When Scott Gutierrez opened Penn Valley True Value in 2011, the demographic projections for first year profits were a little under what he had in mind. Gutierrez knew he could do better. With the unique blend of small business experience engrained in his childhood, and the time he spent working for a large chain of lumberyards, he set out to do better. As a result, he doubled his first-year projections.
It’s Gutierrez’s focus on both the family business of his childhood and the corporate structure in his work history that continues to drive success at Penn Valley True Value in Penn Valley, Calif.
In many coming-of-age stories, the main character strikes out from home and makes a go at the world on his own terms. For some, it’s a move across the world into unchartered territory. For others, there are close ties to family that maintain a bond that shapes the character’s new adventure. For Gutierrez, it’s the latter. The boy who grew up in the family hardware store sought fortune in the corporate world and eventually returned home to start a family business of his own.
When Gutierrez was just two months old, his parents had moved to Placerville, Calif., where they purchased a hardware store. Some of his first memories are of helping out in the store as young as five years old, working alongside a familiar coworker in his twin brother.
“We were raised in that store,” Gutierrez says. It was a good life, and a life that Gutierrez grew up thinking he might someday want for his own family. But first he had to strike out on his own and make sure there wasn’t another way of life he liked better.
That’s where the corporate experience comes into play. During a college job fair, Gutierrez approached a group from Meek’s Lumber Company to ask how his childhood growing up in the hardware store business might help launch a career with the $300 million a year, nearly 50-location lumberyard chain. With hardware experience and a start on a college degree, Gutierrez joined Meek’s as an intern. When he graduated college in 2002, he was promoted to the corporate office.
“I got an events manager job,” Gutierrez says. “I planned golf tournaments and skeet shoots. We had season tickets to the San Francisco Giants and the Sacramento Kings and I managed that whole process of the events side of Meek’s Western Division.”
In 2007, when the economy slid toward the Great Recession and Meek’s trimmed down its events budget, Gutierrez was again promoted, this time to Merchandising Manager for the West Coast. His responsibility was hardlines and he had input in store remodels. He was on a track to grow within the company, but something from his childhood still pulled him back to Placerville and his family’s True Value hardware store.
“I was always aware, in the back of my mind, of the family business. I just wanted to go back to that,” he says.
In March of 2011, Gutierrez started back at Placerville True Value, working alongside his twin brother in the store where the two had grown up together. But he soon discovered that his father had made a big sacrifice to get him there.
“My dad really wanted me to come back and work with my brother, but to make that happen, he took a huge pay cut to get me aboard,” Gutierrez says.
Members of the Gutierrez family working the store then included his father, mother, brother, an uncle and a cousin. As Gutierrez says, it became apparent quickly that there were “a lot of mouths eating from the same trough.”
By the time June came along, Gutierrez and his wife, Rory, were making visits with True Value in search of stores to open on their own. They found one in nearby Penn Valley, a town close enough to easily visit family and share business strategy, but far enough away to not have to compete against each other. “We took one loop around the town and drove down the main roads and said, ‘this is where we want to spend the rest of our lives.’”
After a few months of remodeling, they opened Penn Valley True Value in December 2011. The store features True Value’s Destination design, which Gutierrez says is “the best shopping experience you can have.”