If it hasn’t been made evident by now, we love people here at AAT! We love hearing about their stories and passions for our community, but we also love hearing about what our fellow locals do and why they do it! For example, we have some wonderful neighbors who own/manager some fantastic local businesses and serve our town tremendously by doing so! This fact is why AAT has partnered up with our good friends at B3 Glass, to bring you all “Small Business Fridays!” Each week, we’ll feature a different, local small business and talk with its owner and hear about their journey, their business in general, as well as their heart for their customers and our city!
This week, we’re joined by Mark Michelsen of Valkyre Powder Coating. What exactly is “powder coating,” you ask? Great question! Powder coating is a coating that is applied as a free-flowing, dry powder which is then heated to fuse into a protective layer. It is mainly used to coat metals, like aluminum extrusions, household appliances, bicycle and automobile parts. However, when you have a skilled workman, like Mark, behind the spray gun, you can powder coat so many things you can find around your own house! Before he tells us a little more about the powder coating business, let’s get to know Mark a little bit more. Mark, tell us about yourself! “I was born and raised in Virginia; I grew up actually as a Southern kid. I lived there for many years; my dad worked for NASA in Washington, DC. He was a part of all the Apollo projects, so I got to be one of the lucky kids in the seventies who got to grow up in DC and go to the Kennedy Center when it first opened. My dad would give me five bucks and send me off to spend hours at the Air and Space Museum because his headquarters was right across the street. When my dad retired, he decided he was tired of the East Coast, big city life. So, we moved, and I spent most of my life growing up in North Idaho. Growing up there, I got used to working hard; I started my fire/EMS/public service career when I was fourteen. I moved to Seattle (Washington), later on, and did six years with the Coast Guard. I got out and was with the fire department with Washington State as a structural firefighter. From there, I got offered a job in Montana and had been doing firefighting work ever since.” Cool, stuff Mark! What brought you down to the Elko area? “I was actually running the aerial firefighting base up in Twin Falls (Idaho), but my wife ended up getting a job down here in Elko; she came down. They told me they needed someone to run a base in Wells; I said yes even though it was a downgrade in pay because I got to be closer to my wife. I finished out my firefighting stuff up on March 19th of this year when I said, “I’m done” and went into retirement.”
Great; thanks for sharing with us Mark. You retired, so you could follow your passions and start a business, Valkyre. Could you tell us a little bit more about how you went from fighting fires to working in your shop all day? “I started the business on December 5th of 2016. I ‘ve always wanted to do something of my own. I’ve always been artistic and creative, and I just needed an outlet. Also, honestly, I just got tired of working for the government; I wanted to work for myself and be my own boss to where I could go the extra mile for things I couldn’t before. I took control of my own life, to do the things I wanted to do and help make a difference for the people that need it. I knew I either wanted to do drone stuff for professional photography or powder coating. Looking at the two, I realized they were both expensive to start up, but decided I liked doing powder coating a little bit more. So, I started everything with a cheap gun I got for like eighty-eight dollars and started a business out of it! I’ve learned so many things on my own through my mistakes or working on people’s projects. If I’m working on a project, and I don’t like it, I’ll strip the item down and do it again to make sure it’s done right without charging them extra for it; that’s just my own personal integrity and accountability to my customers. The biggest thing/hardest part is getting people to know that we’re here; Elko really hasn’t had someone doing powdering coating, full-time, for years!”
As someone who has worked and served all over the country, what’s it like owning a business here in the Osino/Elko area? How’s it been for you, so far? “I like it here, just for the fact that it is still a small town, but they’re slowly working to develop different businesses, amenities, and work on the infrastructure. You’re always going to have the resistance between the old-guard and the new-guard, but as a whole, Elko is a cool freaking town, man! As far as the community support for my business goes, it’s actually been really good; once I teamed up with the Chamber of Commerce, things started becoming great. We love it here.”
Well, we’re glad you’re doing something you love in a community you love, Mark! Is there anything else you’d like the city to know about Valkyre before we let you get back to your projects? “The biggest thing I try to tell people is that we’re here for the long haul; we’re going to be here for quite a few years. We want to grow with the community. Hopefully, we’re going to be building a brand-new shop, so I’ll be able to do car frames, trailers, stairs for people’s houses etc. My wife and I have self-funded this business from day one; we’ve never taken out a loan. So, we’d like to do more; we just ask that people to grow with us; as soon as I’m able to do something, I let out people know! As long as the community keeps supporting me, I’m going to keep supporting the community. We can’t make it without each other.”
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See you around a local business, Elko!