Meet Your Merchant: Longtime Grass Valley businesses combine history of repair and installation
March 19, 2017
Pumps West and Motor Electric
744 Maltman Dr., Grass Valley
Hours: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday
Facebook: Motor Electric/Pumps West
David Grande learned how to fix things at an early age.
His father, John Mienar, started a Grass Valley business, Pumps West, in 1986. With so many private wells in Nevada County, he was never short of customers in need of storage tanks, electrical pumps, filtration systems, irrigation pumps, piping, water testing and fire protection systems.
Each work site was unique, which meant that Mienar became a master at trouble-shooting and customizing each system. While watching his dad work, Grande discovered he had inherited an innate curiosity for how things worked.
"People would always bring old stuff to my dad, even if they had nothing to do with wells," said Grande. "They knew he could figure out how to fix it."
After graduating from Nevada Union High School, Grande went on to earn a degree in civil engineering and spent 11 years working in Modesto drafting designs for subdivisions. But when the economy tanked, Grande moved back to Grass Valley in 2009. It didn't take long before he was on to a new venture.
In 2010, Grande bought Motor Electric, one of Grass Valley's longest running family businesses. Opened in 1942, Motor Electric was purchased in 1947 by Air Force pilot Marvin Brooksby and was passed on to his son, Blair. Grande spent nearly two years working alongside Brooksby before buying the mechanics shop, which was known for rebuilding starters, generators, alternators, motors and pumps. It was a natural fit for Grande.
But more changes lay ahead for Grande. In 2012, he married Shawna, an NU classmate, and they became joint business owners and a blended family of five. In August of 2015, Grande took over Pumps West from his father and the two businesses now operate under one roof on Maltman Drive in Grass Valley.
Known for having an extraordinary knack for repairing electrical motors of all types, Grande has expanded his services beyond Motor Electric's initial mission.
Repair and restore
The Nevada Irrigation District, Hansen Bros. Enterprises, Gold-n-Green Equipment Rentals, Nevada Joint Union High School District and the cities of Colfax and Grass Valley all routinely bring items in for repair, said Grande, such as hoists, winches and pool pumps. Auto repair shops have also come to Grande and his staff of three for the repair of starters and alternators.
But Grande's reputation for bringing vintage machinery back to life also means that he gets unusual requests.
"We're known for being a throw-away society, but many things are easy to fix and could save you a lot of money," he said. "We've definitely expanded and have had an influx of weirder stuff that people seem to dig out of their garages."
Examples include grandma's Kitchen Aid mixer from the 1950s, a vintage military welder, a goat milking machine and a tattoo gun. Everyday appliances can also often be fixed at a fraction of the price to replace them — and it's better for the planet, adds Grande. Examples include food processors and hair straighteners.
"We fix what people tend to throw away — it's a recession-proof business," he said. "Most of my business is through word of mouth. With all the electrical experience I learned from my dad, it's pretty easy to diagnose what's wrong. People would always bring him old stuff — sometimes they'd just give it to us."
Rather than combine the two businesses, Grande wanted to keep the family company name, Pumps West, separate from Motor Electric.
"It's a family business with a good reputation," said Grande. "My dad is still a mentor. I talk to him at least every other day. He misses helping people."
In addition to expertise in all things mechanical, Grande seems to have also inherited his father's satisfaction with a job well done.
"I really enjoy helping people by fixing something that is meaningful to them," he said. "The most rewarding part of my job is fixing something and knowing I've done it right."
To contact Staff Writer Cory Fisher, email her at Cory@theunion.com.
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