[ By Dawne Belloise ]
I wasn’t always the most well-behaved kid,” Malcolm Boyce grins, “But I loved to read. I’d absorb info and my surroundings and I loved science. I watched a lot of nature documentaries, astronomy, the universe. I always liked to be challenged academically. I was a sponge for info.”
Most of his memories are from his birthplace, Cape Girardeau, Missouri, but he spent the majority of his early childhood in Illinois and Kentucky, returning to Cape Girardeau for middle and high school. Malcolm grew up a happy kid in a great family and town, playing neighborhood baseball, camping and riding bikes around the neighborhood with his buddies. “I was close to my grandfather. We’d watch National Geo together,” he tells of his grandfather who grew up as a sharecropper and was a major influence in Malcolm’s love of learning. His family was close-knit and he was raised with two younger siblings by his mother, who was a high school English teacher and his stepdad who was a truck driver.
In high school, Malcolm played basketball, football and he notes, “all the traditional midwest things you’d do as a kid.” Although he claims, “I liked to party like the rest of the dazed and confused high schoolers, I kept the same interests, always fascinated with math and science. I’m also a big fan of history, particularly military history, from Babylonia, Greeks and Romans to seeing how the world evolved from one super power to the next.” He is a self-proclaimed dweeb, “I’m big a nerd when it comes to sci-fi.” During his high school days, Malcolm became intrigued with micro and macro economics. “Mainly macro. It’s really curious when you look at America coming from the Great Depression to WW2 and then coming out as this global juggernaut in regard to production and national productivity and how we became this massive superpower.” He graduated from high school in 2006.
Malcolm enrolled at the University of Illinois, thinking he wanted to pursue economics and math, but things didn’t go as planned for the freshman who still liked to party and he was put on academic probation. He transferred to Southern Illinois University in his junior year when a brewer friend convinced him to take a microbiology class. The class was basically filling a needed elective but Malcolm liked it so much that he switched his major. “Being the sponge, it felt like the right move. The class covered microbial ecology, bacterial and viral genetics.” The bonus was that Carbondale, where the college was located, was laid-back, “There was tons of hiking, biking, lakes, it was more like Crested Butte.” He earned a Bachelors of Science in molecular biology and bio chemistry in 2012.
Malcolm had a couple internships lined up at the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta, and at Washington University in St. Louis. Having just lost his stepfather, he felt that he was at a crossroads in his life, “I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I had a dozen or so close childhood friends in Crested Butte,” and he’d been to CB several times before with friends beginning in 2009. “I enjoyed coming out here so much and I felt comfort here, having lost my stepdad. My original plan was to travel around and then get back to those internships, but I wound up staying in CB,” he says of his move in March of 2013.
He got jobs at the Majestic Theatre and Donita’s and tried both skiing and boarding, “I’m still not very good at either,” he laughs. I do mainly summer activities. I love whitewater rafting and I camp quite a bit. I try to spend a lot of time rafting in the Salida area.” After he left the Majestic and Donita’s closed, he went full-time into his other project, “I had also been working to open a CBD extraction facility with one of my friends. I did the build-out of the building, designing the facility down to all the details.”
Malcolm became a partner in that business, Axtell Labs, in 2020. “We’ve been working on it since 2018 and finally got into production in June of 2020. We had to deal with applying for special health permits to operate. It was a challenge because we were in COVID and a lot of stuff we needed to operate as a lab was also needed in the pandemic,” he says and explains, for example, PPE and ethanol (hand sanitizer). Since travel was restricted because of COVID, getting their biosources was difficult, but Malcolm credits their good relationships with vendors in helping to get the lab up and running. As lab director, Malcolm handles the day to day operation of the facility which runs Monday through Thursday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. “We’re a start-up and every new day is a challenge but it’s exhilarating. We have refinement purification equipment coming in that will allow us to have a bigger market share. We’ll be able to produce more and a better quality product than most have.”
Although Malcolm confesses to being somewhat of a keep-to-himself kind of person, he also admits, “I’m a very social extrovert kind of guy as well. But the one thing about the pandemic that I enjoy is being able to touch base with my introverted side and not have to make a bunch of social engagements.” He quarantined with his friends early on when the group all came down with COVID. “We were a quarantine pod. We all got sick around the same time, all the symptoms, so we created our own pod and stayed within that group.”
Malcolm would love to someday own his own home in the valley. “I would love to build something or just own something here but that being said, the valley has changed since I first got here. Prices have gone up, availability of housing is hard. I’ve had to grind multiple jobs while working with my partners to get our facility up and running,“ but he feels that the community has been there for him. “In times when I’ve been the most down, I’ve had great mentors who have guided me out of that darkness. There are other places I’ve gravitated to, like Salida and Durango, but for the foreseeable future with this company, I’ll still be here because there’s no better place to go than Crested Butte. It’s definitely home and special to me. It’s helped me heal in so many ways and come to terms with things I didn’t necessarily know about myself and that’s made me stronger as an individual. I’m thankful for my loved ones here, my employees for their hard work and just overall grateful to live in a place like this.”