Cathie Anderson

Cathie Anderson: Bonney Plumbing keeps expanding

Published: Tuesday, May. 28, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Tuesday, May. 28, 2013 - 7:59 am

Five years ago, Mark and Candace Bonney were so busy running day-to-day operations for their successful plumbing business that they didn't have time to think about expanding.

Things are different now. Bonney will soon add new product lines: fire sprinklers and water purification and conditioning systems. The company purchased two other plumbing concerns, one in Marin County this year and another in Vaca-ville in 2011. Revenue grew by 20 percent last year.

The husband-and-wife team say all this growth might never have happened if several investors hadn't approached them with unsolicited offers to buy Bonney Plumbing in 2008. Trouble was, they didn't want to sell. They did want time and space to think about how to expand.

"We had never thought about selling our business at all, period," said Candace Bonney, "but it was getting big and it was getting hard for us to maintain."

Mark Bonney added: "You're so busy working in the business, it's hard to work on the business, and we were having a hard time grasping how to get to the next level."

The Bonneys ended up striking a deal with several investors in June 2008, securing both funding to expand and management expertise to run daily operations. Their first move was expanding into heating, air conditioning and ventilation. Of the 108 employees who work for Bonney today, 40 percent are in the HVAC division. It's the kind of success the Bonneys hope to duplicate with sprinkler and water systems.

He's not noodling around

Dave Brochier gained quite a following for his pasta as a station chef at Mulvaney's B&L, but in September 2011, he struck out on his own after receiving a lot of encouragement from his wife, Sheila Stein.

"One day, I added up everything I did for Mulvaney's during the week," said Brochier, known to most locals as Pasta Dave. "and it was just astronomical – if I had been my own pasta shop, what I could have charged them for a week's worth of work, even at a fairly reasonable wholesale rate … .

"I really liked the environment that I was in. It was very creative. I loved the people I worked with, but I was putting a lot of money in somebody else's pocket, and it was time to start putting it in my pocket."

Initially, Brochier sold his pastas to fine restaurants such as Red Rabbit and The Grange, but then he did the math and weighed his wholesale return against his retail return at Taylor's Market in Sacramento.

It caused him to switch his approach.

These days, his fettuccini, tagliatelle, orecchiette, agnolotti and stracnar earn him as much money as he made at Mulvaney's, yet he sells them only at Taylor's, the Davis Farmers Market and a couple of fine-dining establishments.

"It was quite a learning process, getting the product mix right for the farmers market," Brochier said, "but it was also then rewarding, because you're ultimately talking to the end user. When someone buys something from you and you tell them how to prepare it, really very simply, and then you go back the next week, and they're like, 'That's one of the best meals I've ever had.' ... And, they've prepared it themselves."

Brochier said he'll expand to one more farmers market soon.

Chicago, his kinda town

Inventor Chris Johnson has received purchase orders for nearly 50,000 of his Rapid Ramen noodle cookers in the last six weeks.

Johnson received interest from the big HEB grocery chain in Texas, the Navy Exchange and CVS in Hawaii after exhibiting his product at March's International Home + Housewares Show in Chicago.

He won an online contest with QVC and is now selling the product on that shopping network's website.

He adds these clients to WinCo, Raley's, Safeway and local Wal-Mart stores.

The 34-year-old Johnson was fulfilling thousands of orders for his microwaveable ramen cooker out of his Wilton garage until April when he signed a contract with Pride Industries to be his warehouse and logistics partner.

The Roseville-based nonprofit employs people with disabilities.

Johnson said the operation impressed him and he felt an affinity. His baby sister, 21-year-old Regina Johnson, has Down syndrome.

"She's going to school full time at CRC (Cosumnes River College)," Johnson said. "My parents, they've always encouraged her, and she's thrived."

Call The Bee's Cathie Anderson, (916) 321-1193. Back columns, www.sacbee.com/anderson. Follow him on Twitter @cathiea_sacbee.

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