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The Art of Iron

Meet three generations of the Chavez family.

What compelled you to start this business?

I learned how to weld in the Navy as a Seabee. I was inspired by my ability to design and draw, along with my developed welding skills.

Why start your own business? Why not just go work for someone else?  

I had a lot of people tell me I should start my own thing and that encouraged me.

What keeps you in business? 

I really feel like it's genuine knowledge of your product. For me, trustworthiness kept me going. At some point, my reputation for my knowledge and dedication kept me going.

What are the pros and cons of working with family members?  

I would say your family is most trustworthy.  In the beginning, when my kids were little, I worked with my brother and my wife.  We learned how to disagree without being disagreeable.  As time has gone on, working with my sons, we learned how to work and disagree, but still go home and have dinner all together with mom.  It isn’t easy, but now I see my sons and grandsons all working together. I really can’t think of any cons.

You have a reputation for being very particular about your products. Where did you get this sense of wanting everything to be as near perfect as possible?

My first thought when I hear that is my military experience in the Navy. I have a total of 6 years with the Navy, so this really carried over into my business.  I was raised this way. My mom was strict and that stayed with me. Now I think about it, I have been very strong willed my whole life.

Of course COVID has caused a big shift in the economy, but there have been other downturns over the years. How did your company survive through hardships?

When times are tough, you have to become very conservative in spending and buying.  That’s what I would do...just stay strong and do your best until the storm passes.  

What do think about the current labor problem?

We have always struggled to find skilled labors in this business, which is now especially difficult.  We really do hire true craftsman, so when we find them, they tend to stay with us.

What is the best part of owning your own business? 

Being my own boss and ability to make my own schedule.  When my kids were young, I was able to be at all their games and matches. My wife was able to help me and be home with the kids. I really did have the best of both worlds.    

What is the most difficult part of owning your own business?  

I was always afraid of being in debt.  I never wanted to take out loans.  If I didn’t have it, I didn’t have it.  Over the years, it is very stressful because everyone and everything depends on you. 

It was difficult staying up to date with technology.  For us it was the tools, how we make our ironwork. I used to make my schedule with paper and pencil and hand draw all my designs.  Now, everything is on the computer.  Emails, calendars and the sketches are done with computers. I think to stay in business, you have to keep up with the changes, and in 50 years there have been so many changes!  Feels like yesterday that the yellow pages were how someone could find you. Now all the advertising is so different.

The one thing that I think is the same, that my sons have carried on, is the quality of work and how proud they are to provide people with their work. Back in the day I use to say, "I put my name on it.” I still feel that way. I have heard them say that.  That truly makes me feel good.  With all the changes, that remains the same.  

How do you feel seeing your sons and now grandsons working in this business you started?  

I am so proud of that because of our kids and grandkids can thrive and be a part of this company. Mary Helen (Alfred’s wife) and I always hoped our boys would carry this on, but nothing is certain.  It makes me feel so good that in 2022, our sons and grandsons do this, and from what I can see, are doing it well. I am just so proud.

What advice would you give someone thinking about starting a business?

It seems that people start companies and think that they will automatically be successful, but end up, sadly, failing. Most small businesses fail within a couple of years after draining the owners' energy and money, and after racking up lots of credit card debt and indebtedness to friends and family. What advice would you give someone who is starting a business?  

I would say to have genuine knowledge of what you are doing.  I wish I had a good relationship with my bank early on, I was always fearful of debt, so I never wanted to borrow or take loans. I would say to have a good relationship with your bank and just work hard at what you know.

  • They started it all. Alfred O Chavez and Mary Helen Chavez.
  • From left to right: Alfred Chavez lll, Alfred Chavez Sr., Alfred Chavez Jr., and Alfonso Chavez.