OROVILLE, Calif. – Anyone who owns their own business knows there are few moments of free time. That changed for one Paradise business as a result of the Camp Fire. The owners had a nine-month, and very unwelcome break.
Action News Now Morning Anchor Julia Yarbough spent time with the owner of a business who is now recovering and making a new start in Oroville.
It was the start of a regular work day for Jeff Sheppard, the owner of Ridge Transmissions, when he took a break from the gears and grease to sit down and talk about his 35-year journey. The discussion covered Sheppard’s personal experiences of building, losing, then rebuilding his business and what he has learned about work, what is important and the community.
Sheppard says he moved into Paradise in late 1979 and started a business with a partner. Then several years later in 1985, he opened Ridge Transmissions. He says he had a great business for many years which included great customers, whom he misses. He says it was devastating to everyone to lose Paradise, which he describes as a beautiful town.
The morning of the Camp Fire, Sheppard says he and his crew saw the fire coming and saw embers hitting the parking lot. At that moment, he says he thought the entire town might ‘go.’
Months later, once all the damage was assessed, Sheppard said he thought there was a chance of reopening business in Paradise because long-time customers would return. But then he says he realized, there were no people to support a business. He says state clean-up crews advised it would take months, if ever, to clean up the property.
Sheppard says he sometimes drives through Paradise. He says it hurts his heart to move through what is left of the town.
The next challenge was to decide what to do. Sheppard says an opportunity then emerged: a business in Oroville came up for sale; a business similar to his own.
“It was a major blessing. Braun’s Automotive was available for sale; to take over a business and we combined the shop. It is a major blessing to be able to come back to work and take care of people,” said Sheppard. “My mechanics and technicians are back and able to make a living to support their families.”
Sheppard says one of his favorite aspects of the business is working on and fixing old cars. He says, “You can’t beat the good old days and that’s part of us. We enjoy fixing up old cars. Most of all we like to make customers happy.”
Sheppard is currently working on a 1967 Skylark convertible for customer Mark Dolan, who traveled from Concow for the work. He too was impacted by the Camp Fire. He says focusing on converting his car’s engine and upgrading to a new turbo-400 transmission, has been a bright spot in his life since the Camp Fire.
He says he loves hearing the sound of the engine and knowing the strength of the horse-power. He describes the feeling he gets when the motor starts, as ‘giddy,’
That is the satisfaction Sheppard says he is looking forward to bringing back to customers and making new friends in Oroville. And for others who are still deciding whether to rebuild a business or move on in the aftermath of the Camp Fire, he has this advice:
“Be strong. We have all been devastated by this trauma, of losing our town. Our hearts are always going to hurt. But try and be strong. Put your head up. There is so much support out there; so much love and wonderful good people here in Northern California. We are going to be okay.”