East Sonora Cabinet and Door Company Looks Back 50 Years of Business | New

Family ties and community support are the reasons Van’s Cabinets & Doors in Sonora is celebrating 50 years in business, resisting the 2008 economic downturn and the COVID-19 pandemic in recent years.

“We treat everyone like family,” said David Guzman.

Guzman, of Tuolumne, is the sole owner and president of Van’s Cabinets & Doors and has worked for the company since 1985. The company specializes in custom woodworking, cabinets, entry and exterior doors, joinery and related hardware.

The future of Van’s is in the hands of the “next generation,” including Andrew Jessee of Sonora and Jesse Stevens of Crystal Falls, according to Guzman.

Jessee, who runs the door store and assists Guzman with customers and sales, has worked for the company for 12 years. He is the grandson of Marion Van Veldhuizen aka “Van”, who opened the original cabinetry store in Ripon in 1962 and then moved the store to Sonora in 1971.

Stevens, who is a cabinet designer, oversees the cabinetry shop from sales to design to delivery and has been with the company since 2001.

Mary Bautista, who has worked for the store for nine years, is the accountant and hardware salesperson.

“I like to come to work every day. Everyone takes care of everyone. I have a great boss, he’s a team and it’s like a family, ”she said.

The rest of the team includes longtime cabinetmaker Michael Cobb with over 30 years of experience in the trade.

“My superpower turns trees into treasure,” Cobb said enthusiastically. “I love my job! It’s like family. I can play with men’s toys and I get paid for it.

Cobb said he learned how to value a good business from his father.

“He always said, ‘It’s not the steak, it’s the sizzle. This place has the sizzle, ”he said, smiling ear to ear as he worked in the cabinetry.

David Sheldon, who worked for the company for two years, is Cobb’s criminal partner in the firm’s firm.

The camaraderie is evident when they pose for a photo together in front of a set of cabinets they’ve worked on, outlining each locker and door as they take turns talking.

Chris Kruger, who has a welcoming smile and warmth towards him, is the foreman of the door shop and has worked at Van’s for five years.

David Stump, who has been with the company for four years, is also a doorman and delivers the doors for the company.

The newest member of the team is Sonoran High School student Jack Morey. With the company for only two months, Morey, 17, who was on duty “blowing leaves everywhere” with a leaf blower strapped to his back like a backpack, smiled as he performed his duties. task.

In 1971, Jessee’s grandfather moved what was then just a woodworking shop – the doors would come later – to Sonora nine years after starting the business in Ripon.

Jessee has fond memories of working with his grandfather, known simply as “Van”, in his home woodworking shop when he was 10 years old.

Using oak wood, he and his grandfather made two decorative candle holders about 18 inches tall. Both were gifts. One went to his parents and the other to his grandmother.

His grandfather also let him make a much smaller birthday cake candle holder which Jessee said was impressed with Van, due to the amount of detail he was able to get on such a small piece of drink.

Van retired in 1982 and sold the cabinetry business to David Fickel. Later, Van will play a decisive role in the hiring of his grandson at Fickel and Guzman.

Guzman, who moved to the Sonora area with his family in 1976 when his father Joe Borges opened a convenience store, a business he operated from a barn in Soulsbyville, recalls Van.

“My father would be delivering a door somewhere and Van would be there delivering cabinets,” Guzman recalls.

By age 14, Guzman was working in his father’s shop for $ 1.25 an hour and was hooked.

“I’m a porter,” Guzman said.

Fickel, who was an entrepreneur and bought the store from Van in 1982, introduced doors to the business in 1985.

“From there, the business has grown steadily,” Guzman said.

Guzman worked full time for Fickel before the two became business partners in 2000.

Fickel’s estate was the cabinetry store, which Ron Loewen managed, while Guzman managed the door store.

On a frosty morning in April 2011, Loewen passed away on his way to work. Stevens, who worked in the cabinetry shop for seven years at the time, became a store manager.

“Ron Loewen has been a great mentor to me. He taught me the trade, ”Stevens said of the firm’s affairs.

After Fickel died in 2018 from cancer, Guzman became president and sole owner of the door and cabinet business.

Fickel’s name is mentioned several times in interviews with various employees. Even Guzman’s business cards, which mention him as a co-owner, are a reminder and nod to the man we clearly miss.

“When Dave Fickel passed away, I wasn’t sure what to do with the cabinets. I’m a porter, ”Guzman said. “Jesse (Stevens) got thrown in and got it.”

Stevens, who took over the role of Loewen upon his death, again took over from Fickel’s death and ran the cabinetry workshop.

For Guzman, the most significant project the company has ever worked on was for the Black Oak Casino Resort in Tuolumne, as the five-story hotel was under construction after the Great Recession from 2007 to 2009.

“We went without paychecks for two years,” Guzman explained. “We almost didn’t get there.

Guzman credits the Tuolumne Band of Me-Wuk Indians, who own and operate the casino and hotel, for saving their cabinet and door business by contacting local contractors and local vendors in an attempt to really boost the county’s economy.

The tribe bought all the doors and cabinets for the hotel project from Guzman’s company, he said.

Stevens said he was grateful for the 153 vanities and kiosks, as well as the kitchenettes for the hotel suites, which he was able to complete for the casino hotel project.

“It allowed us to pick ourselves up and move forward,” Guzman said.

Van’s built the hotel wardrobes from red oak wood in the lobby where you check in to your room.

In addition, the company supplied all commercial metal exterior doors, red oak interior doors and all commercial locks for exterior and interior doors, as well as Saflok RFID card locks for rooms.

It is not just the casino that has come to the financial aid of businesses. Kari Guzman, David Guzman’s wife of 23 years and mother of their four children, is also credited with helping to keep Van afloat with her salary.

“My wife was a great support during the 2008 economic downturn,” he said. “Without her, we wouldn’t have done it.

Using the work-sharing program through the California Department of Employment Development was also essential, according to David Guzman, who also thanks Fickel, his former business partner.

“We have always kept our bills and personal expenses low. Cash as you go. David Fickel described the 2008 downturn as “the lights have gone out,” Guzman said. “We learned a lot during the recession, just trying to keep our people alive. “

Today, the company specializes in custom woodworking, cabinets, entry and exterior doors, joinery and all associated hardware. Van’s works with homeowners, business owners, architects and designers, to create custom pieces.

Van’s carried out restoration work on the old windows of the Columbia School House at Columbia State Historic Park.

Other notable projects that the cabinet and door specialists have completed include work for Rush Creek Lodge in Groveland, Chicken Ranch Casino in Jamestown, and cabins at Eagle Meadows on Route 108 east of Strawberry.

Family first and in slow motion

The family environment that David Guzman has created for his employees even includes a nursery area, equipped with a wood stove.

David Guzman is a family man and understands that sometimes you have to bring your child to work.

Monday was one of those days for Stevens, who regularly took a break every two minutes to see Beau, his 5-month-old son with his girlfriend Brittany Mantzouranis.

Jessee, like many of his colleagues, is also a family man and married to Bridget. The couple have two children, a boy and a girl, so they too understand the need for such a place to work.

Family is a priority for David Guzman, so being there to watch his grandchildren grow up and spend more time with his wife and children is more important as he gets closer to the “downturn.” He never uses the word retirement.

“At the time, I was working six or seven days a week,” he said.

With a host of grandchildren and a passion for camping and off-road motorcycling, David Guzman wants to make sure he slows down and enjoys life before it’s too late. the next six years.

“I will have less daily responsibilities over time,” he explained.

On her to-do list is the state of Maine. He wants to go as far east as possible and enjoy the beautiful scenery while camping and mountain biking with his family.

“I want to leave for Maine with no plan, no schedule, no time to come back,” he said.

Dealing with losses has been a part of David Guzman’s life at Van’s Cabinets & Doors, which has come as no surprise to any business for the past 50 years, but he has ensured that the future of his business is secure for the next generation. after his retirement.

“Basically my passion is for my employees. They’re family, “he said.” I want to make sure they’re okay. I want them to be successful when I’m gone. “

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