Don Heldoorn's business plan didn't come to him in a dream. It woke him up at 5 a.m. on a spring day about three years ago.
A welder for 28 years, Heldoorn and his wife, Brenda, own Carson Valley Welding in Carson City.
It was their home in South Lake Tahoe that received an unwelcome and hungry guest.
"I heard the pots and pans rattling in the kitchen that morning, and I thought it was my son making breakfast," said Heldoorn. "I was going to go into the kitchen and chew him out for making so much noise, but when I opened the hall door, about four feet in front of me was a bear on his hind legs sweeping a loaf of bread off the top of the refrigerator."
He said the bear then stomped its feet at him. Heldoorn ran down the hall and shut his bedroom door and screamed at the bear to leave.
It did, leaving behind a broken storm door and screen in the family's Jacuzzi room.
The game warden later estimated the bear to have been about 450 pounds. That day the Heldoorns not only found out that bears are strong enough to break into their home, but that they are responsible for keeping their property secure from bears.
Trash cans attract bears to areas where they are more likely to get hit by a car. El Dorado County, Calif., euthanizes bears that are a nuisance to homeowners. The Heldoorns prefer not to see either of those things.
"That gave us the idea that maybe we should start a business," he said.
Brenda Heldoorn said Carson Valley Welding, 1046 Mallory Way, does general welding "but our main product is the No Bear Can."
Several No Bear Cans sat outside the shop, waiting for delivery to customers. The cans, which are powder coated brown or green, have a child-safe release on the inside.
The cans can only be opened with a key, which hangs outside the box for waste pickup. Heldoorn said that bears won't get into the can - unless they discover how to operate the keys. Then he laughed.
El Dorado County requires all new homes and remodels of more than 500 square feet to have a bear-proof trash receptacle, which Brenda Heldoorn said has helped their business, and many others that manufacture similar products.
Carson Valley Welding received a bear-tested certification this month from the Living With Wildlife Foundation. The No Bear Box was baited with fish, peanut butter and honey and left to the ingenuity of five bears. After the required 90 minutes of contact from the bears, none of them could break open the box.
Heldoorn said the product's design and materials makes it a difficult crack.
"We use 12-gauge steel throughout the entire box and it weighs 407 pounds," he said.
"It has a simple design. It all comes to keeping the seems tight because bears can fold a car door like nothing."
Since the business opened in August, he's made about 60 bear boxes. Heldoorn hopes to make more than 200 this year. He employs one additional welder.
So far the Heldoorns invested about $70,000 into the business, and another $40,000 in welding equipment that they had already purchased.
"We do this to help the community and save our bears because we really don't want to see our bears die," he said.
n Contact reporter Becky Bosshart at email@example.com or 881-1212.
no Bear Cans
30-by-50 inches, 48 inches tall
Will hold three standard trash cans
50-by-36 inches, 48 inches high
Will hold four standard trash cans
Contact the business at 884-9353
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