Business Showcase: Aacres, LLC
Aacres, LLC has a simple philosophy: We say ‘Yes’. That’s according to Embassy Management LLC regional director Mark Beagley.
Since purchasing Aacres in 2014, Embassy has established an accommodating environment focused on meeting client needs.
“We’ve got an organization that really supports us,” Beagley said of Embassy.
That’s important because Aacres has a goal to serve “every individual that comes to us.”
“We don’t typically say no to referrals,” Beagley said.
Founded in Lakewood in 1974, Aacres provides community support for people with developmental disabilities.
Its focus is to connect clients with residential services with the intent to give them as much power, choice and independence as possible.
“It’s as close to the lifestyle you and I are living as possible,” Beagley said from Aacres office suite at 8815 South Tacoma Way in Lakewood.
Clients range from high-functioning with minimal need for assistance to those who need care 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
How it works:
Clients are referred to Aacres through the state Department of Social and Human Services. Aacres staff reviews the packet and meet with potential clients.
“We want to determine if we can meet their needs and they decide if we’re the right fit for them,” Beagley said.
If both sides agree, the client is prepared for move in. If a home isn’t available, Aacres house hunts and will even assist with buying furniture and other necessities if needed.
Often two to three people will be housed together, after it’s determined they are compatible roommates.
The company has 131 clients statewide. Most are in the South Sound region living in 67 homes that span between Tacoma and Lakewood.
Each client has a support team rallying around them. That includes a supervisor and case manager and coordinator who oversee behavioral and medical needs.
There’s also housing staff which fill multiple shifts to make sure someone is always present in the homes.
In some cases Aacres staff is the only one advocating for the clients, while for others family members are involved but unable to be there full time.
Without Aacres and its services the alternative would be dismal, Beagley said.
Instead of living in single family houses and apartments where they have independence, people could be in mental institutions or homeless on the streets, he said.
“They’d be struggling,” Beagley said.
Aacres relies on community partners like Pierce Transit to help transport people to and from appointments and work, and connects with other agencies to provide vocational training and jobs.
Aacres employs 560 people, making it one of Lakewood’s largest employers.
Because of its position as a top employer in Lakewood, its longevity in the community and its enthusiasm for the city, the city of Lakewood recognizes Aacres LLC as its March 2017 Business Showcase.
Business Showcase: Classic Reflection Coachworks
At 19 years old Doug Graf had no idea that his first car would one day lead to a business venture.
“It was instrumental in ruining my college career,” Graf joked about his flashy 1961 red Corvette.
Truthfully, ownership of that car ignited Graf’s love for Corvettes which decades later led to the founding of his Lakewood-based business: Classic Reflection Coachworks.
“The Corvette is the most collected vehicle in the world,” Graf said.
He should know. He has customers as far away as Switzerland and Germany.
But the work Graf’s company does inside the Lakewood Industrial Center isn’t your traditional restoration. It’s the opposite.
“Instead of taking an old car and making it look new again, we take a new car and make it look old,” Graf said.
People give Graf and his employees perfectly good cars and ask they be torn apart. They can choose one of three models to replicate: 1958, 1962 or 1967.
The end result? A custom car with the body lines of a classic Corvette complete with new upholstery and amenities like heated seats and present day technology.
Seated in the office of his business at 4425 100th St SW, Graf explains the evolution of how he went from being a Budweiser beer distribution business
owner to owner of Classic Reflections Coachworks.
When Graf sold his beer distributorship in 2003 he wasn’t ready to retire. That’s when the son of an electrical engineer let his genes take the wheel.
A self-professed analytical thinker with a history of taking things apart and rebuilding them in his own style, Graf undertook a personal project: the conversion of a 1993 Corvette into a 1962 Corvette – at least on the outside.
He started with handheld models – a 1962 Corvette and a C5 Corvette (the model designation for cars built from 1997 to 2004) – and pieced them together.
Next he created scaled and three dimensional drawings to determine whether a present-day car could be converted to one from decades earlier.
From there he knew what he had to do.
“We bought a brand new Corvette Saturday and on Sunday I was cutting it up with a saw,” he said.
Graf and his wife took the finished car to a car show.
“It was a huge hit,” he said.
From there the road was clear. He opened his business in 2005.
Back then he didn’t envision he’d one day occupy a space like the one he’s at in the Lakewood Industrial Park.
“My intent was to buy a small shop somewhere and have a couple people work for me,” he said.
But when people saw what he could do they wanted one of his cars. Once he was up and running Graf had “more orders than I could fill.”
Demand has ebbed and flowed in the years since, but Graf estimates the business averages 17 cars a year.
His first car took him three years to complete. Now they are transformed in 10 weeks.
All the work is done in house and the materials made in America.
The cars are rebuilt by 11 employees inside the 15,000-square-foot industrial space off 100th Street. Graf also owns two smaller locations in the city where items are stored.
They start by peeling off the panels of the “donor car” – the term used to describe the car that will be transformed. The body panels are sold and the interior is taken out (it will later be reinstalled).
The body is created using molds and composite that is cooked in a massive oven at high temperatures.
Once cooled the body works its way through an assembly line of sorts, stopping at different stations around the warehouse to be cut, trimmed, sanded, painted and buffed before it is reassembled on the donor car chassis.
Ninety percent of the car parts are made in-house, said Julie Stacy, Graf’s daughter who manages the office. That includes chrome bumpers, trunk spears, the trim on the grill and side pipes.
Taillights and emblems are a little trickier, so those come from licensed sellers, Stacy said.
“We want to have the highest quality so we do it in house,” Graf said.
A 40-year resident of Lakewood, Graf has made his business available to local service clubs who want to meet among the “Retro Vettes” and he’s also opened his doors to vocational schools and their students.
Graf has also hired a handful of Clover Park Technical College graduates over the years.
For its significant contribution to innovation and the creation of family wage manufacturing jobs, the City of Lakewood recognized CR Coachworks as its February 2017 Business Showcase.
To see how CR Coachworks transforms its cars watch thisvideo on the city's YouTube channel.
Customers can watch the rollers, brushes and bubbles at Classy Chassis’ tunnel wash convert their vehicles to sparking clean automobiles.
They can also get their vehicles vacuumed, or serviced, or they can pick up a cup of espresso and a pastry at the Lakewood business’ specialty coffee stand - Classic Coffee. But more than anything, what customers get is quality service guaranteed- a value that owner Corey Campbell first instilled in his employees since he started doing business in Lakewood nearly three decades ago. Generations of customers and staff can attest to that commitment to customer service, something that Campbell says is a great source of pride, especially in the Lakewood community. “We’ve been very community-centric,” Campbell said recently from Classy Chassis’ flagship location at 7701 Custer Rd. W. “It’s about having a pulse on the community and the community having a pulse on us.”
If anyone would know about Lakewood, it would be Campbell.
A Lakewood resident since 1990, Campbell’s first incarnation of Classy Chassis was of the mobile variety. At only 16 years old and operating out of his car, he would drive to various locations and offer on-the-spot car detailing services, and many of his business opportunities were in Lakewood. After college, he continued the detailing business, this time, operating from a panel truck and expanding his services to include car washing.
Eventually, Campbell opened a retail location in Lakewood and later moved operations to his campus off Custer Road West.
The road wasn’t easy, Campbell recalls.
“I had 14 banks tell me it’s a risk for a 24-year-old to go and build out something that’s heady and never been done before in this region,” he says. But more so than any building or mobile wash, Campbell says one of the biggest keys to the longevity and success of Classy Chassis has been nearly 1,000 full-time, part-time and seasonal staff whom he’s employed over the years. For many of them, Classy Chassis was their first exposure to responsibility and accountability - another detail that makes Campbell extremely proud. Some employees turned the opportunity into lifetime careers. Campbell says his Classy Chassis has been more than a successful business endeavor. It has been a place where many young people received the foundations of a professional career and strong family values.
“This is a family business,” he says. “We really try to be a mentor and leader in their [employees’] lives.
Today, Classy Chassis offers state-of-the-art, professional washing and detailing, express lube services, coffee and refreshments on its campus. For many in Lakewood and beyond, it has become a regular stop, where workers recognize customers’ names and faces. In all, it offers a combined six full- and self-service locations in Pierce County. Campbell says the community has been extremely supportive, which is why being a community-oriented business is so important. Classy Chassis offers year round fundraising for non-profits, free car washes for members of the military on Veterans Day and actively supports community causes. Over a half-million dollars has been donated or given in kind to the communities. Campbell is a well-known figure among local businesses. That isn’t likely to change anytime soon, says Campbell, adding that Lakewood offers a great climate for small businesses. Much like it has during its initial 25 years in Lakewood, Classy Chassis will continue to evolve and adapt, and by doing so impact the lives of its employees, as well as the Lakewood community as a whole, for the better.
For its longstanding and continued success in the community, the City of Lakewood recognizes Classy Chassis as its December 2016 Business Showcase.
Chambers Creek Veterinary Hospital
Chambers Creek Veterinary Hospital was started in 1971 by Dr Max Flockerzie who lived and worked in the Lakewood area. Dr Max worked with military dogs as an army veterinarian in South Korea before starting his practice in Lakewood. Dr Peter Yantorni, also a local resident, came on as a partner shortly after the practice was started. The veterinary hospital began as a small operation located at 7521 Bridgeport Way with a following of clients willing to entrust their non-verbal family members to the doctors. The pet-owning residents of Lakewood began to notice the good work of the hospital. Their reward for good work was a committed patronage-- and more work. As their reputation has grown, so has the size of their hospital; the Chambers Creek Veterinary Hospital moved to a larger building at 7210 Bridgeport Way Way in 2001. They employ a staff of roughly thirty people, with three doctors seeing several dozen patients every day. Their services have grown to support the needs of their clients, and they offer wellness care, comprehensive dental care, and integrative medicine including acupuncture and massage.
Compassion and empathy. Dr Yantorni and Dr Flockerzie believe their hospital’s mission is to help people care for their pets. Attentive, caring service starts with employing quality veterinary doctors; ones equipped with kindness, knowledge and experience. A veterinary hospital needs a healthy workplace environment-- one that is supportive, that celebrates talents, and that takes joy in the contributions made by each member. These are the requisite criteria to be able to help clientele. It allows staff to be compassionate under stressful conditions, even life-or-death situations, where the options seem limited in number. Clients can rely on doctors to come up with solutions, either in-house or through partnering with specialists.
With animals, as with people, preservation begins with shelter from fear. Chambers Creek Veterinary Hospital believes in delivering fear-free veterinary services to the public. Hospitals can induce anxiety in most creatures; the Chambers Creek Veterinary Hospital takes steps to decrease anxiety. They recommend local trainers and behavioral specialists to clients, to reinforce positive habits with their pets. Structural divides and dedicated entries separate dogs and cats from each other, to avoid instinctual urges to fight or flee. The staff extends comfort to animals, to make the visiting room less tense. Sometimes it’s as simple as cat nip, music, pheromones, or warm blankets for old bones. This detail is a component part of a larger holistic approach to emotional and mental health.
Preventative health services. Holism, as a guiding principle, asks healthcare professionals to consider the upstream determinants of being. They use specialized preventative care to keep pets healthier longer. Part of that is supporting good oral hygiene. Another is informing healthy nutrition and dietary habits. The hospital offers pet annual wellness (PAW) plans, which allow for discounted care towards basic preventative services, smoothing out the costs of maintaining positive health over a longer period of time. They also offer bathing and boarding on a needs basis for their patients. These services all go to support stronger teeth, illustrious coats, bright eyes, and big smiles.
For their dedication to healthier pets and happier families, the City of Lakewood recognizes the Chambers Creek Veterinary Hospital with the business showcase award for January 2017.
Hess Bakery & Deli
Often times, the highest quality comes from perfecting the simple things.
Such is the case with Hess Bakery & Deli, the Lakewood institution that has built a reputation of offering the freshest and most authentic German baked goods, sandwiches and groceries anywhere in the South Sound.
Customers won’t find fancy contemporary creations or food that explores new ground. In fact, it’s quite the opposition. They will find traditional German staples, everything from soft pretzels to rye sourdough bread to landjaeger dried sausage.
It’s the reason that the business at 6108 Mt. Tacoma Drive Southwest has built a loyal following since it opened in 1963. It first catered to military personnel on what was then known as Fort Lewis and McChord Air Force Base, but today its reach extends up and down the Puget Sound region.
“We are a scratch bakery. Everything is made by hand,” said Joanie DeGrande, who along with husband John are co-owners for the shop.
“I’ve known generations of people since when they were little kids,” said Dario “Kiki” Cardenas, who started as a baker for Hess nearly four decades ago and today is the other co-owner. “I gave them candy. They’re in their 20’s and 30’s now. I still give them candy.”
Those longtime customers know the story of Hess Bakery & Deli well.
Tony and Hilda Hess, the store’s namesakes, immigrated and settled in the South Sound. Tony Hess was a trained baker, but there wasn’t enough money in war-ravaged Germany. At first, he went door-to-door, selling and delivering bread on Fort Lewis and McChord. Cardenas said following World War II, many members of the military married German women who yearned for bread, meat and other food popular in their native country.
“He found out it could be a great business,” Cardenas said of Tony Hess.
Business picked up so much, in fact, that the couple opened a small store and deli on Bridgeport Way, not far from its current location. As the store’s reputation traveled by word-of-mouth throughout the local German community, Hess Bakery & Deli was regularly packed with customers.
“Those were the hardest-working owners around,” Cardenas said about Tony and Hilda Hess. “There was nothing beneath them.”
From the start, Hess has always been a family run business with longtime employees. For instance, Cardenas became Hess’ first major baker – other than the Hesses themselves – in 1978. He had grown up in Germany and attended baking school there before coming to Lakewood. The store has seen other employees work 20, 30, even 40 years.
In 1980, Tony Hess built the brick building that currently houses the shop. In 2006, around the time Tony Hess passed away, the Hess family sold the store to Cardenas and Joanie and John DeGrande after some 45 years of being family owned.
True to their word, the current owners have kept to the same formula that the Hesses perfected. The baked goods, the imported products, the handmade sandwiches – they’re all of the highest and most authentic quality.
The bakery doesn’t do wholesale because, frankly, it doesn’t need to. The shop’s most popular items are pretzels (which come in traditional, roll and stick form) and rye bread, which today is made with non-processed flour.
The deli features fresh meats and cheeses and is a popular lunch or dinner option. Nearly all of the products on the store’s shelves and in its refrigerators are imported directly from Germany or are products locals might find in a German store. Even the chocolates and gummy bears, Cardenas says, actually taste like the products one would find in the old country.
In essence, a Hess customer could pick up authentic German pretzels or bread, meat, beer, geschnetzeltes, soda, beer, laundry soap and a magazine all in one stop.
Despite its longstanding popularity, Hess built its success without any major advertising, which speaks to the importance of loyalty among the local German population, the owners say. Of course, they welcome all newcomers, whether they’ve traveled to Bavaria or not.
“It is a very unique store,” John DeGrande says. “There are so many people that come in here with questions, and we walk them through. We’re still a family store.”
For its more than 50 years of success and commitment to the community, the City of Lakewood recognizes Hess Bakery & Deli as its November 2016 Business Showcase.