Los Alamos Firefighters Share Family Business

From left, Los Alamos firefighters and brothers Ryan and Aaron McNiff, retired firefighter Gary Hampton and the McNiff’s brother-in-law and firefighter Manny Pacheco, stopped by the Los Alamos Daily Post recently to talk about their new business. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com


Los Alamos Daily Post

Los Alamos firefighters and brothers Ryan and Aaron McNiff and their brother-in-law and fellow firefighter Manny Pacheco just purchased a stump grinding business from retired firefighter Gary Hampton.

Hampton backed out of selling his beloved business to others three times before deciding he really wanted to sell it to a firefighter. He mentioned it to a coworker who worked with Pacheco’s sister Anita and the next thing he knew, he had three Los Alamos firefighters interested in making a deal. Hansen worked at LAFD until 1990.

“I started stump busters in 2000 and a few months later I received a cease and desist letter from Europe,” Hampton said during an interview last week at the Los Alamos Daily Post. “So I changed the name to Gary Hampton’s Stump Removal.”

Hampton estimates he has ground thousands of trees during the last 15 years and said his largest single job was grinding more than 100 trees on a property in Pajarito Acres.

The stump grinding business was something Hampton did primarily on weekends. His fulltime job began as a guard for the pro force at Los Alamos National Laboratory before moving into the weapons division where he works today. He decided to sell his business because he was busy every weekend from spring to late fall and said he wanted his life back and to go fishing again. Also, he mentioned that his wife’s health requires that they move to a lower altitude pretty soon.

The McNiffs and Pacheco officially assumed ownership of the business May 1. They changed the name to Northern New Mexico Stump Grinders LLC, and intend to expand the business beyond Los Alamos.

“We want to get the business settled in Los Alamos and then expand throughout the Northern New Mexico region,” Pacheco said.

The three firefighters said they feel the new business is a good fit because they each enjoy the outdoors and working with their hands as well as creating defensible spaces and helping people and the community. When they began talking with Hampton about buying his business they realized he had worked with Aaron and Ryan’s father Peter McNiff years ago at pro force.

Aaron, 33; Ryan, 28; and Pacheco, 29, said they have talked about starting a business together. Aaron and Ryan were born and raised in Los Alamos. With the exception of time served in the United States Marine Corps, Aaron has spent the majority of life in Los Alamos. He married Pacheco’s sister Anita and they have two daughters. Aaron’s time in the fire department has given him many skills that have spawned his interest in stump grinding and machine work such as saw training both in the wildland setting and in residential and commercial building construction, hydraulic equipment/machine skills involving operations and maintenance, urban wildland interface training, and managerial skills. Aaron’s desire to run a family owned and operated business has always been a dream of his, and to be able to provide services to improve his community was the perfect fit, he said.

Ryan moved to Alamosa, Colo., after high school to pursue his running and academic goals at Adams State College. After graduation with a Bachelor’s degree in Exercise Physiology, Ryan married his wife Heather. They moved to The Woodlands, outside of Houston, Texas where he was a professional runner for two and a half years while earning his teaching certification in K-12 Physical Education. Ryan and Heather then moved back to Los Alamos to be closer to family where Ryan joined his brother Aaron as a member of the Los Alamos Fire Department. During his time at the LAFD, he has developed many skills that will help him in this new venture of stump grinding including use of heavy hydraulic equipment and saw and hand-tool use in wildland and urban settings. One of Ryan’s dreams has always been to own his own business, which made for any easy decision to join Aaron and Pacheco on this business venture.

“They’ve got the energy … I’m old and worn out,” said 66-year-old Hampton. “Last weekend just watching them work I had to go to bed.”

As he bids farewell to a business he has loved, Hampton thanked the community for supporting him through the years. “I’m grateful to Los Alamos,” he said. “We moved here in 1953 and it’s been great – it’s been a fun run.”

Northern New Mexico Stump Grinders uses top end equipment to handle all types of stump removal projects. Courtesy photo

Northern New Mexico Stump Grinders is specializing in “stump removal and grinding” for property owners that have had, or are having a tree or large brush removed from their property and do not know how or cannot remove the stump after many creative and unsuccessful attempts.

“We provide quick service to remove your stubborn stumps to aide in the rehabilitation of your property and provide a defensible space from forest fires. Stump size or type does not matter and we also provide lawn aeration and debris removal services,” Ryan said. “The equipment we use is a specialized hydraulic grinder that grinds the stump down below grade, removing the stump and roots in their entirety and finally turning them into wood chips.”

The company is licensed and insured to work within New Mexico and provides free estimates for the following services: 

  • stump removal;
  • stump grinding;
  • tree removal;
  • wood chipping;
  • creation of defensible space;
  • Lawn Aeration; and
  • Property rehabilitation post-stump removal.

For more information, visit nnmstumpgrinders.com, email nnmstumpgrinders@gmail.com or call 505.662.5271.