Glen Underhill stands in front of his shop in Downtown North Carbondale's industrial zone. Photo by James Steindler

Tucked within the nooks and crannies of Carbondale, light industrial operations persist. While these businesses miss out on the window-shopping foot traffic characteristic of downtown, you can easily find their addresses online or — dare we say — the Yellow Pages. 

These businesses range in utility from ski and snowboard wax to excavation services. The town planners who came before believed industry was considerable enough to name a street “Industry Place” between the Roaring Fork Valley Coop and the Carnicería, east of Highway 133. 

Within the town of Carbondale there are five sections zoned as “general industrial,” which vary significantly in size. 

The smallest is north of the RFTA park and ride, stretching roughly 400 feet, north to south, and 200 feet, east to west on the north side, with an acute angle making up the southern point. Across Highway 133, a large industrial sector spans the area behind La Fontana Plaza, creeping east along the Rio Grande Trail and south over Nieslanik Avenue and 12th Street. The latter has the most individually owned lots within an industrial-zoned sector. South of Nieslanik Avenue is another enclave where several small businesses are operated within the E.T. Plaza Commercial Industrial Complex.

On the east side of town is another large industrial zone, north of the Rio Grande Trail and between Eighth Street and Merrill Avenue, where businesses are hidden within a labyrinth of fencing, demolished vehicles and shipping crates. The final zone is directly across Merrill Avenue from there, where The Balentine Collection International is located, reaching east toward the Carbondale Nature Park. These last two sections have come to be referred to as “Downtown North.”  

Resources and outreach

Operating off the beaten path may sound alluring, but perhaps there are some drawbacks. Adam Miller, owner of Revel Bikes on Industry Place, claimed the company can use more support from the Town and Garfield County. “It’s been wildly frustrating as a small business owner here,” said Miller, who would like to see more public resources for light industrial businesses. 

Miller started Revel Bikes in Utah, and there, by comparison, he found more clear opportunities of support which local governments guided him to. “I do feel like there’s a significant lack of resources, whether it’s grant funding or housing specific for employees who work full-time, hands-on, year-round,” Miller said of Carbondale. “We offer health care and benefits to all of our employees, but the town does not offer anything — that I’m aware of — in terms of support for housing or some of those other challenges that come with living in such a great place like this.” 

While Miller welcomes the idea of more affordable housing, he believes there should be a balance. He referred to local affordable housing prices as “a bit of a joke.” He continued, “I mean, housing is the number one challenge in this area for a business like mine; if we can have housing we can have our business here. To me, I’m wondering, what does the town of Carbondale want? Do they want more businesses or do they want more housing for people who have second or third homes here?” 

Industrial space

Peter Arlein’s business, mountainFLOW eco-wax, is administered out of Coventure in downtown Carbondale. Eco-wax produces eco-friendly ski and snowboard wax and bike products. Back in 2016, when Eco-wax got its start, Arlein made the initial products on his kitchen table. 

“We don’t make anything here in Carbondale anymore,” explained Arlein. “It went from the kitchen table to Coventure, where we had a little bit more space. Then we outgrew that space in terms of the total number of units we were doing every year. Now we have everything made at manufacturing locations around the country.” 

While it’s not imperative for his business anymore, he added, “It would be great to have some more industrial space to do some of the small-scale production.” Nevertheless, the entrepreneur appreciates existing industrial zoning in Carbondale, which gives “people industrial space without having to go to Glenwood or Rifle.” 

Downtown North

Those who have been following Carbondale’s comprehensive plan update process, know that the Downtown North could be rezoned. According to the Oct. 28 public meeting, “Land use change will alter job sectors, and industrial businesses being displaced should still have a place to do business.” 

Glen Underhill has operated Underhill Excavating Inc. out of Downtown North for the past 12 years; prior to that in Glenwood Springs and originally in Rifle. He said that if he is forced to move, it will likely be back downvalley. He says his jobs range “basically from Glenwood to Aspen,” and added, “I’d rather not move my business to New Castle, but I may not have an option.”