Meet Your Merchant: Long road to success takes another turn for Byers Enterprises
Special to The Union
Know & Go
What: Grand opening for Byers Enterprises design facility
Where: 115 Idaho Maryland Road, Grass Valley
When: 5-7 p.m. Wednesday
Like most tales of success, Ray Byers’ story includes humble beginnings and life-jarring events, punctuated by back-breaking work and taking risks.
The owner of Byers Enterprises, with more than $10 million in annual sales, has been a professional motocross racer, roofer, plumber, and ditch-digger.
“I was a human backhoe,” he joked.
In 1986, while working for a Southern California roofing company, Ray was supervising three commercial projects totaling $2 million. He’d just lost both parents to cancer and was going through a divorce. The stress was life-threatening.
“My left arm went numb and I thought I was having a heart attack at age 30,” he remembers. “I drove to the doctor’s office, and he immediately sent me to the hospital. I got a clean bill of health but I realized stress can kill you. It was a real eye-opener for me.”
When Ray announced that he planned to move to Grass Valley and start his own roofing business, his boss said he’d never make it.
“That irritated me and gave me that extra drive,” he said.
He earned his contractor’s license and moved in with his grandmother, the only person he knew in Grass Valley. He set up a card table in the middle of her living room and launched Byers’ Black Gold Roofing.
“You know, black gold, Texas Tea, The Beverly Hillbillies,” he laughed.
A few years later, Ray hired Jeff Fierstein as his general manager, who ran local residential roofing jobs while Ray installed roofs on prisons, universities, and large institutions throughout Northern California.
“I was the one slinging 500-degree asphalt with the mop in 100-plus degree temperatures,” he said.
Ready for a change — and a new challenge, he saw a magazine ad about a company called LeafGuard Gutters in 1994. He said they had them send a sample, which they tested.
“We thought, ‘These guys just might have something’ and we signed on,” he said.
Next, they figured out how to market the new product.
“Yellow pages weren’t going to work, so we did home shows and the business really started taking off in the mid-90s. By 2000, we suspended the roofing business so I wouldn’t have to be on the road all the time,” he said. “It was a big gamble because it cut our revenue in half, but I believed in the product and knew it would be worth it. After all, we guarantee our gutter won’t clog or we clean it for free.”
In 2010, Ray resurrected the roofing business. In 2014, he added solar energy — including solar-tube lights — to his repertoire. All of those businesses will be showcased Wednesday at a public ribbon cutting and grand opening. Byers Enterprises has leased the former Hills Flat Lumber property on Idaho Maryland Road and turned it into a state-of-the-art design center.
A grand opening of the new facility is slated for 5-7 p.m. Wednesday at the 115 Idaho Maryland Road location. The event is open to the public and refreshments will be served. Parking is located on the east side of the building.
In addition to the new design center, the company maintains warehouses in Grass Valley and Fairfield, and employs more than 80 people. Both of Ray’s sons work in the business. His daughter recently moved to Nevada County, and Ray says he feels abundantly blessed to be surrounded by family. He says he’s also fortunate to have found the love of his life, Maria Ramos — owner of Maria’s and Kane’s restaurant.
“Maria makes me happy and that’s what life is all about,” he said.
Ray says the key to success is not complicated.
“I try to give back to the community that has given me so much,” he said. “My parents taught me to do the right thing even if no one is watching. And my dad always told me that a wise man surrounds himself with folks wiser than himself.”
Lorraine Jewett is a freelance writer who lives in Grass Valley.
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