Piece by piece, Jim Munro is selling off his business on South Sacramento Street.
There are the small things. The drill bits and angle grinders and handsaws. There are the huge things. Cutters and presses that weigh many tons, soar nearly to the ceiling, and once thundered both night and day when a really big order came in.
Munro is selling everything, every drill press and file cabinet, every grinder and tin snip.
But he is keeping the memories.
There were hundreds of projects, from flagpoles to cannery conveyor chutes to massive innards for power plants. There were holiday parties and “Burrito Thursdays,” when Munro would bring in a load of burritos for all the employees.
At Vic Myers Inc., the company Munro owned with his wife, Karen, they did it all.
Metal fabrication for outfits from Texas to Argentina, all done with union labor, done right, and done on time.
The company has a history stretching back 74 years in Lodi. Munro built the firm from two employees and one building to a sprawling, bustling concern with 25 employees working in three cavernous buildings covering 25,000 square feet.
He started working at the firm when he was a kid, sweeping metal shavings off the floors.
(Original owner Vic Myers died some years before Munro joined the company, but the name was well established by then, so it was retained.)
In 1979, he and Karen took over the company from Munro’s uncle, Frank Guglemitti, and it started to grow steadily. One key to that growth: “Jim never said, ‘no,’ ” Karen Munro laughed.
The company took on virtually every job, adapting skills and equipment and schedules. One order led to another, and another. When necessary, the welding torches sparked through the night, the great machines roared nonstop, the grinders screamed, the workers logged whatever overtime was demanded.
As a general contractor, Munro could oversee the design, creation and installation of varied projects. He brought versatility to his company, along with an appreciation for his customers and employees. The wages were good, the work regular, the projects challenging.
“We were all-union, and we had really skilled people, really good people,” Munro said.
One of those good people, Jesse Rios, said the company paid well and treated workers with respect.
“I had a chance to move on, but I stayed,” said Rios, who was at Vic Myers for 23 years. “Jim was a great guy to work for.”
Much of the work was local. The craftspeople at Vic Myers created tanks and conveyors and catwalks for area packing houses and canneries such as Pacific Coast Producers. They made metal handrails for local homeowners. They built steel kitchen counters and rolling carts for Vienna Nursing and Convalescent Center. For one local customer, they created a large aluminum tube for use as a slide off a houseboat.
There were jobs that required many weeks, like an 8’ diameter stainless steel elbow fitting for a power plant in Kahului, Hawaii.
Other jobs took only a few minutes.
“If a guy needed a spot weld to fix a part for his motorcycle, we’d try to do it, no charge,” Munro said.
As president, Munro oversaw daily operations. Karen Munro, a retired media executive, offered guidance on major financial and strategic decisions.
Even until recent months, work was steady. But Munro, 70, said the time came to move on. It was harder to find qualified union metal workers and he and Karen are ready to spend more time enjoying friends, family and travel.
So it is all going, the gear, the tools, the great machines that thundered deep into the night and produced thousands of useful objects over almost three-quarters of a century.
Munro wants it out, the floors emptied, so he can lease or sell the buildings and step into the next phase of his life.
“It was a good run — a great run, really,” he said. “But the fire starts to go out over time. I’m ready to kick back now. Ready to hit the beach.
“And maybe watch the “Today” show until 10 every morning.