It all started the year I was a senior here at Tehachapi High School. The year was 1979, with 153 graduating seniors! It was the year that I helped take the baseball team to the CIF championship for the win. I’m pretty sure Kevin Austin, Johnny Rolin, and many others, are where the credit lies!
My stepfather Phil Stahlheber was wanting to slow down from his share of hotel rooms and rental cars to airline hassles to many nights away from home and family. His prior job was a field rep for a company out of Hauppauge New York called Auto-Numerics. A CNC company for huge drill presses known as milling machines or lathes. Equipment that could automatically cut out the same metal part hour after hour for days after days to make, anything from top-secret military missile parts to sprockets on a go-cart. After servicing the entire West coast for many years, he had enough. In that day these machines ran on a paper-tape with punched holes that were read causing the milling head to go left or right back and forth and up and down.
So Phil along with my mother Peggy sat down one night and brainstormed on what could they do here in Tehachapi that would allow them to have a better home environment for our family. Well as it turned out, there was not a single appliance repair company in town. There had been one some time ago, ran by a gentle man with, believe it or not, with the same last name as mine. Lange. I was told he was a great honest man with big hands and was in business for around twenty or so years. I know this cause I met his sister, who still lives here in town.
Well, anyways the beginning started with Tehachapi Repair Center. AKA T.R.C. Phil and Peggy were fixing anything they could to make their new business a success. Lamps, power tools and of course appliances. Phil had also purchased a milling machine and while I was attending THS, I helped make machined parts out of a small building on South St in Old Town.
I’m sure you know Todd Buttcane from the Lawn and Garden Shop downtown, his older brother Brent or Craig was one of our first employees.
Once I graduated from THS, I went to visit my real father in New York and worked for a company called Alos Micrographics as a warehouse manager. We made microfiche’ readers. After a year or so it was off to the Air Force as a security police officer. Then back to Tehachapi where I worked for Jack Dressel and Modern Alloys constructing steel towers for one of the first wind parks on the back road to Lancaster. After the tax credits for the year were over and the winter weather set in, I was laid off and collected unemployment until I was approached by my mom who related it would be nice if I would come to work for her. I laughed and said me work for you guys. Forget it!
The business grew and they changed the name to Tehachapi Appliance. By this time, they were selling Amana refrigerators that made ice cream in the freezer along with other products. They had a parts counter and had by the name of Russ repairing small engines. Well, in 1982 I went to work for mom after two months of unemployment and never figured it would have lasted 18 years till her death. Well things were going well for us all and we moved into a bigger building on South St and started selling new and used furniture and mattress. A lot of that merchandise was purchased from Eric’s dad Paul from Tehachapi Furniture while they were still operating down South. Paul retired but continued to sell furniture until his death when his son Eric took over. Mom had friends that would go to home auctions and purchase good used furniture and used us to sell it for them.
In the winter of 1989 my mother and stepfather divorced and divided up the business. For a short period we actually all worked together during the divorce process but after a while it wasn’t working out and I left. All of the small engine repair equipment and parts were sold to Todd Buttcane who opened up his own business from home until he forced to work away from his home due to zoning issues.
Down to Bakersfield I went and landed a job with Bakersfield Appliance. Being not only a field service tech, I was up to date on warranty claim filing for all the manufactures at the time. Well around 6 months later and a week before I married my wife Vicki, the company went under. I called my mom and she was ready to get out and after a phone call or two, we started Oak Valley Appliance in February 1989. We get asked why we chose that name and I’ll tell ya.
Across the street was Mike and Mary who owned Deerfield’s Appliance. They didn’t service but they were appliance dealers and we serviced what they sold and installed what they couldn’t. I asked him one day how he chose Deerfield’s and plain and simple he related he had taken a couple of things Tehachapi had and put them together. So, we did too! Mike and Mary sold the business once he received his masters in psychology and moved out of town selling it to the couple next door who were selling Jewelry.
As it turned out, the new owner’s wife was allergic to the new foam insulation they were using in the refrigerators and quickly sold everything and closed the store. Well anyways, Phil got to keep the phone number and he gave us 6 months before we would go under. Mom was not happy, but it was a challenge that we would beat the odds at. We moved into a small office where Chris Walters Realty was and opened shop. Vicki and I married and moved up to an apartment on Campo Ct and I repaired appliances out of my garage until the GH CSD wrote me a letter stating I needed to stop. Mom got on the phone and called everyone she knew and gave out our new phone number.
Henry Schaffer at the time had a huge property management business, which included maintenance at the Bear Valley Condo’s to mention one thing. She called almost everyone she knew. Those first few years were hard. Mom and I would work all week and after the bills were paid we might have taken home 50-75 bucks a week each. My wife Vicki was blessed by a 12 teacher hire at the TUSD and quit her teaching job at Heritage Oaks Christian School and doubled her salary. Things got better! Mom and I moved up South Street again and rented the building that Nick has with Integrity Glass.
Again we moved but finally ended up in the building that Curves for Woman now occupies. This place was awesome. I spared no expense and was told by the Maytag Sales Rep, we had the nicest looking store he had ever seen. Well it wasn’t 9 months later my mom passed away from breast cancer. Not a happy time as we worked so hard and spent so much money on the place. Well, me being a service tech and mom being the office manager, I wasn’t able to be in two places at once. I wasn’t able to maintain the store so a month later I closed the store. August 2001 we closed the retail side of the business. It was a shame as we had a live kitchen where we would demonstrate appliances by cooking. It was nice to walk in and smell fresh baked chocolate cookies, fresh out of the oven. We had appliance give a way’s and were selling Maytag, JennAire and Magic Chef brand appliances. Along with TV’s and other electronics. My grandfather was proud as he also in his day sold electronics.