Cathie Anderson

Benning design-construction firm buys new Sacramento HQ on Fulton

Eric Benning shown at a Sacramento home being remodeled by his company, Benning Construction, and Benning Design, owned by his father, Bruce. The Father and son duo have since merged together to form Benning Design & Construction, and recently acquired a new home for their business on Fulton Ave.
Eric Benning shown at a Sacramento home being remodeled by his company, Benning Construction, and Benning Design, owned by his father, Bruce. The Father and son duo have since merged together to form Benning Design & Construction, and recently acquired a new home for their business on Fulton Ave. apayne@sacbee.com

Father-son duo Bruce and Eric Benning have found a new home for their merging design and construction businesses over at 960 Fulton Ave. in Sacramento. The property had served as the home office for developer Buzz Oates for several years prior to his death.

Eric Benning told me that, after the April 8 Inside Business column reported their merger plans and their desire to own their next headquarters, his father got a call from real estate attorney Chuck Trainor of Trainor Fairbrook.

“Chuck Trainor is a family friend of ours. His wife actually rents space from us down here at the 1707 18th St. office,” Eric said. “She’s an interior designer as well. He read the article and called my dad and said, ‘Hey, this building is for sale. The Buzz Oates guys just moved out of it, and we’re trying to find someone to lease it. ... I’d be really happy to have you guys as neighbors. Why don’t you see if you can buy this building from them?’”

Eric said he contacted Larry Allbaugh, the chief executive at the Buzz Oates Group of Companies and that they were basically able seal the deal via email. The Bennings, of course, have a long history with the Oates family. Bruce Benning’s parents, Adrian and E.J. Benning, managed A&A Furniture for Oates decades ago and later acquired that business from Oates.

Bruce does both commercial and residential design, but most locals encounter his work while dining at restaurants such as Bistro 33 in El Dorado Hills, Yakitori Yuchan in Davis or shopping with retailers like Face in a Book in El Dorado Hills. Benning, 67, has won many awards from the American Society of Interior Designers. He said his career started as a teenager creating home furnishing vignettes for the family store.

His son worked in the construction industry for Oates’ son-in-law, Tim Buntain, where he learned the tilt-up construction method (walls are formed horizontally on a concrete slab, cured and then tilted into position by a crane). The Bennings’ new HQ is a tilt-up building.

They hope to move in sometime in October. The building has 6,000 square feet of space, Eric said, but Benning Design & Construction will use only 3,200 of that. Their plan is to lease the remainder to architects, engineers and others in the building trades. Interior designer Paulette Trainor will continue to lease space from them.

Both father and son decided to put their offices in the same area where Buzz Oates once worked, Eric Benning said, and staff have begun referring to it as the power corner. Bruce will be leaving the building that his firm has been leasing in midtown Sacramento for 30-plus years. ...

She’s on board with AARP: Diane Miller, the leader of Sacramento’s Wilcox Miller & Nelson, dives into her first term as a director on the board of the AARP Foundation on Tuesday in Washington, D.C.

Along with managing recruitment for company executives, Miller’s firm helps boards recruit new members, diversify their ranks and improve their knowledge base. The AARP Foundation, a charitable affiliate of the national AARP organization that advocates for people age 50 and over, helps older Americans overcome hunger, income loss, housing challenges and feelings of isolation.

“They work with individuals and organizations and they support them financially,” Miller, 62, told me. “They’re a funder as well as providing some innovative programs of their own. They have a great back-to-work-for-50-plus program across the nation.”

She said she learned about the AARP Foundation board from a former director, Barbara O’Connor. Many will recall that O’Connor was a professor of communications at Sacramento State for 44 years.

“Barbara is very strategic,” Miller said. “She started talking about her work on the foundation board. I think, unbeknownst to me, that Barbara was subtly starting to recruit me for it. She’s very good. I’d ask questions, and we’d have really good conversations, and then she said, ‘You know, the board is going to start doing a search for new director. ... You should fill out an application.’ ”

O’Connor said: “Diane is now the only Californian on all of the AARP boards. ... She has served on a number of other boards, including University of the Pacific and bank boards, and that portfolio of work is really consonant with what the foundation does. We deal with hunger issues. We deal with workforce deployment and development, re-entering the workforce, and she does that for a living, and she does a lot of fundraising.”

Miller said that her past service on numerous boards – including that of her alma mater, UOP, and the California Chamber – has taught her that government policy can have a far-reaching impact, and she wants to ensure that it benefits vulnerable older Americans.

Cathie Anderson: 916-321-1193, @CathieA_SacBee

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