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New program puts spotlight on businesses led by veterans in Steamboat Springs

Scott Franz
Rick Meoli bought his first camera in Hong Kong while serving on the USS Hancock in the U.S. Navy. After seeing his photos of Navy life published, he went on to start a successful career in commercial and Western photography.
Scott Franz

Veterans who own or run businesses in Steamboat Springs

Bill Moser, Moser & Associates

Bob Grippa, Razor Edge Knife Sharpening, LLC

Brian Berry, JDB Technology

Brian Harrington, Yampa Valley Medical Associates

Charles Feldmann, Feldmann, Nagel & Associates

Charles Johnson, Johnson Excavation

Curt Weiss, Central Park Management

Curtis Comeau, Pine Grove Dental Arts

Dennis L. Slonaker, Westside Auto

Ed Andrew, Ed's Excavating of Steamboat

Gar Williams, Special Services & Supply

James Dewey Williams, JDW

Jay Norrish, JDB Technology

Jim Ficke, Natural Resource Consultants

Jim McCreight, McCreight Progressive Dentistry

Michael Gagnebin, Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory

Mike Gotchey, Steamboat Veterinary Hospital

Perry Hoffman, Sidekick

Randy Edmond, Oak Creek Sawmill

Rick Meoli, Circle 7 Fine Art

Rodney Herman, Alpine Aquatic Sports

Tony Weiss, Ferrellgas and VFW Post 4264 Lounge & Restaurant

Wayne More, D.L. & L. Trucking Co.

— When you first meet Rick Meoli, it’s hard to tell he found his passion for photography on the deck of an aircraft carrier more than 30 years ago.

Wearing a shirt adorned with drawings of buffaloes and eager to share his professional mantra of “keeping the West alive one photograph at a time,” you would think Meoli’s photography skills were harbored somewhere out in the dusty country.

But he first picked up a camera in 1972 in Hong Kong.

The U.S. Navy man took it back to the decks of the USS Hancock and started snapping away.

“They started to publish my pictures in my cruise book, and I thought that was kind of cool,” Meoli said.

More than 30 years later, he’s still snapping away and hanging vibrant prints on the walls of the Circle 7 Fine Art gallery, which he co-owns in downtown Steamboat Springs.

Photos of military life shifted to commercial shoots of Clydesdales for Anheuser–Busch and pictures of Lakota Indians in South Dakota.

The rigor he acquired in the military still guides his photo shoots as his shooting lists are prepared well in advance and wardrobes are meticulously picked.

And he’s still having fun.

“Photography is so exciting,” Meoli, 61, says standing near one of his photographs at the back of the studio. “Just when it starts to get boring, somebody comes up with something different.”

Meoli is one of dozens of veterans who left the service and rose to become a business leader in Steamboat.

Here, veterans run scuba diving businesses, chocolate factories, saw mills and propane companies.

They replace hard drives, cure your pets, practice law and fix your teeth.

And a new program aims to let the community get to know them better.

Together, local veterans and the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association have launched a new program to recognize businesses that are owned and led by veterans.

Chamber CEO Tom Kern said his organization is proud to help create such a program.

“Our Steamboat Springs veterans show the infallible dedication of our American heroes through their efforts in both protecting the country and playing a vital role in the future of their own communities, and as a Vietnam-era veteran myself, I am excited about what this program can bring to our community,” Kern said in a news release announcing the initiative.

The Chamber recently launched a list of these veteran-owned businesses and will offer them decals that can be displayed outside the businesses.

The list includes 23 veterans and is expected to grow.

Like Meoli, many of the veterans who run businesses here owe some of their professional skills to their military service.

Brian Berry, the co-owner of JDB Technology, was a technician in the Navy before he became a programmer for Hewlett-Packard and then found his way to Steamboat.

His business partner Jay Norrish repaired anti-aircraft systems in the U.S. Army in the early 1980s.

Surrounded by wires and computer hardware, they said it’s nice to see the community implement a new program recognizing veteran-owned businesses.

On the other side of town, Army veteran Tony Weiss is the operations manager at Ferrellgas.

Weiss said about half of the employees at the local branch of the propane company are veterans.

“It’s nice to have this recognition and to be noticed,” Weiss said about the program.

To learn more about the program, visit http://www.steamboatchamber.com/vob.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10.


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