Family businesses celebrate milestone anniversaries

While family businesses are the bedrock of California’s economy and its communities, keeping a business going for decades is extremely difficult. Studies show that only 30 percent of family businesses survive into the second generation, 12 percent to the third, and only 3 percent to the fourth generation and beyond. But in 2018, eight family businesses that are members of the Family Business Association of California celebrated milestone anniversaries, demonstrating that despite the difficulties of running a successful business in California well-run companies can thrive for generations, said FBA Executive Director Robert Rivinius. “This year’s list of anniversaries includes a wide range of companies, including two that marked their 100thyear in business,” Rivinius said. “The families who have these businesses growing for 50 year or more deserve recognition for their hard work and their ability to navigate the state’s difficult tax and regulatory regime.” Profiles of five of the companies can be found on the FBA website: Shubert’s, Lund, Pini, Lippow, Jim Dobbas The companies are: Gorrill Ranch, Durham, was founded in 1918 by Ralph Gorrill, an engineer who was part of the team building what became U.S. 99. He purchased 2,400 acres along Butte Creek from the Leland Stanford estate. Teaming up with a colleague, Gorrill learned the rice industry and today the ranch is a small but prominent grower of rice and orchard crops. The ranch is now run by the fourth generation of family members. http://gorrillranch.com/our-story Pini Hardware, Novato, was also founded in 1918, by a Swiss immigrant who opened a general store which within a decade became one of the largest employers in town. The Young family became involved in ownership in 1968 and today the store is operated by the third generation of the family. http://www.piniacehardware.com/about-pini/ Shubert’s Ice Cream and Candy, Chico, was founded in 1938 by Leonard C. Shubert, who left Montana at the age of 54 to find a location in California for an ice cream shop. When he drove into Chico, he knew he’d found his location and since then the shop has become a community institution. The fourth generation of the family now make ice cream and candies on the premises. https://shuberts.com/our-story/ Valley Truck and Tractor,Yuba City, was established in 1948 and today is the leading John Deere dealer in Northern California. https://www.valleytruckandtractor.com/about-valley-truck-tractor-yuba-city-chico-ca–info Lippow Development, Martinez, was officially formed in 1948 – 44 years after Leo Lippow arrived in the United States as a penniless immigrant. Now run by the third generation of the family, the company owns and operates a diverse portfolio of commercial and industrial properties in California and Arizona.  https://www.lippow.com/about Lund Construction, North Highlands, was founded 1958 by George and Alta Lund out of their garage. Now in their third generation, the company specializes in pre-construction, earthmoving, and pipeline services. https://www.lundconst.com/company/ Vanella Farms, Chico, began in 1968 when 23-year-old Bob Vanella purchased his first almond huller. Today, the company grows and processes almonds, walnuts and other crops on 3,000 acres and is a wholesaler that sells nuts to customers around the world. https://vanellafarms.weebly.com/about.html Jim Dobbas, Inc., Newcastle, began its heavy equipment contracting business in 1968 and today specializes in emergency and derailment response services for class 1 railroads. The company is now run by the second generation of the family. http://www.jimdobbasinc.com/about/company-overview Rivinius noted that the state’s 1.4 million family businesses employ 7 million people and tend to pay their employees better, train them better, and provide more generous benefits than nonfamily companies. About the Family Business Association of California (FBA): Founded in 2012, the Family Business Association of California is the only organization working exclusively at the Capitol to educate lawmakers and regulators about the importance of family businesses to the state’s economy and to their communities – and to advocate positions on legislation and regulations. For more information, visit www.myfba.org.

Family Business Assn. Presents Its First Outstanding Legislator Award to Adam Gray

Asm. Adam Gray, right, receiving FBA award from legislative advocate Dennis Albiani at FBA’s Annual Meeting of Members

The Family Business Association of California, the only organization advocating exclusively for California’s thousands of family businesses, has awarded its first Outstanding Legislator Award to Assembly Member Adam C. Gray, D-Merced, for his record on legislation crucial to family businesses during the recently concluded session.

The award was presented at FBA’s Annual Meeting of Members this month in Sacramento.

“Gray is a member of the influential New Democrats caucus – lawmakers who are committed to a pragmatic approach that promotes the interests of hard-working Californians alienated by the extreme partisanship of both the left and the right,” said FBA Executive Director Robert Rivinius.

“He had a 100 percent voting record on FBA’s key bills this session and played an influential role in advancing business-friendly bills and amending or blocking bills that would have harmed family businesses. That’s not surprising since he comes from a family business background.”

Gray’s grandfather, Ernest Denault, established Merced Dairy Supply to serve the Central Valley’s growing dairy industry and the company continued to thrive under Gray’s father, Robert. In fact, Adam Gray’s first job was washing storage barrels and loading feed bags for the family business.

After graduating from UC Santa Barbara, Gray went to work for then-Assembly Member Dennis Cardoza, focusing on agricultural issues and later owned a small public affairs and communications firm while also serving as a lecturer at UC Merced. He was elected to the Assembly in November 2012.

Four family businesses join the Family Business Association of California

Four more businesses recently joined the Family Business Association of California, the only organization exclusively working to protect the interests of family businesses in Sacramento.

Mag Bay Yachts was founded in 2013 by father and son Michael and Barrett Howarth in Adelanto. The company manufactures fiberglass fishing boats and sells them in the U.S., Mexico, and the Caribbean. They employ 15.

Longhorn Meat Company was established in 1976 and is now owned and operated by second- generation Phil Kattenhorn, who took over when his father retired. The company is a retail meat processor and seller located in Auburn and employs nine. The company has been awarded Best Butcher Shop by the Auburn Journal, and featured in Comstock’s Magazine.

Western Engineering Contractors was founded by Don Carroll in 1982 and has grown the general engineering construction company to 135 employees. The company does grading, paving, and underground construction within a 100-mile radius of Sacramento.

Medina McKelvey LLP is a Roseville-based law firm founded by Alex Medina and Brandon McKelvey in 2014. The firm specializes in wage and hour defense (Private Attorneys General Act, or PAGA lawsuits), employment law, and general litigation.

FBA Executive Director Robert Rivinius said the owners of the four companies recognize the challenges of doing business in California, especially for family-owned firms.

“California’s family businesses create the bulk of new jobs, look at the long-term, treat their employees as extended family and stakeholders, and are far more responsive to local needs than corporations headquartered thousands of miles away,” Rivinius said.

“Yet the state’s ever-increasing tax and regulatory burden makes it harder and harder for these firms to remain strong. During the recently concluded legislative two-year session, FBA led a coalition to defeat a dangerous plan to impose a California inheritance tax that would have jeopardized the future existence of many of these companies, and these four businesses recognize the need for family businesses to band together.”

About the Family Business Association of California (FBA):Founded in 2012, the Family Business Association of California is the only organization working exclusively at the Capitol to educate lawmakers and regulators about the importance of family businesses to the state’s economy and to their communities – and to advocate positions on legislation and regulations. For more information, visit www.myfba.org.

Four family businesses join FBA

Firms in Petaluma, West Sacramento, Chico, and Salinas seek to protect family business

Four businesses recently joined the Family Business Association of California, the only organization exclusively working to protect the interests of family businesses in Sacramento.

Clover Sonoma has joined FBA as a founding member, the highest level of membership. The company was founded in1916 as the Petaluma Cooperative Creamery and remained a cooperative until the mid 1970s, when the biggest fire in Petaluma’s history destroyed the processing and bottling operations. Clover Stornetta Farms was born in 1977 when Gene Benedetti purchased the wholesale distribution business after the co-op decided not to rebuild. Gene’s son, Dan, succeeded him as president in 1986 and the company was an early entrant into organics. Third-generation president Marcus Benedetti became president in 2006, and added the title of chairman of the board in 2015. They are a major dairy products company with 240 employees headquartered in Petaluma. The company rebranded as Clover Sonoma in 2017.

Three other businesses have joined as regular members.

The Sacramento River Cats, a Triple A baseball team affiliated with the San Francisco Giants, was founded by Art Savage in 1999 and has been one of the most successful minor league sports teams in the country. Art passed away several years ago after a brief illness, and his wife, Susan, is now CEO and majority owner, and son Jeff is president of the team. The team is headquartered in West Sacramento where they play baseball at Raley Field. They have 60 full time employees.

Chico-based Northgate Petroleum Company was founded in 1922 with a two-horse-drawn tank wagon. It also established Chico’s first Shell gas station. Bud Caldwell and a partner purchased the company in 1988 and they provide fuels and lubricants in Northern California and Central Nevada.

And Corral De Tierra Cattle Company is a first-generation Monterey County ranch raising grass-finished Angus cattle and providing land management services. The first-generation company owned by Mark Farr focuses on raising premium beef while incorporating regenerative land stewardship into its day-to-day management.

 

FBA Executive Director Robert Rivinius said the four companies recognize the challenges of doing business in California and seek to remain family-owned in the years to come.

“California’s family businesses are the pillars of their communities. They create the bulk of new jobs, look at the long-term, treat their employees as extended family and stakeholders, and are far more responsive to local needs than corporations headquartered thousands of miles away,” Rivinius said.

“Yet the state’s ever-increasing tax and regulatory burden makes it harder and harder for these firms to remain strong. This year, FBA led a coalition to defeat a dangerous plan to impose a California inheritance tax that would have jeopardized the future existence of many of these companies, and these four businesses recognize the need for family businesses to band together.”

About the Family Business Association of California (FBA): Founded in 2012, the Family Business Association of California is the only organization working exclusively at the Capitol to educate lawmakers and regulators about the importance of family businesses to the state’s economy and to their communities – and to advocate positions on legislation and regulations. For more information, visit www.myfba.org.

Five companies join Family Business Association of California

 Recognize need to be part of only statewide group focusing solely on family businesses

Five more companies have recently joined the Family Business Association of California, the only statewide organization that solely focuses on the impacts of new laws and regulations on family businesses.

Joining the Association during the first quarter of the year were Pini Hardware, a 100-year-old retailer based in Novato; Shubert’s Ice Cream and Candy, a Chico-based store marking its 80th anniversary this year; Peter Boysen Realty of Linden, established in 1979; Rediger Labor Law, a Sacramento firm founded in 1999; and Hemphill Solutions, a Carlsbad-based commercial real estate consulting and engagement firm established in 2001.

Pini Hardware: The company was established as a small grocery in 1918 by Swiss immigrant Henry Pini. The Young family became the third family to own Pini’s when they purchased what was by then a hardware store in 1968. The second- and third-generation of Youngs now own and manage the business. Russ Young, the CFO and treasurer, said like most family businesses, the company is deeply involved in Novato.

“We are a community-based business and are heavily involved in local events and give back to our community and schools. Some of the events we do are a Christmas Tree lighting, Scream on the Green on Halloween, and School Fuel, a fundraiser for public schools. And we pride ourselves on being one of the last full-service hardware stores around,” he said.

“Family businesses, big or small, are the cornerstone of this nation. We are what keep the economy strong and growing, and family businesses have been mistreated and misunderstood by today’s society and our local, state, and federal government for far too long. It is time for a change, which is one of the reasons that we joined the FBA to see how we can help make that change.”

Shubert’s Ice Cream & Candy: Leonard C. Shubert left Montana in 1938 at the age of 54 to find a location in California for an ice cream store. Highway 99 led him to Chico and he decided it was the right place. The company has been in the same location since it opened and even still uses one of Leonard Shubert’s original ice cream-making machines. In 2008, as the store was marking its 70th anniversary, it was named one of the two best ice cream stores in the country by ABC’s Good Morning America.

Kasey Reynolds and her brother, Nathan Pulliam, are the fourth-generation owners of the store. Like many sons and daughters of a family business owner, Reynolds at first wasn’t interested in staying at home. “I did go off and do corporate America for a while and it made me appreciate what we have in a family business,” she said.

She joined FBA because she believes small businesses need a bigger voice. “I decided I needed to get involved and do what I can to preserve family businesses for the future,” she said. She also announced in January that she will be a candidate for the Chico City Council this year.


Peter Boysen Realty:
The Linden-based firm was founded in 1979 and now has 10 agents, including Peter and Rance Boysen, Peter’s son. As is often the case, for many years while growing up Rance wasn’t interested in joining his dad’s company.

“I never wanted to be in real estate. I said ‘never’ many times growing up,” he recalled. But after a few years as a farm manager after graduating from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in 1997, he reconsidered.  “I wanted to be more than just an employee. I wasn’t having fun. My Dad said he could use some help,” and he soon discovered he enjoyed the new career.

He decided to join FBA after hearing the Association’s Chairman, Ken Monroe, owner of Holt of California, talk on a podcast about the challenges facing family businesses. “I got to thinking, you know – we are a small family business. I think it’s important to do what can be done to help family businesses succeed. Family businesses should be helped in whatever way possible.”

Rediger Labor Law: Attorney Robert Rediger had been a successful labor and employment law attorney for nearly 20 years when he decided to start his own firm in 1999 – and he has since inspired a second generation of family members to join the firm. The firm focuses on traditional labor law, employment law, and related litigation, including defending companies against wage- and-hour class-action lawsuits.

He said daughters Candice and Arielle and son Justin decided on their own to join the firm after graduating from UC Berkeley and from three different law schools. “They said, ‘you’re always excited about your profession and enjoy your job.’ They studied a variety of different areas in law school, but found they enjoyed labor and employment law. When they graduated, I said ‘our firm could use some excellent attorneys,’” he recalled.

Advantages a family firm have include being able to trust people you’re working with and the opportunity to discuss ideas and brainstorm legal strategies with each other outside of the workplace. “Family businesses are also more solid and stable,” he added. “They’re often more conscientious because they have the family’s reputation on the line.”

Hemphill Solutions: The firm was established in 2001 and advises independent businesses on the real estate component of their enterprises, helping clients develop real estate solutions that save costs, reduce liabilities, and maximize operational flexibility.

Ralph Hemphill has more than 30 years’ experience in real estate and private equity and is the firm’s senior advisor while his wife, Katherine, is the broker/manager. He said they joined FBA to share expertise with other family business owners about issues they face.

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About the Family Business Association of California (FBA): Founded in 2012, the Family Business Association of California is the only organization working exclusively at the Capitol to educate lawmakers and regulators about the importance of family businesses to the state’s economy and to their communities – and to advocate positions on legislation and regulations. For more information, visit www.myfba.org.

 

 

Jim Dobbas Inc.: 50 years of working on the railroad

When Jim Dobbas incorporated his business, he figured doing so on April 1, 1968, was fitting.

“It was April Fool’s Day, but I didn’t care because I didn’t think I was going to make it anyway,” he recalled with a chuckle. Fortunately for California’s railroads, his pessimism was ill-founded.

From a single truck hired out to haul heavy loads, Jim Dobbas Inc. has grown to be a premier heavy equipment contractor, specializing in emergency and derailment response service for class 1 railroads such as the Union Pacific and Burlington Northern Santa Fe. From its yard in Newcastle, northeast of Sacramento, the company now serves Northern California, northern Nevada and southern Oregon.

Three generations of the Dobbas family – from left, Jim, Dillon, and Don.

Don Dobbas, the second-generation president, said railroad-related work makes up about 80 percent of the company’s business, with the rest outside transportation and heavy equipment hauling. A crew of about 40 employees man the fleet of excavators, loaders, dozers, trucks and trailers, and other heavy equipment.

That’s a far cry from the beginning.  The family emigrated to the region in 1855 and owned dairies, but Jim was fascinated with trucks since he was a young boy. While still a student at Placer High School in Auburn, Jim bought a 1932 Ford school bus hoping to get it running in auto shop. When that didn’t work out, he bought a running 1931 Chevy truck and then after graduating bought a new Chevy two-ton truck.

Before starting his own company, he was a dispatcher for another company and finally decided to go out on his own.

“Then, I had one truck and no employees, and I didn’t want any. I was going to run that truck until I died,” he said. But a former coworker had other ideas. He kept pestering Jim for a job and finally Jim bought an old truck with no motor for $500 and the new employee soon got it running. That driver started in 1969 and stayed with Dobbas until he retired – and still drops by from time to time to see how things are going.

The company got its big break in 1973, when a train containing 21 freight cars, each carrying 330 bombs and bound for Vietnam, exploded in the massive Roseville rail yard, then owned by the Southern Pacific Railroad. Hot brakes caused by the descent from the Sierra had caused some of the cars’ wooden floors to catch fire.

Jim, now 87, was at home in Auburn when he heard the bombs going off at about 7 a.m. He learned what was happening from a Fire Department radio in his pickup and called SP’s division engineer, who told him to get all the heavy equipment he could and head for Roseville.

His crews stacked the twisted debris and broken tracks in a side area and helped the railroad install new track. “We cleaned up the yard and they were running trains in seven days,” he said.

Jim and Don, who took over as president in 1990 and assumed ownership in 2000, attributed the company’s success and longevity to excellent employees and sheer tenacity.

“It was just going at it every day, answering the phone and saying yes,” Don said. “Working for the railroad you don’t know what that call is going to be. It’s not like bidding a contracting job. Sometimes you’re working seven days straight in bad weather. It takes special people to do it.”

Jim Dobbas crews lifting a tank car.

The jobs often entail bringing the heavy equipment in on rail as close as possible, pulling up the cars, and lifting them back onto good sections of track – one car at a time. The worst derailment they had to deal with was 94 loaded cars in Cajon Pass north of San Bernardino.

Like many second-generation family business owners, Don got his start by going along with his dad on jobs when he was 7 and 8 years old. He worked during summers while in high school and then started full-time as a laborer, equipment operator, and driver after graduating from high school in 1979.

“I never really had the urge to do something different,” Don said. “I was comfortable with it and it was fun – there was no way I was going to be in an office job back then.”

His son, Dillon, is now working as an equipment operator but like many next-gen family members, isn’t sure yet if he wants to make the company his career.

Like many California business owners, the Dobbases say doing business here is always a challenge. The state’s strict environmental regulators – the California Air Resources Board and the Water Quality Control Board in particular – can be difficult to work with.

“The scariest thing is the environmental movement. The smallest mistake – a broken hydraulic line that leaks oil into a river – could cost us the entire company,” Jim said.

Don said family businesses have unique interests unlike other companies, especially inheritance taxes. And, of course, finding family members interested in working for the business and eventually taking over. That’s where FBA has been very helpful, he said.

“Family businesses are different. They have different challenges than a big (public) corporation. For us to have a voice at the Capitol is very important and FBA is there to keep an eye on all the legislation that add more burdens to business,” he said. “That’s invaluable.”

For another perspective, read the article about the Dobbas family business in the Auburn Journal.