Staying Power: Rooted in Over-the-Rhine, Gray & Pape's preservation work has nationwide reach

CINCINNATI - What does it take for a family business to survive and thrive for 25 years or more? Our weekly  feature shares the secrets to success of local businesses with staying power.

Gray & Pape, Inc.

  • What: Full-service cultural resources management (CRM) and historic preservation services
  • Where: 1318 Main Street, Cincinnati (Over-the-Rhine)
  • Founded: 1987 by W. Kevin Pape, who quickly brought on partner Marcie Gray.
  • Number of employees: 50


The company started at a time when the National Historic Preservation Act was being implemented, which required that projects receiving federal funding and federal licenses needed to take into account their effect or impact on cultural resources--like archaeological sites, historic buildings and cultural landscapes.

As former co-workers at an environmental consulting firm in Cincinnati, Gray and Pape stayed in touch after the firm folded and Gray went back to her family farm in Metamora, Ind. Pape continued to work as a consultant and build the business. He and Gray reunited and worked together as a partnership and then incorporated their company in 1991.

The company's projects have included:

When the movie "Public Eye" was filmed in Over-the-Rhine in the early 1990s, the film's set designers turned Gray & Pape's offices into a New York City 1940s beauty school. (Photo courtesy: Gray & Pape)

Meet the Boss

A native Cincinnatian, Pape is a University of Cincinnati graduate. He holds a graduate degree in anthropology and his father taught physics there. His family's heritage goes back to the region's German settlement. His great-grandfather arrived in 1850; he and his brother founded the Pape Brothers Molding Company, which was located on the canal that is now Central Parkway downtown. That company made picture frames, moldings and mirrors.

Q & A with Kevin Pape

1. Who are your customers?

We do a lot of work for the energy industry, so our clients are natural gas pipeline companies, so their facilities are regulated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. In order to build a pipeline from Point A to Point B, you have to get that permit and the permit requires assessment of affect on both natural and cultural resources. We also do a lot of work for the transportation industry as well, so we deal with the Ohio and Indiana Departments of Transportation.

We've been doing work on the I-69 corridor (a new highway) in Indiana that basically extends all the way from Mexico to Canada. We're working on the portion in southern Indiana, from Evansville to Bloomington."

2. What's great about doing business in OTR?

Certainly being located in Over-the-Rhine, what's great about it is that our business is historic preservation, so we're energized by being able to contribute to the community and be part of the renaissance. In fact, that really was my motivation for moving the office here 23 years ago.

3. What's challenging about doing business in OTR?

It's not without it's challenges. I think in the early days, the perception -- if not the reality -- was safety issues. Also the fact that, at the time, there were hardly any other businesses in the area, so we were kind of a lone outpost. It really took commitment to a vision about what this community could return to.

4. What has proven to be the key to your business's longevity?

I would say diversity and unwavering commitment to quality work. Diversity in the sense of both market diversity and our clients--the range of services we provide and our geography. We work pretty much everywhere east of the Mississippi. A region's economy runs hot and cold so it allows us to be flexible and go where the business is. As I said, we also committed to finding great employees.

5) Fill in the blank: "I bet you didn't know...." about Gray & Pape

That we also have offices in Anchorage and Fairbanks, Alaska!

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