SteamMaster celebrating 40 years of dealing with our disasters in the Vail Valley | VailDaily.com

SteamMaster celebrating 40 years of dealing with our disasters in the Vail Valley

MINTURN — Gary Gilman is one of the world's most successful ski bums.

He and Julie Stoxen launched SteamMaster in 1978 to support a ski habit. Gilman also wanted to provide a single source of cleaning and restoration services in the Vail area.

Like so many of us, Gilman moved to Vail for what he thought would be one season. That was 1977, and the young Gilman was seeking in-state tuition to the University of Colorado and powder skiing. He found both, but only needed one.

That 1977-78 season was an El Nino year, and Vail had more than 500 inches of snow. Gilman was hooked. He abandoned his college plans and started SteamMaster.

Gilman recently sold a big chuck of it to a couple of his long-time staffers.

Matt Monica is now vice president, and Raj Manickam is CEO, and both are partners in SteamMaster Restoration and Cleaning LLC.

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National honors

The company experienced challenges like any other small business.

Gilman and Stoxen built workforce housing, expanded and improved their business to win national and international honors.

In fact, when they won a Torch Award for Ethics from the national Better Business Bureau's Center for Character and Ethics, they traveled to New York City and had their photo lit up Times Square.

Back in the day, people sometimes waited three or four weeks for carpet cleaning. That was the niche Gilman stepped into, expanding to everything from moss rock to mold.

BRIER all the time

Manickam said that while their services are vast, their phones ring most often for their restoration division: emergency water mitigation, smoke and fire damage restoration and mold remediation.

Everyone works in line with the SteamMaster company values, which use the acronym B.R.I.E.R: Balance, Responsibility, Integrity, Excellence, Results.

"It is not what we occasionally do, but what we do all the time," Manickam said. "We are a community-impacting organization, year after year. And we are proud of our civic engagement, environmental and sustainability contributions we make."

Technicians must be ready to respond any time they're on call and willing to handle anything from a sewer back-up, to working in a tight crawl space, to cleaning carpets in a five-star hotel or even shoveling snow at the company's Minturn headquarters.

SteamMaster took a creative approach to employee recruiting. It solved its employee problem by housing some of its own employees. The company built the nine-bedroom center of the SteamMaster universe in Minturn. Most of the staff has been around for years, some for decades. Like a firehouse, someone is there 24 hours a day because, like a firehouse, someone has to be.

Messes do not respect daylight saving time.

Memorable messes

Some messes are more memorable than others. There was the time a sprinkler pipe blew out on the sixth floor of the Marriott. The result was both predictable and messy.

SteamMaster cleaned it up.

Or that Friday afternoon that a flash flood roared though the Gallegos Corp. building in Wolcott after a culvert was clogged. They even received a little divine intervention in that one when helpers from Campus Crusade for Christ showed up to work. They tore out carpet, stripped drywall and worked around the clock through the weekend. By Monday morning, the Gallegos staff was back at work.

And while we're in the Marriott, longtime residents will remember the time it caught fire at about 10:30 p.m. on a Friday night. SteamMaster crews arrived while flames were still leaping 40 feet out of the building. At about 3:30 a.m., they called in a 12-person crew and six trucks. They worked around the clock for four days.

Another day, another disaster dealt with, now for four decades.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vaildaily.com.