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  • Sacramento Bee file

    Linemen and linewomen are valuable commodities for SMUD, and the utility is trying to guard them against attempts by other organizations to entice them away.

  • Cathie Anderson

Cathie Anderson: Folsom’s Frosting Queens nearly quadruple their sales over 12 months

Published: Saturday, Jul. 12, 2014 - 12:00 am

Folsom’s Frosting Queens – Angela and Annette Del Biaggio – saw the spread of their sweet-and-creamy domain nearly quadruple in sales over the past 12 months.

Much of the increased revenue can be attributed to gaining retail outlets and buyers, Annette Del Biaggio said. But in January, the two sisters also claimed new territory by putting their all-natural frosting in 25-pound pails and marketing it to supermarket bakeries. In fact, a triumphant Del Biaggio told me she would be heading to Raley’s as soon as she finished our interview. The West Sacramento-based grocery chain is introducing a line of all-natural cakes, and chose to frost them with The Frosting Queens’ vanilla icing.

Looking at the bakery market, “We saw that they have beautiful cakes, but they weren’t made with real ingredients,” Del Biaggio said. “There weren’t frostings out there made with real butter like we make ours. … For bakeries to finally offer this is new.”

Look for the Del Biaggios’ frosting in Crate & Barrel stores during Christmas season, but don’t expect to see the crown-clad Frosting Queens sitting on a pink pouch, as they appear on grocers’ shelves. The pair have agreed to allow the national retailer to use their frosting in its private-label brand. Besides the sales revenue, The Frosting Queens will get a write-up on the back of the Crate & Barrel frosting jars. The deal brings with it the endorsement of a respected retailer and increased exposure to affluent consumers.

SMUD guards its linemen

As a growing number of baby boomers enter their golden years, the nation’s utilities are seeing a generation of experienced linemen climb down and head into retirement. That trend has Sacramento Municipal Utility District guarding its crew of 135 linemen – and women – against raiders.

“We’ve had circumstances where we’ve trained somebody, and another utility comes and tries to poach them,” said Mike Wirsch, SMUD’s director of grid assets. “It’s fairly common at this point.” In some cases, bigger utilities have offered signing bonuses to his crew members.

Wirsch spoke to me on Thursday, known as Journeyman Lineman Recognition Day in California. The state Assembly chose July 10 to recognize linemen because that date in 1896 marks the death of Henry Miller, founder of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. He fell from a utility pole in Washington, D.C., after an electric shock. The nature of his demise illustrates the kinds of dangers that linemen face daily to keep the lights on for consumers.

Despite the risks, Wirsch receives 300 to 600 applications each year for just 10 to 20 apprenticeship openings. Of those hires, only 40 percent will get their journeyman card. When up on a utility pole in the presence of 4,000, 12,000 or 69,000 volts of electrical current, Wirsch said, apprentices come to grips with whether they’ve made the right career choice.

SMUD’s philosophy is that the best way to get well-trained, safety-conscious linemen is to have one generation pass on its knowledge to the next, Wirsch said. Because it takes four years to bring an apprentice to journeyman status, he doesn’t like losing anyone to poachers.

“As soon as they have that journeyman card, their value goes substantially up,” he said. “We’ve been able to keep most of our people just because of the workplace, the environment and the culture.”

And the pay and benefits are good, too, he added. SMUD trainees start at about $33 an hour, and a journeyman can earn up to $50 to $54 an hour.

Open now and coming soon

Bee reader Anita Lucero of Lincoln called to ask about rumors that there might be a new home furnishings store at Willowrock Plaza Shopping Center, on the corner of Stanford Ranch Road and Five Star Boulevard in Rocklin. Could it be the HomeGoods she’s been hoping to see? “That building has been vacant for a long time,” Lucero said. Instead, the new tenant will be specialty retailer Floor & Decor. The chain, based in Smyrna, Ga., operates nearly 40 stores in 21 metropolitan markets. The stores, usually between 60,000 and 100,000 square feet, carry about 1 million square feet of tile, stone or wood flooring. The Rocklin outlet, scheduled to open Nov. 13, will employ 40 people, according to the company.

Tractor Supply Co., a Brentwood, Tenn.-based chain, has been putting employees through their paces at its new Antelope store at 8135 Watt Ave. for about a week. Today, it formally celebrates its grand opening. Store manager Wayne Wishart, a Yreka native, relocated from the Red Bluff store where he was trained as a manager. At 27,304 square feet, the Antelope location will carry everything from pet foods to livestock needs, fencing to seed, clothing to towing equipment. It occupies the site where a Kmart once stood.


Call The Bee’s Cathie Anderson, (916) 321-1193. Follow her on Twitter @CathieA_SacBee.

Read more articles by Cathie Anderson





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