Cathie Anderson

Cathie Anderson: Lincoln company babies customers’ high-dollar equipment while in transit

Cathie Anderson
Cathie Anderson

Lincoln’s Cases Plus constructs the best insurance policy against loss for Apple, Raytheon and many other Fortune 500 companies that ship high-end, high-tech equipment.

This family-run business, founded in 1992 by Jean-Claude and Jacky Avenel, earned roughly $7 million last year by making custom shipping cases that protect sensitive and sometimes top-secret equipment. In fact, the Avenels don’t always know what their cases will hold. Sometimes they receive only the dimensions that need to be accommodated.

Occasionally, manufacturers don’t discover the Avenels until other case manufacturers fail them. Stacy Soderlund, the Avenels’ daughter and president of Cases Plus, talked about one company that was shipping a $50,000 piece of equipment, only to see something like one of every two products jarred out of calibration during transit. And the equipment couldn’t be recalibrated. If it didn’t work, it had to be junked. Cases Plus designed a prototype case for the customer and sent it to be tested.

“They actually dropped one of these from the second story of a building just to see what would happen,” said CEO Jean-Claude Avenel. “The equipment survived. The case got a crack in it, but the equipment survived. We’re talking about a couple-hundred-dollar case, vs. spending $50,000 on a piece of equipment , so the investment for them, it’s like buying an insurance policy.”

The Avenels started out simply as case distributors, but customers repeatedly asked them to find custom foam inserts to cushion their equipment. The Avenels were getting cases, shipping them to a subcontractor, getting them back to do spot checks, and then delivering them to customers. The costs were high, Jean-Claude Avenel said, and they couldn’t control the quality of the inserts.

So, Cases Plus moved into manufacturing. The company has a variety of machines to create foam inserts, including two that use concentrated water jets to do the cutting. Foam inserts can be molded to fit off-the-shelf cases, and $850,000 worth of inventory allows the Avenels to turn around orders in as little as two weeks. They also fabricate cases of their own, tailoring colors and hardware to each customer’s taste. They have a sewing room that inserts pouches, mesh pockets, Velcro attachments and more into the foam inserts.

Cashing out in Old Sac

Plans for a downtown arena have building owners in Old Sacramento thinking the time is ripe to sell their properties, according to The Vollman Co.’s Don Deavens.

Deavens is representing three properties that have been put on the market. That includes the Cracker Building, across from Rio City Cafe and Joe’s Crab Shack, and 1017 Front Street, the building that is home to Old City Kites. Both properties are listed at $2.1 million.

“A lot of the existing property owners are looking to sell in light of what’s happening with the arena downtown,” Deavens said. “… It’s in the speculative stage where people are starting to anticipate what they can get based on the arena.”

Tenants, too, are seeking out the area. The three buildings have nearly 50,000 square feet of space, Deavens said, but it is nearly all leased.

“I have probably a thousand square feet of retail space,” he said, “and I probably have about 2,800 square feet of office space, which is above the ground level.”

Building back in Natomas

Sacramento developer Michael Moser expects to get permission soon to finish building out a dozen riverside condominiums in the Natomas area, despite the building moratorium there.

Moser is in escrow on the purchase of the properties on Garden Highway, between Chevy’s and the Virgin Sturgeon, and he says the deal will close once the government approvals have been received.

“There are six condos that have been there since the late ’90s, and the project was originally entitled for 18 units, and the builder only built six. We bought the project to complete the additional 12 units. … I’ve been watching this project for years. I actually tried to buy this project in the early 2000s for $2.5 million, and they rejected my offer. And I bought it for $1.2 million.”

Moser said the original developer lost the property during the real estate crisis, and after a fire sale a year or two ago, it ended up in the hands of an investment team that included Russ Kuhn, one of the founders of California Family Fitness. Moser acquired it from them.

Moser said he expects to be able to sell the 2,900-square-foot condos for $900,000-plus. The exteriors will have the same look as the six condos already on the site, but the interiors will have the latest features. He’s also starting to work with SMUD to do solar, net-zero energy. Moser said he also developed Windemere Estates near South Land Park Drive and Greenhaven Drive and 68 townhouses across from Garcia Bend Park.

Moser’s project, known as River Landing, is exempt from the moratorium because it is being built on an elevated concrete platform that will raise the project above the elevation for flood danger.