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True Value Penn Valley

Where the True Value is Family and Community

Scott Gutierrez, Penn Valley True Value owner
Photo by Valerie Costa

 

You could say that Scott Gutierrez was born to own a hardware store. His family bought a True Value in Placerville when he was two years old, and he grew up learning not only the ins and outs of the hardware business, but also the supreme importance of great customer service.

“When I was young, a lady came in to my parents’ store looking for an 1.5” finishing nail, but they only had 2” finishing nails. My dad took the box and cut every one down to 1.5”,” Gutierrez recalled. “I understand that in today’s competitive environment we can’t do that type of detail, but that dedication to making the customers happy and ensuring that they get what they want and need is paramount to me and the way we run the store.”

As many young people do, Gutierrez wanted to escape small town life and go big. So he went to college to learn about business management, and then went to work for Meek’s Hardware and Lumber for 13 years. He tired of “corporate politics” and returned home to work with his parents at the family business where customer satisfaction was the guiding principle. It was truly a family endeavor, as Scott and his parents also worked with Scott’s twin brother, their uncle, and cousin. There he remained until True Value called the family and told them of a great opportunity in Penn Valley.



True Value Penn Valley

True Value has been a staple in Penn Valley since 1978, but on January 1, 2011, the previous owner decided not to open the doors again. The following day, the employees arrived at work to find the doors locked, and waited for two hours before figuring out that the store had closed. It remained closed until the Gutierrez family purchased and remodeled the store, which they did at great personal expense before the final paperwork for the transfer of ownership was signed on December 7, 2011. They reopened the next day with Scott at the helm, and have been working to grow the store ever since. “We put our trust in the handshake deal with did with the previous owner, who had received other offers but wanted the store to remain a True Value, and kept our faith in God that everything was going to go through,” Gutierrez said.

The family started the store with seven brand new employees, and has since grown to an average of 60 employees. When his parents decided to retire in 2017, Scott bought the Penn Valley store and his twin brother purchased the Placerville store, and both brothers have thriving businesses due to the foundation of family values and customer service that their parents modeled in their own business practices. Gutierrez says that a big part of his success was bringing Matt Buhman, a key carrying manager at his parents’ store who had been there for a decade, to come help build this business. Buhman said that if he came, there had to be a position for his girlfriend (now wife), Tammy, who is Gutierrez’s right hand person who is the operations manager/HR/ bookkeeper and so much more at the store. After ten years, Matt is leaving to finally pursue a career in mechanical engineering, for which he had earned his college degree before agreeing to come work for Penn Valley True Value, but Tammy remains happily in her role and has no plans to leave.



“When I knew I was going to take Penn Valley True Value, I knew that my family had a successful business plan based on great customer service, and I wanted to follow that. But being in a corporate environment for 13 years, I was afraid that I had lost that small business mindset of customer service, making sure you really fit the needs of your customers vs. chasing the dollar. It was important to me to carry on that culture, and I knew that Matt would help me to do that. To this day Matt and Tammy are the two best employees I have ever had. I’m sad to see Matt go, but I’m so happy for him that he is going to pursue his passion and work in the field he earned his degree in.”

True Community Value

One of Gutierrez’s core values is being a good community partner and keeping Penn Valley business local as much as possible. In the past ten years since he took over the store, he has worked to expand the selection there to provide what those in the community want and need to help Penn Valley thrive economically.

Since Penn Valley is a ranching community, when he opened the store Gutierrez saw a huge need for ranching supplies and so opened True Value Fence and Ranch Supply in the old Empire Fence building, where they cater to the farm and ranch supply needs for 4H and FFA as well as local ranchers. Gutierrez tries to maintain the balance of providing for the community’s needs while not competing with their neighbors, Pearson’s Feed and Simply County. He works to cater to those needs without stepping on toes by carrying convenience needs for the ranchers as well as hardware.

 

Wildflower Nursery is ready for fall
Photo by Valerie Costa

The other need he saw was Lake Wildwood, which is a different population of people trying to beautify their properties, and so he opened up Wildflower Nursery, which sits where before there was only a dirt lot in the main intersection in downtown Penn Valley. At first, Wildflower Nursery was just a convenience nursery, but has since grown to a beautiful destination nursery and community gathering spot. It’s a place to hang out, with a creek that runs through it, shaded benches, and a gift shop. Future plans post-Covid involve hosting beer, wine, and cheese events with live music; with the goal being Wine at Wildflower on Wednesdays. Scott’s wife Rory orders for the nursery, and she was the main impetus to bring in giftware. In his dedication to supporting other local businesses, Gutierrez carries unique, locally made items such as furniture by Jody B as well as nine other local vendors who sell on consignment. “The idea was beautifying the heart of downtown Penn Valley, and I feel like we hit the nail on the head with that,” Gutierrez explained. “Our goal isn’t to make a profit at Wildflower, our goal is to break even and have a spot for people to feel comfortable to hang out.”

At the beginning of 2021, the only hole Gutierrez felt was missing was lumber. The store had convenience lumber, but not like a place where contractors could stop by for supplies for their projects. So Gutierrez invested in a lumber racking system and they are now a full blown lumber yard with a contractor salesperson, who they got from Diamond Pacific after 25 years. They have also acquired a couple of delivery trucks, including a piggyback forklift delivery truck. “The contractors who were going up to Grass Valley now can just keep Penn Valley money in Penn Valley to help self-sustain the community,” Gutierrez said. “Penn Valley is really starting to find its place. When I first came up here, we were driving past the ball field and there was a sign that said “lifestyle with opportunity”. That was an inspiration to me, and I bought that actual sign. We have taken it to heart and ran with it.”

Penn Valley True Value is not about transactions, it’s about relationships. It’s also knowing their customers by name. Some contractors are there five times a day. Some customers come to hang out and talk, not buy anything. With the big box stores and Amazon, price isn’t everything; you have expertise there that will add so much value to your project beyond what you pay for the product. However, to stay competitive and remain fair in their pricing, if you come with an ad that shows the same thing at a lower price, they will match that price if possible as long as the comparison is “apples to apples”.

True Family Value

During the store remodel in 2011, Gutierrez was living in the store as his wife was staying in their south Sacramento home while she finished her degree to become a pharmacist. He saw the old store owner and mentioned that he was living in the store, and the owner said that his parents had recently passed and so he had a house available in Lake Wildwood that he could rent to Gutierrez if he was interested. He was, and moved into that house where they lived until 2014, when he and his wife were ready to buy a home. They were driving around Lake Wildwood and saw an open house at a property that was everything they dreamed of, and learned to that it was the old Vogt Ranch, a big piece of Penn Valley/Lake Wildwood history. They bought the house, which sits on six acres, and are raising their two small children (ages two and four) on their own private slice of heaven. “The True Value here is a big part of Penn Valley, and the Vogt ranch is a big part of Lake Wildwood; it’s the only farm inside of the gated community,” Gutierrez said. “We feel so fortunate to have two important pieces of Penn Valley in our family.”

Family to Gutierrez isn’t only his wife, kids, and blood kin; it is also the employees who come to work at Penn Valley True Value. He selects his employees based on three essential values: humble (not thinking less of yourself, just thinking of yourself less); hungry (drive to come to work); and smart (not necessarily intelligence, emotional and situational awareness). Applicants who possess those qualities are people who will fit in just fine with the Penn Valley True Value family. “One of the things I love most about doing this is knowing that I can provide jobs for people in our community. And not only just a job, but a good job, where they enjoy coming to work,” Gutierrez said. “We may not be able to pay people corporate career wages, but what we can offer is flexibility and a good work environment, and you don’t get that in many places today.”

“We try to keep that family feel, and make sure during the onboarding process to make new employees feel like they are part of the family, and that they are part of a real team.” Tammy added.

In fact, Penn Valley True Value is currently hiring, and it’s a fun fact that several current and former employees have found love working at the store; so much so that Gutierrez performs wedding ceremonies for them and writes the love story of each couple to present at their weddings. So if you are single and looking for love and for work, and have the three necessary qualities to be a True Value employee, drop by with an application. You could find much more than just a job.

Penn Valley True Value is located at 17387 Penn Valley Dr. To learn more, visit their website at https://stores.truevalue.com/ca/penn-valley/18863/.

 

 


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