As Carson grows, so does 50-year-old business
September 4, 2013
Artistic Fence, a family-owned business that began in Carson City, turned 50 this month and now boasts three Nevada locations.
Donn and Linda Simon started the business, which installs residential and commercial fencing, on Aug. 20, 1963, at 2152 N. Carson St. Back then, the state's capital city had a population of 5,000 and the couple had young children.
"At that time, I had three kids," Donn Simon said. "I just wanted a nice little business where I could do my thing and raise my family."
Now the city is more than 10 times larger, Linda has died, and those kids are well into adulthood; some help operate the business along with their own children.
The company moved in 1968 to its current location at 5740 U.S. Highway 50 E.
It has seen good times and bad, reaching 107 employees about a decade ago. When the recession hit, it cut back, as did many companies. It now has fewer than 50 workers, but it is doing well, Simon said.
Simon and his daughter Joanne, now vice president and in charge of day-to-day operations, say the secret to emerging strongly was watching expenses and plugging away without having taken on significant debt at inopportune times.
"We had a wonderful time building this business," said Simon, who's still the company president. Simon, 79, no longer is in the office daily. He is enjoying the fruits of his labors and the chance to watch his grandchildren help the business move toward the second half of its first century.
Ken and Joanne Dietrich are minding the store, with Joanne overseeing the firm in Carson City, though her father occasionally comes around. Ken is the expert, handling major security-style fencing with electronic gates, such as the one at Carson City's wastewater-treatment plant.
Their other children, JoeDonn and Jessica, also work at the firm and the Reno office is managed by Steve Brophy, their uncle. Brophy was married to Simon's oldest daughter, Suzan, who died of cancer. The Winnemucca office is managed by Alan Lees. The firm erects security fences and others made of wood, iron, chain and vinyl.
"We do all kinds of fences," Joanne Dietrich said. The pair said cedar and redwood are the woods of choice, and iron also is among the most popular fencing.
Sturdy is a characteristic of good fences, and it's also what the firm looks for in workers.
"I've had some great employees," Simon said. Dietrich, meanwhile, picked up on the family theme when she was asked to share the best and worst things about running the firm.
"The best thing about the business is that it's a family business," she replied, then laughed. "The worst thing about the business is it's a family business."
Moments later her son, JoeDonn, walked in and she crowed about him. The 24-year-old, asked if he wanted to run the family firm someday, replied with "I hope so."
Meanwhile, the firm's vice president offered up kudos to founder and father as he sat across from her.
"He had that 'it' factor," she said. "He's just a nice guy." The nice guy beamed as both of them talked of loving their work and reminisced about challenges and successes through the years.
Simon doesn't have to go all the way out to the business, however, to hark back to the early days. He still has his first big truck, a three-quarter-ton 1964 flatbed Chevy that he had restored. He keeps at his home, and it reminds him of when he was digging post holes to erect fences, growing his business and family fortunes.