Ev­ery­thing to be sold

Lodi metal fab­ri­ca­tor clos­ing after 74 years

Lodi News-Sentinel - - FRONT PAGE - By Rich Han­ner

Piece by piece, Jim Munro is sell­ing off his busi­ness on South Sacra­mento Street.

There are the small things. The drill bits and an­gle grinders and hand­saws. There are the huge things. Cut­ters and presses that weigh many tons, soar nearly to the ceil­ing, and once thun­dered both night and day when a re­ally big or­der came in.

Munro is sell­ing ev­ery­thing, ev­ery drill press and file cab­i­net, ev­ery grinder and tin snip.

But he is keep­ing the mem­o­ries.

There were hun­dreds of projects, from flag­poles to

can­nery con­veyor chutes to mas­sive in­nards for power plants. There were hol­i­day par­ties and “Bur­rito Thurs­days,” when Munro would bring in a load of bur­ri­tos for all the em­ploy­ees.

At Vic My­ers Inc., the com­pany Munro owned with his wife, Karen, they did it all.

Metal fab­ri­ca­tion for out­fits from Texas to Ar­gentina, all done with union la­bor, done right, and done on time.

The com­pany has a his­tory stretch­ing back 74 years in Lodi. Munro built the firm from two em­ploy­ees and one build­ing to a sprawl­ing, bustling con­cern with 25 em­ploy­ees work­ing in three cav­ernous build­ings cov­er­ing 25,000 square feet.

He started work­ing at the firm when he was a kid, sweep­ing metal shav­ings off the floors.

(Orig­i­nal owner Vic My­ers died some years be­fore Munro joined the com­pany, but the name was well estab­lished by then, so it was re­tained.)

In 1979, he and Karen took over the com­pany from Munro’s un­cle, Frank Gu­glemitti, and it started to grow steadily. One key to that growth: “Jim never said, ‘no,’ ” Karen Munro laughed.

The com­pany took on vir­tu­ally ev­ery job, adapt­ing skills and equip­ment and sched­ules. One or­der led to an­other, and an­other. When nec­es­sary, the weld­ing torches sparked through the night, the great ma­chines roared non­stop, the grinders screamed, the work­ers logged what­ever over­time was de­manded.

As a gen­eral con­trac­tor, Munro could over­see the de­sign, cre­ation and in­stal­la­tion of var­ied projects. He brought ver­sa­til­ity to his com­pany, along with an ap­pre­ci­a­tion for his cus­tomers and em­ploy­ees. The wages were good, the work reg­u­lar, the projects chal­leng­ing.

“We were all-union, and we had re­ally skilled peo­ple, re­ally good peo­ple,” Munro said.

One of those good peo­ple, Jesse Rios, said the com­pany paid well and treated work­ers with re­spect.

“I had a chance to move on, but I stayed,” said Rios, who was at Vic My­ers for 23 years. “Jim was a great guy to work for.”

Much of the work was lo­cal. The crafts­peo­ple at Vic My­ers cre­ated tanks and con­vey­ors and cat­walks for area pack­ing houses and can­ner­ies such as Pa­cific Coast Pro­duc­ers. They made metal handrails for lo­cal home­own­ers. They built steel kitchen coun­ters and rolling carts for Vi­enna Nurs­ing and Con­va­les­cent Cen­ter. For one lo­cal cus­tomer, they cre­ated a large alu­minum tube for use as a slide off a house­boat.

There were jobs that re­quired many weeks, like an 8’ di­am­e­ter stain­less steel el­bow fit­ting for a power plant in Kahu­lui, Hawaii.

Other jobs took only a few min­utes.

“If a guy needed a spot weld to fix a part for his mo­tor­cy­cle, we’d try to do it, no charge,” Munro said.

As pres­i­dent, Munro over­saw daily op­er­a­tions. Karen Munro, a re­tired me­dia ex­ec­u­tive, offered guid­ance on ma­jor fi­nan­cial and strate­gic de­ci­sions. Even un­til re­cent months, work was steady. But Munro, 70, said the time came to move on. It was harder to find qual­i­fied union metal work­ers and he and Karen are ready to spend more time en­joy­ing friends, fam­ily and travel.

So it is all go­ing, the gear, the tools, the great ma­chines that thun­dered deep into the night and pro­duced thou­sands of use­ful ob­jects over al­most three-quar­ters of a cen­tury.

Munro wants it out, the floors emp­tied, so he can lease or sell the build­ings and step into the next phase of his life.

“It was a good run — a great run, re­ally,” he said. “But the fire starts to go out over time. I’m ready to kick back now. Ready to hit the beach.

“And maybe watch the “To­day” show un­til 10 ev­ery morn­ing.”

PHO­TO­GRAPHS BY CYNDY GREEN/SPE­CIAL TO THE NEWS-SEN­TINEL

Jim Munro is the owner of Vic My­ers Inc., a Lodi busi­ness stretch­ing back 74 years, which is clos­ing its doors.

Vic My­ers Inc., a Lodi busi­ness for the past 74 years, is clos­ing its doors. All of its gear will be sold.

CYNDY GREEN/SPE­CIAL TO THE NEWS-SEN­TINEL

Vic My­ers Inc, a Lodi Busi­ness that has been around for 74 years, is clos­ing its doors. The com­pany proudly hangs the Amer­i­can flag in its fa­cil­ity as a way to pro­claim they are a "Made in Amer­ica" busi­ness.

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