Small companies are the engines that run Montrose. And there are hundreds here from sole proprietorships to LLCs. Business owners Gabrielle and Kevin Clay believe in small business, building community, and using their skillsets to further the success of other businesses nationwide as well as here on the Western Slope.
Gabrielle and Kevin moved to Montrose permanently from the stuffy and stressful Front Range in 2019. Kevin’s family is from Hotchkiss: he has uncles, aunts, and cousins all over the Uncompahgre Valley so the area was not entirely foreign to him, having visited since his childhood. In 2019, just months before the official beginning of the global COVID pandemic, Kevin decided the valley should be home and shortly thereafter convinced his then-fiancé, Gabrielle, to do so, too. And they brought with them decades of business experience in the forms of an environmental consulting business and a portrait photography studio.
Since 2005, Gabrielle has been providing environmental training and compliance assistance for private businesses and government agencies. Having worked for multi-national companies like Hitachi and serving clients like the National Park Service and Tesla, Gabrielle’s experience is highly sought by environmental, health and safety (EHS) managers across the country.
It started in 1998 when she took a job with a family-owned oil distributor, Siegel Oil, in Denver. Quickly, she became the EHS program manager and began her work within the oil industry with small local Colorado vendors and huge companies like Valvoline and Exxonmobil. That experience and the evolving environmental regulatory landscape of the ‘90s taught Gabrielle about environmental and safety regulations, how to write safety, spill response, and emergency action plans. She constructed contracts and agreements and created recycling programs with an emphasis on sustainability.
In the early 2000s, Gabrielle took what she calls “the big jump to consulting” with a Maryland-based company called Prizm. It was there, under the tutelage of Frank Priznar that she found her calling with the National Park Service. Gabrielle was an auditor-in-training on her first environmental and safety audit of Mount Rushmore National Memorial in South Dakota in 2005. Today she is the environmental coordinator for all seven regions across the NPS from Alaska to Acadia National Park in Maine. And she worked with clients in hospitality like Aramark, Xanterra, and Delaware North. She even wrote the sustainability plan for Tesla in 2019. Clients today range from beautiful parks, to manufacturing facilities, pharmaceutical companies, and construction design and home builders. It was her work with the NPS that sparked her interest in photography, a hobby that now serves as her second business – Studio 14 by Gabrielle – also based in Montrose.
In 2020, of all years, at the height of the pandemic, Gabrielle decided it was time to branch out on her own. With Kevin, they made another leap and started Mela Environmental Services. They were blessed to discover that all their clients from the NPS leapt with them. Travel restrictions eased and their calendar of auditing and training trips filled up. And, while many companies struggled, Mela managed to grow its federal presence with scheduled annual environmental training and bringing on new commercial clients like Sundyne Manufacturing in Arvada, Colorado and American Homes for Rent which is based in Calabasas, California. Their two-person team plus partners in seven states serve customers from coast to coast. But they want to bring their expertise closer to home.
“There are so many amazing businesses and business owners right here in our town,” exclaims Gabrielle, “and yet we jump on a plane every other week to train or audit somewhere else.” She’s careful to explain that she’s grateful for the work and loves serving the parks and other clients, but, “it’s wonderful to step back onto the tarmac at home—we want to serve the businesses that need help closer to home.”
Mela does all things EHS-related, from training on power tools and hazard communication to how to write a stormwater management plan and everything in between.
In 2023, Mela launched a new division, .etc Environmental Training for Compliance, to help focus on environmental health and safety training.
“Our philosophy around all things regulatory is that, the better educated and informed you are, the less likely you are to make a mistake, and the more likely you are to do the right thing,” Clay said.
On July 28, etc. is hosting a free environmental training seminar that they call a Mini Camp. It will cover, from a high-level POV, environmental topics like air and water quality, hazardous materials, and fuel and oil management. More specific, customized, and detailed training will be delivered in a comprehensive three-day bootcamp-style training camp in October this year.