it’s easier to get help on the weekends and so it’s it’s been really challenging and then we’ve had the tasting room open too

LM: right

HE: and so that so whenever we’re open in the tasting room that pulls me away from helping pick um and so actually starting last week what we did on Wednesdays because we’re only open Wednesday through Saturday we just decided like to try to keep our family life work balance like we had we could not be open seven days a week there’s just no way especially with Casey working a whole another job

LM: yeah makes sense

HE: um and so Wednesdays and Thursdays are pretty slow and so we put a sign on the door saying we’re out harvesting like I’ve got a cooler of wine out in the vineyard you’re welcome to come out and have a tasting among the vines

LM: that sounds amazing like that sounds really fun

HE: yeah I was like and it was like this last minute thing that I was like we’re just going to do this and then it was like this super like sunny hot day and so and we had people that came and there was two ladies that braved the heat and they’re like no we want to stay in the vineyard this is super cool we’ve never been this close to vines and to grapes like and they were like all into it and then other people were like no I want air conditioning which I totally get like totally again so we we’re like okay we’ll do a little bit better this is a good idea for the week we’ll get like one of those canopy tents bring a table out you know have some shade it’ll be fine like

LM: I love the idea

HE: we’re building yeah

LM: no I mean what a good way to balance because like that was going to be one of my questions for you right you have to figure out how to balance everything like when I got here you’re in there like you’re punching on the grapes they like I’m going to take these five minutes to just do this so you have to be creative too with your time and and how you are balancing everything right

HE: yes and it’s hard and it’s I remember last winter cuz winter is slow and especially last winter like we you know no one really knew about us we did go ahead and starting in December cuz we had we had one wine and then I just did two like guest wines from other Colorado wineries which I I would like to always have a guest wine because there’s so many other great wineries and I’ve received so much support support from the industry over the years it’s like I want to give back

so we did we opened up on Saturdays last year because we’re like we’re here anyways cuz we live here and so we might as well like try to be open and make some money but then it’s like this year we’re like we don’t know what to do and then figuring out that balance you know we go through harvest and harvest is this like super intense time of work for us and it’s super hard on our kids you know we we try really hard to involve them as much as possible but I mean last week was kind of like they they we all hit a wall let’s just be honest we all hit a wall last week by the end of it

and so then in the winter months though it’s like all right things have slowed down especially for a Casey since the the deal is is like I do the wine making and run the tasting room and he does the vineyard work which is great cuz like I said I’m a wuss when it comes to weather so he’s perfectly happy going out when it’s like freezing and doing whatever he wants to do like that’s good but the winter we try to like spend more time as a family and go do stuff and and even like my son had a really hard day the other day with how busy we were and I was like remember though like winter is coming you know things will slow down it’ll be okay

and I remember last winter like having all this time and I was like I feel like I should be doing something like we just started this business but we’re only open one day a week and we have a good friend who owns a construction company like a very successful one in town and he’s I don’t even know how long he’s had it like a long time and so I told him I was like you know all these people say when you start a business you’re working like 15 hours a day 7 days days a week for the first like five years and just like all this stuff and he’s like those people are just full of BS he’s like it might feel like that sometimes but it’s not you’ll just burn out if you do that he’s like there’s seasonality to your industry enjoy the downtime and then when harvest comes around again remind your kids that downtime is coming and take the time to spend with your family and enjoy it and he’s like don’t worry like the busyness is coming I was like okay

LM: that’s really good advice

HE: it was really good I was feeling anxious it’s like everyone is telling you like it’s so much work and it is but it is seasonal and when you can take the breaks you got to take the breaks

LM: yeah recharge definitely prioritizing yourself too because like you said you’ll just burn out because there’s so much to do sometimes that yeah yeah that’s really good advice awesome well I’m glad winter’s coming

HE: yeah I know so as much like harvesting is a lot of fun even though it’s a lot of work it’s also really exciting exciting and of course it’s you know it’s seeing the fruit of your labor labor like really

LM: literally

HE: literally and you know like getting I was even joking with my husband I was like oh yeah we we turn water into wine just like Jesus we just have a lot more steps than he had like um but it is it’s like super fulfilling so as hard as it is like physically it’s like all right go to bed at the end of the day try not to think about all the things I didn’t get done

LM: yeah

HE: and just be like all right just chill and it all it all gets done somehow

LM: yeah

HE: like it always does

LM: if is important

HE: yeah

LM: it does so technically we’re outside Palisade here and this is you know Palisade podcast but I feel like if anybody who’s on you know the fruit and wine byway or part of the wine country it’s it’s all part of Palisade really it’s part of the Palisade vibe so one of the questions that I ask everybody on the podcast is what’s your favorite thing about Palisade or what’s your favorite part of Palisade so I have to ask you that too because uh I really like to see everybody’s responses and how they’re similar or different so what’s your favorite thing about Palisade

HE: so you know cuz I worked at Meadery of the Rockies for six years and one of the things that I loved about working there is we didn’t grow any of our own grapes we worked with several farmers like Talbott’s and bookCliff and Plum Creek sometimes too and so I I loved I love the community and I still do like the people the farmers they’re there’s just this whole like culture around agriculture that I just think is amazing and it’s so fascinating to me having grown up in Texas and in Amarillo where it’s a lot of agriculture and then we actually lived in Dalhart for a little bit which is this tiny town just Northwest of Amarillo where like there’s three industries it’s farming the hospital and the school like everyone works at those three places and agricultural people no matter what they’re growing the culture is still the same and so coming here and like being you know part of this like farming community just like it was like instantly like home you know and um and I love that and I love like the cooperation between you know the majority of wineries want to help each other and are you know into that that whole idea of like the ship rises with the tide you know all ships rise with the tide and like helping out everyone and you know there’s there’s some outliers but of course that’s in any industry you know

but it’s like I bought some fruit this year from Whitewater Hill we got some muscat um because our Muscat like we already sold out of it because it was so popular and we don’t grow very much of it so they had some extra I was like yeah I’ll take it and then Chloe their wine maker a day after we got the fruit she called or texted and she was like oh she called and she’s like hey like just want to make sure everything like went well you know the Talbott’s got you the fruit okay cuz they were the ones delivering it um and processing and everything went good I was like well actually like we blew the bladder in our press while we were processing

and she was like oh she’s like well just bring the fruit over here we’re going to finish up pressing our Moscato um in you know a couple hours just bring the fruit over here and we’ll help you press it and I was like oh my gosh yes please like thank you you know and went over she I mean it was her equipment so she had to but she helped press it helped clean everything you know it was just like stayed late I’m sure to help me out and then even the next week she like checked in and she was like hey were you able to get a replacement for your bladder for your press you know it’s just just like that that community

and even like we we still needed to bottle the last of our red and again like having issues getting glass and so I was like hey you guys have some extra bottles and they’re like oh yeah just like when you get your glass in replace it and picked up 60 cases of glass so I could bottle glass you know it’s it’s that kind of like like neighbor teamwork you know thing it’s like yeah and in one sense we’re competition um but I always view it as like a friendly competition you know it’s like they send people my way all the time I tell people to go over there all the time

LM: absolutely

HE: you know and especially for the the wineries that are on this side of the valley like we kind of got to help each other out you know cuz we’re kind of isolated from relative I mean I always think it’s silly when we live in Grand Junction and I’m like hey like talking to some friends like hey we want to go to Peach Street Distillery and they’re like oh it’s all the way in Palisade it’s so far away

LM: oh my God I do that I do that though already with like Grand Junction and Fruita so I know it’s really silly but yeah I was like

HE: it’s like 10 minutes like you can drive that far it’s okay

LM: I was thinking oh this is going to be a half an hour away it took me 10 minutes to get here it’s just like mentally far but it’s not far

HE: no

LM: at all

HE: no it’s not and then um and I guess some of it’s just perspective like growing up in Amarillo we lived outside of town and so it was like 20 minutes to town and when you’re used to that like driving from Fruita to Palisade it’s like eh no big deal like right I’ll do it I’ll go bike in Fruita and then have a drink in Palisade totally fine

LM: so is there anything else that you want people to know about you or your family or the winery that we didn’t already touch on

HE: I think I guess the other thing that we’re doing that I’m really excited about is having our chickens and our sheep and adding some like biodiversity to the land I was actually I was listening to your podcast with Scott over at field of fork and explaining like the whole biodiversity and um biodynamic farming and and I love Scott like listening to him is great he’s such a great guy I was like huh I learned a lot listening to it too

it’s like but for us so we started we wanted to get the chickens just cuz my husband I don’t know he’s got a thing for birds like I’m not a bird fan but he likes birds um and the sheep I really wanted and because I think it’s just cool that you can run sheep in your vineyard and they help with weeds so you don’t have to spray for weeds

LM: that’s awesome

HE: and they even help if you train your vines at the right height they’ll like trim off the leaves but they don’t eat the grapes at least so far I mean we pulled them we pulled them out before the grapes were ripe

LM: like just in case

HE: yeah just to make sure and so they they actually save us a lot of work and I just I think that’s really cool and so like when we had um bees back in Texas we learned a lot about about bees and my husband’s the type when he gets into something like he like researches and does all the studying which is great then I don’t have to so when we got bees like he was like learning about like how terrible monocrop is for bees and how bees really reflect the health of the land and how biodiversity for a land is really important and so when we started the vineyard we’re like okay how can we add biodiversity we can’t rotate crops so having animals helps and then doing cover crops so we planted clover in the vineyard and we’re trying to get that to take off and you know things like that it’s like I don’t know that we’ll ever like actually go for a biodynamic certification like right now we just need to learn how to grow things

I just think that the whole concept behind it makes a lot of sense just like on a I don’t know intuition level you know like I don’t know all the ins and outs like Scott does it’s like that’s why listening to that was like fascinating

LM: yeah

HE: and there’s so much to learn about it but it’s like well if it makes sense then we should just do it and then we’ll figure out the details later so

LM: totally and something like having sheep like prevent you from having to spray pesticides and things like that like that is amazing that’s a no-brainer

HE: yeah

LM: good all around saves money like saves time saves spraying pesticides everywhere um that’s really cool yeah he was fascinating to talk to you he just like you know he’s like and another principle rule blah blah blah

HE: yeah

LM: founded by blah blah blah I’m like okay I don’t know how you remember all this stuff right okay

HE: yes no and I think especially like you know my my husband was was researching about spraying and like all that kind of stuff and about how Roundup is used everywhere and it is very bad for

LM: I’ll move over so he doesn’t to get in here he’s a very sweet dog he is a very sweet dog he came out to me when oh my gosh look at those eyeballs

HE: yes if you look at our reviews they talk more about him than our wine

LM: I noticed that they’re like whiskey the dog is amazing and the stories are amazing and the wine’s amazing and it’s like great family friendly or family atmosphere

HE: yeah but

LM: but anyways sorry

HE: so um so he was he was researching about Roundup and how they’ve like they’ve already outlawed it in Europe and he’s like you know it’s just a matter of time before they do that here like we already didn’t want to spray it it’s very like vines are very sensitive to it anyways

LM: yeah

HE: and we also have kids and we have animals and so it’s like it’s eventually probably going to be outlawed here you know banned here we might as well start practicing

LM: yeah

HE: and making like just good good practices start out that way right

LM: so you’re not dependent on it yeah

HE: you can find find us on Instagram and Facebook Mafia princess wines and our website is Mafia princess wines.com so it’s consistent across the board that name was not taken by anything and so it worked out well and um and yeah and like I said the tasting room is open Wednesday through Saturday that may change with winter we still have not figured out what we’re doing this winter um we are kicking around the idea of doing like a cigar and wine night

LM: awesome

HE: I don’t maybe like Thursday or Friday evenings like sit out on the patio have a cigar with your wine

LM: I’m looking forward to hearing about the events and just seeing how you guys grow and I’m really excited to taste the new wine that you the new red you have coming out so yeah um we’ll definitely come back and check that out cool thank you so much for your time yeah thank you too this was awesome it’s really cool hearing your story and just everything you’re doing it’s exciting

HE: thanks I appreciate it yes it’s been it’s been quite the journey

LM: Check out Mafia Princess Wines at 221 31 3/10 RD, GRAND JUNCTION, CO

And before we go, how about a little more from those adorable sound checkers?


Thanks for listening. With love, from Palisade.

E17: Art and Real Estate in Palisade with Tammy Craig of Fruit & Wine Real Estate and The Craig Gallery

If you live in the Palisade area, Tammy Craig probably knows what the inside of your house looks like. Twenty years of helping people sell and buy houses will do that to you!

An entrepreneur at heart, when the space next to her brokerage, Fruit & Wine Real Estate, became available, Tammy also added gallery owner to her resume. The Craig Galley recently had their grand re-opening, with a new format, new artists, and new hours.

I caught up with Tammy in her office in downtown Palisade to hear more about her art and the artists who are showing at The Craig Gallery. We also talked about her path back to Palisade, why Palisade is such an unusual place to buy and sell real estate, and the surprising reasons that she, as a seller of real estate, isn’t very into subdivisions, Airbnbs, and VRBOs.

We also touched on the tensions that long time residents have felt as so-called city people (like yours truly!) have moved into Palisade over the past few years. But not in a Facebook-comment kind of way – in a thought-provoking way that should make us newbies pause and realize that, if we’re very lucky, we’ll be saying the same things twenty or thirty years from now.

For more info on Fruit & Wine Real Estate: fruitandwine.net or The Craig Gallery: craiggallerypalisade.com

Music by Romarecord1973 from Pixabay.


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Welcome to Postcards from Palisade, the podcast about the people and places that make this slice of western Colorado wonderful. I’m Lisa McNamara.

If you live in the Palisade area, Tammy Craig probably knows what the inside of your house looks like. Twenty years of helping people sell and buy houses will do that to you.

An entrepreneur at heart, when the space next to her brokerage, Fruit & Wine Real Estate, became available, Tammy also added gallery owner to her resume. The Craig Galley recently had their grand re-opening, with a new format, new artists, and new hours.

I caught up with Tammy in her office in downtown Palisade to hear more about her art and the artists who are showing at The Craig Gallery. We also talked about her path back to Palisade, why Palisade is such an unusual place to buy and sell real estate, and the surprising reasons that she, as a seller of real estate, isn’t very into subdivisions, Airbnbs, and VRBOs.

We also touched on the tensions that long time residents have felt as so-called city people (like yours truly!) have moved into Palisade over the past few years. But not in a Facebook-comment kind of way – in a thought-provoking way that should make us newbies pause and realize that, if we’re very lucky, we’ll be saying the same things twenty or thirty years from now.

Keep listening to hear all that and more, on today’s Postcard from Palisade.

TC: I’m Tammy Craig that’s it that’s how I would introduce myself I don’t usually lead with what I do okay I usually just lead with me so

LM: always have the train in the background so what do you do

TC: I’m a Realtor first I’ve been a fruit and wine real estate opened in 2004 in the part-time chamber of commerce building that was over in the old bank building and my broker came from ReMax Two Rivers and she wanted to open out here so her and I opened the office and then I bought it from her in 2007. and I’ve been doing that ever since we were over by the distillery in the old train depot over there

LM: that would be a cool office location I love that building

TC: it’s a cool building so the the guy who bought it was run down and he redid it and he was a builder and so we worked for him for a while but it was a real fun place to be and then the distillery came in shortly after that and grew their business right there and the worst part about it was the train because you get fight or flight right there so the door my door was right there and I think I’m okay I’m okay but you’re right in that pattern

LM: oh yeah T

C: and I would have to fight the urge to go I need to run now so we did that for a long time and then it was two thousand ten nine um Diana Fritzler and Mary Mansfield who are friends of mine had the Twisted Brick Art Studio here Dave and Mel Treadway own the building and they bought it he put his workshop in the back and the artist came here my lease was up over by the distillery so um they asked me if I would put my office here so we were up front where it is now and then when they left there was a Etsy shop over there

LM: okay

TC: for a couple years very busy Etsy shop but it wasn’t open to the public it was all mail order stuff and then when they left I talked with David and Mel they said we don’t care what you do you just do it and so I thought okay I’ll put it put a gallery over there and so we opened as an exhibition space in 2016 on that side so real estate comes first it’s the one that supports and sponsors the art gallery and um and then I’m an artist so I we just did that and we did exhibitions and anybody could enter and we had themed shows so um I think it’s still going to be on our website when we revamp if people want to look at past exhibitions they’re very cool and um so we were doing that

LM: okay so how did you decide to open a gallery like how how was that something you always wanted to do or what

TC: I’m an entrepreneur first I thought you know as I I was a librarian in the past in a past life and I when that you don’t make much money doing what I was doing which was in a small town in Grand Lake and then I was librarian in Granby and um the opportunity to be a computer consultant came up because there wasn’t anybody to do it so we had to take our library computers and haul them all the way to Denver haul them back and I was like well that doesn’t work so I just started kind of teaching myself how to how to work on what we had then I had people start asking me to go home with them and help them and so I started doing that at night and then I switched over to doing that I did that for about three years IT stuff

LM: okay

TC: in Grand County and then I bought a restaurant

LM: oh my gosh

TC: I just and that’s when I went I think I’m an entrepreneur because you know opportunities arise and you go hmm I think I could do that I I fully understand when I can’t

LM: yeah

TC: an opportunity arrives and I go yeah that’s a good idea but it’s not for me but I Mary and Diana encouraged me I’ve been painting and drawing since I was little but um so I talked to Diana and she said well you can’t you’re not a serious artist until you have at least 15 uh pieces so I set about doing 15 pieces once I did that I went okay all right so I was actually in the Blue Pig Gallery for a while I did that for a year okay but it kind of interfered with my real estate practice which is where I make money so I when this came open I was like okay I’ll just invite people to come here so I can do my real estate practice and play art for a little bit

LM: yeah right next door that’s really nice that’s convenient

TC: it’s really nice yeah

LM: and I did see all the past shows on still on the website

TC: did you see the fear one

LM: I didn’t look through the I didn’t look through that one should I check that out

TC: yes it was on the first one so the first one we did was flowers and then mud and then I did a fear show in in October I’ve had two of those but the first one was the best one for sure we had a when you do it that way it’s younger artists who are poorer so they just can pay the entry fee for three months and do it you know this is a different type of gallery operation the format is different but so I had young so I had machetes not machetes um what you cut chicken up with

LM: oh like a oh gosh

TC: what are they called

LM: I want to say hatchet but that’s not right either like a cleaver

TC: cleaver

LM: okay

TC: and uh some young artist did like tattoo work on cleavers and they were in a box that was beautiful and I had some gourd work and Jasmine Maples is one of the first ones that came with me and Sandy McCabe she was a client of mine from real estate and when I sold their house I was kind of helping them move a little bit and because she’s a friend and I was like why aren’t you showing this stuff so she came in with us and there were some people who who you know on and off there’s about three or four of them that are in there now have shown with us on and off over time so it was fun

LM: yeah and I love an idea of just here’s a topic and seeing how everybody interprets it

TC: so normally I did this um cars and stuff but then when I started doing themes like one of them Jim Cox he’s lived here for a while and he’s a photographer he’s I think he’s retired now but he used to do all our real estate uh work and took our office photos and a lot of other photos so we did a five five photos so the artist had five photos as reference of Jim’s and then everybody did something and so that’s one of those I had just come from Washington DC and the Hirschhorn Museum of Contemporary Art uh Smithsonian Museum I was inspired so that’s uh bubble wrap and uh he had a photo that had it was winter photo and it was leaves that were crystallized over rocks at like a dry stream bed and so I fussed about and fussed about and I went oh bubble wrap that’ll do it and so anyway that this one is we had had two Masters shows and so that is in the style of Lautrec Toulouse-Lautrec he painted on cardboard very loose and did oil color almost like watercolor so it’s very thin lots of layers and so that was fun I would have never done that if we weren’t doing themes so we’ve had cubism a bunch of different stuff so it was fun um but then when I was thinking okay it’s a lot of retail space and it’s needed to make more money per square foot so came back from somewhere and I heard Kay was on the loose and so and so we talked and she said she’d be interested and I said why not

LM: yeah

TC: I have the space so um this is where we are

LM: yeah so you recently closed and remodeled or spent a month remodeling and just reopened today

TC: yeah do you want to see or do you want me to tell you about it

LM: tell me about it and then I definitely do want to see it but yeah tell me about it for the people who are just gonna listen to it

TC: sorry I’m crunching ice

LM: that’s ok, it’s hot

TC: um so I had for people who have been here a long time artists are for the most part older because that’s when you have the time to practice so the so for artists who were practicing in Grand Junction a long time ago the art on the corner in Grand Junction was started by a group of sculptors when they were young things and they put it all together and Dave Davis was one of those and he did a thing called paint the piece so I felt oh scared oh no so I got a hold of him through Facebook and I said can I come and he said well sure so we formed a relationship that way and he had the the walls that I have in there and he knew I was doing the exhibition space and so he asked me if I wanted to use them so I got those so I’ve had those so those those are from Dave and I have three of his pieces up front that his daughter just lets me leave here because he was going to enter them in the black and white show and they’re my favorites of his or I call him the white girls I don’t know what he called them they’re they’re drywall spackle on canvas and they’re beautiful

LM: oh cool

TC: so there in there I’ll show you those those right there that you’re touching that is Mary Mansfield and Tish Collins have did a collaboration those are prints that they did but the the originals are huge and uh they did a a process epoxy resin and and graffiti paint and they dry it and then they sanded sanded sanded and uh I’ve had a couple of the originals in here for shows but they are beautiful but they’re large and so anyway those are some of Mary’s prints right there

LM: so is the idea to make it more uh less of a monthly exhibition and more of like a permanent gallery space

TC: yes

LM: where you have permanent artists

TC: yes

LM: okay

TC: so we were we did three months quarterly exhibitions they changed and this is uh it is permanent so we’re more like traditional gallery gift shop now so hopefully we’ll get some of that traffic we’re down here across the alley on the wrong side of the tracks yeah um hopefully with your help and some help word of mouth help people will get down here

LM: so you’re going to do a grand old a grand reopening in a couple of weeks um are you gonna do you ever see in the future doing like you know I don’t know Fruita has like third Friday third Friday or some places do first Friday or things like that do you think you’ll ever do anything like that

TC: they it that’s been uh talked about quite a bit it’s there’s more traffic at night here but as you probably see we don’t have traffic at night the streets roll up so uh there’s been events and Kay was one of the ones who helped uh push art and chocolate walk and so and the blue pig birthday and and so when they had things there would be things at night with art and food and but um it Palisade has changed some so the it’s changing but they’re still not you know heavy traffic heavy foot traffic here so you have to kind of weigh that a bit when you’re a business owner and figure out what makes most financial sense

LM: yeah

TC: there’s a there’s a balance between you know you have to be open but you also have to make enough money to be open

LM: right

TC: so there’s um there’s um a balance there that it’s it’s changing but I still don’t see a whole lot back to the question some of the artists here have talked about what they call it third Thursdays or something and I think the artists that are participating are going to be doing working while they’re here especially Sunday markets because the Sunday market the town it has an emergency exit down the alley so the Sunday market blocks right there and so it’s kind of like okay don’t go past here so we’re working on that but in the meantime if people can work outside and you know just draw or whatever outside it it attracts people and then maybe we can get more in plus um we have no probably probably 20 plus artists but we would have those for our exhibitions too but these are more serious artists so um I see a lot more participation in helping get the word out

LM: okay sure so like they’re motivated to draw people in here because they’re here full time

TC: oh yeah very excited very enthusiastic and

LM: that makes sense

TC: when people uh when artists that you have have had a lot of life experience they aren’t shy about jumping right in there and getting things done and they don’t worry about much and they know what works and so we have a ton of experience over there to help with things and I’ll need it because it’s a much bigger operation than I had before

LM: and you’ve referred to Kay a couple of times so who’s Kay I mean for anybody who doesn’t know

TC: Kay Crane is uh she started with the blue pig when it was at the library um it was there and that’s when a lot of artists started there and uh much younger than all of us but uh they were there and then when the building on the corner sold that buyer bought the blue Pig business as well so it moved over so Kay was the director there for a long time and so she has a huge contact list and a lot of experience so yeah when she said she’d come here I was like I think I need you because I’m spread too thin so she could come help

LM: nice that makes sense um I noticed the mural outside is that a new mural

TC: no that’s been there for a long time

LM: okay I saw the picture of Kay with it and I was like is that a new mural?

TC: isn’t it cool

LM: it is really cool

TC: I love that

LM: what’s the story behind that

TC: the story um because we are on the wrong side of the alley I since I came here trying to track people down this way so when I opened the gallery in ‘16 I thought okay we need to do something so I was looking for a muralist that’s Matt Goss did that for me from uncanny valley he owns that gallery I think still I think he does and he came out at night and did that mural so I was in uh Savannah and there we were taking a tour and I went past this building that had protesters and it was prohibition and it was old looking and I was just attracted to that and so Matt and I collaborated I wanted more funny stuff he wanted you know we want art so we kind of compromised so I have some funny stuff up there too on the sign so it’s supposed to make you look so we did that and if you look outside it’s got Matt’s signature and I think the year he did it on it and then Rondo needed more stuff so he put up storage sheds so my great idea of having something you can’t see it but you know we try we all try we do we do what we can

LM: gotta get a mural on the sheds now like and make it extend down

TC: just keep it going

LM: yeah

TC: um but you know he needed the space and it’s fine it’s not a big deal but it did block my mural also you have to kind of know somebody who knows somebody to notice it

LM: so it’s sort of a vintage look ladies protesting they say we want art

TC: there’s men protesting too you have to look

LM: I need to look more closely

TC: yeah and some of them say I want beer there’s the old lady that the sign sideways it says my arms are tired and I think we have one reference to Napoleon Dynamite clear in the back like vote what was it vote for Pedro or something like that so there’s little nuggets in there you have to look for

LM: awesome I’m going to look for it on the way back one of the things I noticed that you do is an art drawing which I think is pretty cool is that something you’re going to keep doing going forward

TC: thank you for noticing that yes um I have uh a highly experienced professional agents and so we have past clients and most a lot a lot of my business is repeat or past and so in 20 years it’s a lot of people so we put put I think we have maybe the last eight years names in a bucket and once every quarter we draw a name so if you look back through there you see these different people holding you know they won so that’s fun and the real estate office uh buys them

LM: that’s so they get to pick whatever they want within reason

TC: yeah within reason so it’s a $300

LM: okay got it alright I could see like hmm

TC: yeah in the beginning I picked I I would pick um what I was offering as a as a prize and then I art’s very uh subjective so I thought it’s better if they just can pick so they do so you see Beck Bracken did you see the one he has the vase

LM: the vase yeah

TC: yeah so um I’ve known back a long time he’s an old farmer and I sold his property sold his home here in town helped him out quite a bit so he’s a friend and uh he won and so he came in and we didn’t have things that he liked and I was like well you got to pick something that vase uh was one of the first pieces that we bought for the office in 2004 so it has been riding around with me forever and because I needed space I started just hauling things out of here because I needed to make room and he’s like I really like that I think and I was like okay then there you go

LM: that works

TC: just come just come take anything

LM: I like the idea though it’s fun and it also it’s just another way to give the artists some more publicity and it’s kind of fun to see what people pick

TC: well it’s a nice thank you to people who use us on the other side too so

LM: yeah yeah so tell me about real estate so you said you’ve been working real estate here for 20 years in the Grand Valley not just Palisade right

TC: no it’s always been Palisade always

LM: just Palisade

TC: so when I moved here I was 44 and I thought I had skills because I was an IT person I was a had been a librarian I ran a restaurant a successful restaurant so I was like I have something to offer nobody else thought I had anything to offer so my real estate agent was taking me around and I was like I don’t know what to do you know could I make this much money x amount of dollars and she said oh yeah so I talked to my husband he’s always like you need to and he’s like you should sell real estate and I didn’t know what else to do a lot of Realtors end up in the profession that way they hit and they’re like I don’t know what to do I can’t you know and so you figure it out so that’s how I came to real estate plus the entrepreneurial thing you know kind of works so

LM: yeah so in that time um you’ve definitely seen a lot of change here you’ve probably worked with a huge majority of the people who have sold their houses here or bought houses

TC: I was like we were thinking about a marketing campaign for us and we were laughing because it’s like you know me peeking around the corner going I know your house yeah right I’ve been in your house

LM: yeah you probably have been right

TC: but it’s true it’s true I mean you know some people have lived here forever and I have not but a majority yeah we have a lot I’ve I’ve been in a lot of the homes so

LM: yeah how have you seen things change over those years

TC: uh the general population were um last five six years maybe more you interviewed Laura so about the time that Laura and Brandon came here there was kind of an influx of city people for lack of a better word and so I had three agents here that had moved here from somewhere else and since that time they’ve all brought their friends and you know word has gotten out the marketing is is a huge part and that’s been going on for 20 years there’s been CAVE has promoted the area the Chamber of Commerce we had a chamber director who was huge on relationships and pushing and the tourism board but you know it takes a while and I saw the tip about six years ago so our our population is different it was hobby farmers usually either double income no kids or people whose kids had just left home so they were retiring here and just and farming a lot of farming and the people I see now is just not it’s not the same you know they’re people who are doing what you’re doing or you know like um Laura or you know the it’s just a different dynamic plus there’s however I think they’re seventy rooftops in Cresthaven which is you know 70 homes with people and cars and and it happened it took a while for that to get going but I always knew if we had something to sell because out here people move here when they’re retired and they fix the house up and then they die there and so what I have to sell is a house that needs some work and we didn’t have anything really you know

LM: that was new like that yeah

TC: right yeah yeah so fruit and wine did Palisade Vineyard subdivision so the one by the high school we did that one an agent in my office did Blue Sage so that one and we did Montclair and those were new and now when I go in they go this needs updating you know

LM: so fast it happens

TC: yeah so the Cresthaven uh just having more homes new homes because the biggest market is for homes like that

LM: sure

TC: you know where you can go to work you come home there’s not a lot of yard and they don’t need a lot of upkeep so there was a big market for it and I knew there would be and there they are

LM: yeah

TC: so it’s changed

LM: right right and then after that they put the hold the moratorium on subdivision development and so that must have changed what you do a lot too um but

TC: it’s fine with me

LM: yeah

TC: Palisade is one square mile so you know there’s still property that can be that can be subdivided um but that push we need to absorb that in everything roads traffic school infrastructure all of that needs to absorb that and so I’m okay with it it’s never been you know my my drive I work here because that’s not my drive so my broker said she worked with conservation easement and she did a big sale 200 acres up on the hill that’s what the money she used to come here and and the land trust was out here and so when she was talking like that I thought I could do that you know the the big stuff you know the subdivision push that kind of thing it just really isn’t my style I don’t mind that they’re doing it thoughtfully and not you know just going yeah yeah you know let’s get everybody in here and do everything because what has happened in the last five years is a lot for the people who’ve lived here for a long time

LM: oh I’m sure

TC: so a little a little pause to let people adjust is a good thing so but a lot of changes you know the wineries and things they they made wine and sold it they weren’t event centers and now that’s what you have to do to make money I understand that

LM: yes

TC: but um you know everybody’s there’s music everywhere there’s food everywhere there’s and that’s all new they even like the Clarks I know them and you know respect them and they uh putting the distillery and the wedding venue and stuff out there it’s just kind of what where the market was and smart farmers like the Talbotts and you know they go where the market is and that’s where the market is now it wasn’t before but it is nice

LM: interesting yeah yeah that makes sense um what’s the who’s or what’s your favorite property that you’ve ever worked with or favorite person you’ve ever worked with in real estate

TC: I can’t tell you

LM: ahh it’s a secret

TC: no it’s just you know real estate is a I didn’t get a chance to sell it but my um my favorite property is one I can’t tell you about but it’s fabulous so behind that um yeah

LM: second favorite

TC: second took out behind Clarks there’s a contemporary house out there and it was uh Rancho Durazno uh they’re an organic farmer out that way and him and his wife built it and then they sold it and these people that came from Craig very homey comfort you know but they bought it and it is outstanding

LM: is it right on the river

TC: it’s right on the canal so if you go well there’s a couple back there actually but the how would I tell you uh we’re the Clarks Fruit Stand is at if you go just due East there’s a rocket in the yard so it’s across a canal so it’s not a traveled road but if you walk on the canal or go up behind Clarks you’ll see this big rocket and it’s on their property so they have bikes that have rabbits on them and she just has a great aesthetic and so they’ve taken this contemporary house and it has the warmth of a old Victorian but it’s totally contemporary and it is really something and then there’s one right back behind them that is uh it was built we sold the land to the people years back and they built a nice home and it’s it’s um really pretty there’s there’s some things tucked away that are surprising and I have always thought just like rooftops if we had new things to sell people would come and the I never worry when people put a lot of money into their home if you’re in the right location because there’s always there’s a a reservoir of high-end buyers that haven’t had anything to buy here and so when those come up they sell pretty strong and and well

LM: yeah that’s interesting it’s and it’s really cool to see what people do with their places I think one of the things so I just published Laura’s episode today um so you haven’t had a chance to listen to that but one of the things that she mentioned that she found so interesting here compared to where she’s worked before is how there aren’t comparable houses like

TC: none

LM: there’s no comparable there’s no comps

TC: so when I go in I go well um my gut says and and it’s after this amount of time it’s usually right but um and then you have one where there just happened that reservoir of buyers you know that have money uh occasionally drop in and over overpay for something and when you have this small of a market it really messes with your with your averages yeah so it that makes it hard too but yeah there’s no comps and Laura did subdivisions in Denver and was very good at it and you know she’s like what oh you’ll get it you’ll be fine but

LM: but it makes it really challenging for appraising and

TC: yeah

LM: yeah making sure everything holds up um and I thought that was interesting when she said that and as soon as she said that and now what you’re talking about with the different properties you really start to see that like it is every property is pretty unique

TC: the largest buyer pool is for subdivision homes that’s that’s where the main is at and we don’t have that and older subdivisions is next we have a little bit of that but not really so you know

LM: yeah well and what I think is really fun so my husband and I managed to get an older house built in 1909

TC: where did you buy is it blue

LM: it was blue we painted it

TC: okay

LM: yeah it was blue and silver checkerboard

TC: is it real pretty inside oh no blue and silver checkerboard I’m thinking of the one right

LM: you’re thinking about oh you’re thinking

TC: the really cute one

LM: yes ours was a little rough

TC: oh you got the checkerboard yeah

LM: yeah we got one that was a little rough around the edges

TC: yeah good

LM: but well what I think is so cool though is like everybody in downtown everybody you meet who has bought one of these really old houses downtown you just have all the same problems

TC: oh yeah

LM: it’s so fun it’s like oh yeah my wiring was also a disaster

TC: and maybe your foundation’s messed up it goes and you know maybe you have knob and tube and then maybe it’s all right it’s to be all right but any homes that are that old all have the same thing

LM: yeah and it’s kind of fun though because we do have this stock of really old homes downtown and people want to live here so you buy what you have and then yeah

TC: and when they’re fixed up they are really cute and very unique very very unique yeah so and everybody’s tastes are different so even within the same structure it’s they’re not subdivision homes they’re all they have personalities

LM: yeah I love it personally for future the future real estate market or the future of Palisade like how how do you see things changing like in the next five years or so

TC: well uh historically we’re due for correction but I’ve been thinking that was gonna happen for five years now and so it’s hard to tell you know interest rates being high and the prices are still holding high it’s really it’s really putting a pressure on on uh people who aren’t well moneyed can’t get homes and the people who have money are buying investment homes which brings me to VRBO thank you town for or we would be one big motel room no lie one square mile of Motel

LM: right

TC: right and so I’m happy that they did that

LM: me too, yeah because you completely lose the character of our town and yeah I’ve been places where they never had a cap on vrbos and it just completely changes the feel and you can’t buy it people can’t buy entry level houses oh no it’s even hard here as it is so yes

TC: when the market turned last time the highest priced old house in town was 200. and I thought what and the last one I remember the last one that sold at that price and I went oh no you know that hurts ouch but and then it took it took eight years nine years for it to come back to 200 and then uh in 2020 everybody lost their mind and were it was like what you know locational cures you know if I run over here I run over there or whatever then life will be better yeah everybody lost their mind and so what would have been maybe time for a natural correction turned into this big bump instead and I don’t know if it’s gonna hold or not I really don’t it’s like I was saying the new uh the newer people just have a different sensibility and it’s a different it’s a it’s a new generation and so um we’ll see what that does but I know you have to make so much money to do a four thousand dollar a month house payment come on who can do that who

LM: I don’t know everywhere

TC: like I can’t I can’t

LM: I mean that’s a question anywhere like who is affording these house yeah um so just for you personally like what is the what do you feel like is missing in Palisade that you would really love to see here

TC: nothing and it was fine with me 10 years ago so I’m really excited that I can like go get like a taco somewhere you know we had a great little Palisade Cafe it was open in the morning farmers you know where Peche is at was a tea house when I they did uh you know English style teas and then she wasn’t there and then Anaris bought it and they were great I loved them that was like woo this is great and so I’m good you know

LM: yeah

TC: I we lived in Grand Lake for a long time and so you had to buy two or you had to drive two hours to buy underwear you know and so I went to town once a month and we power shopped we called it power shopping and loaded the car to the gills and the kids squished in and that’s what we did and I’m good with that

LM: yeah well and there too you could always have a chance of getting snowed in in the winter and maybe in the pass is closed or something

TC: babies

LM: oh you get through it

TC: oh yeah I had little kids at home and I had a rear rear wheel drive station wagon

LM: oh my gosh

TC: and it was old it was fine babies

LM: it’s all about knowing how to drive

TC: yeah I don’t know I couldn’t do it now I was young and stupid but then it was like whatever we got to get where we’re going load up let’s go it was good I loved it so

LM: it’s a beautiful place to be so this is completely different though Grand Lake cold kind of high elevation Mountain climate to the desert

TC: I was born here so I came back when my parents got you know my dad got sick and I came back and my mom just died in March so I just um you know it’s they stayed here so I went to school here I graduated from Central High School

LM: it was a homecoming

TC: it’s my home I’m Colorado native a fourth generation I was figuring the other day the other day no lie I lie my grandson is fourth generation I am second generation

LM: okay

TC: so edit that because I don’t want to lie I’ve been here since the beginning of time

LM: well I don’t know who’s gonna fact check you it would have to be a family member or something

TC: yeah that’s true, big liar yeah but no I’m second generation I just did a trip with my grandkids and we were talking about it and I was like you’re fourth generation so

LM: what do you have like a favorite Palisade story or a piece of Palisade history that you’ve heard along the way

TC: hmm there’s a lot

LM: working here

TC: let me think hmm my mother so there used to be packing sheds all along the railroad tracks did you know that

LM: yeah like where well I think the only one left probably is the ordinary fellow took over

TC: yeah the the building on the other side of the street was a peach co-op and where my first office was was the peach co-op so all the farmers came down brought their peaches and there were I think Lois Clark told me she was um so they had sales people so farmers bring them down the sales people would go all over the United States and sell these peaches and ice you know put them in the cars and have ice and cars while my grandmother worked in a packing shed there and my mom was very puritan and she was telling me a story about her being there being under the table and uh stealing cigarettes from the migrant workers and I went what what I just learned this like last year and so yeah just the idea of you know that um I packed peaches yeah I worked at a flower nursery where they pollinated off of G Road I rode my bike there and it was huge greenhouse all these flowers need to have a hose and suck the pollen out

LM: oh my gosh

TC: it was horrible I didn’t last long

LM: that sounds like really hard work

TC: it was hot yeah so yeah but yeah that’s probably my favorite is my grandma worked in those packing sheds and my mom was not a good girl

LM: that’s really cute

TC: I though you could have told me that a long time ago mom

LM: yeah

TC: saved her a lot of grief

LM: you could have teased her about that for years

TC: well I she’s gone but I did though I just tucked it in like I am I know you so

LM: that’s really cute well is there anything that I missed about you or your business that you want to share with anybody listening

TC: I know your house

LM: and the look you gave me was

TC: nobody knows it better but yeah there’s really not you know there’s Realtors last about three years five years and so there’s about a 70 percent attrition when people get their license so when you’ve worked with people a long time agents in the business across the valley that started before me or around the same time I don’t know Patty may know as much as me but probably not she might know your house too

LM: yeah

TC: there’s two of us old ladies

LM: you know where things are stored yeah oh man and you do you work with buyers and sellers

TC: yeah

LM: okay just to make sure

TC: everything we do ranch farm commercial residential so since I’ve been here I just do whatever business comes do what I need to do to be able to represent it so we’ve been lucky enough to do so Grand River Resort tournament for it we’ve sold a lot of nice homes long you know along the way and finally finally after 20 years I feel it takes a long time to get trust in a small town and maybe the new influx it won’t be as bad because there’s a lot of people so you can kind of you know mix together but when you’re one of the few that come it takes a long time so I feel like we’ve earned the trust and so I know your house I’ve earned your trust please use us

LM: that’s the new tagline

TC: it’s unique right would it get your attention

LM: oh yeah definitely

TC: might be scary no we laugh about that a lot yeah

LM: yeah well thank you so much for your time

TC: I’m scared

LM: why

TC: because I never know how it’s gonna be but I know you’ll be fine

LM: yeah

TC: so and thank you for allowing me to do this with you when I first saw your stuff I thought she’s doing it right and so when Laura said she interviewed she goes just ask her and I thought good because of all the things that I see going on I like what you’re doing

LM: awesome

TC: yeah it is may I show you around the gallery

LM: I’d love to yeah so let me stop this and then…

LM: …and then we went next door into the gallery and ran into Lisa Moose Kral of Dancing in my Head Photography. This is one of the big reasons why I love Palisade.

But back to the gallery – it’s a large, open room filled with art from over 20 artists on freshly painted walls with great light filtering in from the windows that open onto 3rd Street. Go check it out for yourself at 128 E 3rd Street in downtown Palisade.

If you’d like to be on the podcast or you have an idea for an upcoming episode, I’d love to hear from you. You can reach me at lisa(at)postcardsfrompalisade.com, on Instagram or on Facebook at Postcards From Palisade, the podcast.

Thanks for listening. With love, from Palisade.