Cesar MF Plumbing

Cesar Gonzales owner of Cesar MF Plumbing with his crew of employees.

Before buying his own plumbing company, Cesar Gonzales grew up working with his hands in Pueblo, Mexico.

After the school day, the young man shadowed his father who was carrying on the family’s legacy of

working in the truck-driving business. Gonzales was a natural. He understood the responsibilities of the transportation service; from changing oils, to sweeping the bus isles, and wiping down the seats.

He might have considered sticking with the family business, but at 16 years-old, life had another plan.

The teenager fell in love and wanted to get married. Unfortunately, his parents were not too keen on the doe-eyed romance.

“My parents didn’t give me the support for it,” Gonzales recalled. “So that makes me immigrate to the United States, to work and to save some money, and then that way I can get married.”

It wasn’t an easy choice, but a brave one. Gonzales packed his bags and set out on a new path, hoping to eventually return home with his earrings. But, things didn’t go according to plan.

“It didn’t work that way,” he explained. “I just came over here and I planted my seeds, you have family, you have kids. I have five kids and this became home.”

When Gonzeles came to the United States, he thought he would apply some of the manual labor skills he learned helping out with his father’s business.

He heard about MF Plumbing, a Seaside-based company founded back in 1979 by Mike Miller and Frank Kemmerer.

Gonzales still laughs when he thinks back to the first interaction he had with his boss, Mike Miller.

Miller was very direct with him. “Are you a thief? Are you a liar?” he asked Gonzales. Gonzales shook his head no. And just like that, his new boss looked him in the eye, “Well if you’re not, you can work with me. I really need honest people.”

Miller took a chance on the young, inexperienced immigrant and offered him an apprenticeship, or on-the-job training.

It didn’t take long for him to learn the ins-and-outs of plumbing. He had to memorize the inventory, learn how to use various tools, dig trenches, and make repairs. It quickly hit him that the physical requirements of the job were quite taxing.

“It’s not easy to be a plumber, going under the crawl space with the dead rats. If you’re claustrophobic, I don’t know how you do it. You have to squeeze down between pipes. Most people realize that they don’t want to do it. That it’s hard,” Gonzalez admitted.

Soon after he earned his full-time position at the company, he decided he had enough of it.

“I figured out how plumbing works, I didn’t want anything to do with it,” he confessed. There was something else on his mind. “I wanted to do construction.”

His yearning for home-building came just as he learned a coworker, Steve Winters, was planning to open up a construction company. The timing worked out perfectly.

For the next twelve years, Gonzales pursued his next dream of building homes from the ground up.

Luckily, many of the skills he learned during his apprenticeship were transferable, which set him up for great success. He had the opportunity to help build over 20 homes.

But, construction wasn’t forever. Eventually, the company was sold to a bigger corporation. Gonzales missed the dynamic of being part of a small, close-knit team, and wanted to feel that his work was being valued. It quickly became clear that he was needed elsewhere.

Gonzales provided a very simple answer when asked why he got back into plumbing. “The need,” he said.

He thinks back to one late winter night, when he received a call from an elderly woman who heard water gushing around in her crawl space. She told him that her husband had recently passed away and she was too old to take care of the situation herself.

Gonzales wasn’t sure if he would be able to fix the problem, but at the very least he could shut off the water. “Right there it hit me, I have to get back into the program so I can help these people,” he said.

The tradesman spent a few years working for different plumbing companies before he learned that his first employer, MF Plumbing, was having financial troubles. The present owner, Derek Miller, didn’t want to be responsible for the business anymore.

Gonzales had fond memories of the company that jump-started his career. He explained that many of the owners of plumbing and heating companies in the Seaside and Cannon Beach area also got their start with an apprenticeship at MF plumbing.

When he learned that Miller wanted to sell the company, he stepped in.

“I didn’t need MF plumbing,” Gonzales explained. “But I didn’t want it to die, it was sentimental to me, it taught me a lot. That’s when I bought it, I added my name, respecting my mentors.”

Since purchasing the company, now rebranded Cesar MF Plumbing, Gonzales has put in the time and effort to expand.

Back when he worked for the company, they typically employed between five to eight laborers. Now, Gonzales runs a crew of 16 people and is continuing to look for more apprentices.

“I want to teach another generation and that is the best legacy, a name can last another 100 years,” he said.

According to Gonzles, the highlight of his job has been taking his son, Mayron, under his wings.

“I can not ask for a better son, he understands business, he understands what it takes, that you’ve got to be the first and last, he takes a lot of responsibility off my shoulders,” said the proud father.

“Within five years, he is probably going to take over. That is the plan.”

Gonzales hopes that more people will consider a career in the trade industry.

“I feel kind of sad that the new generation that always wants to look for some computer job, or some office work. Not many people are interested in electrician trades, or mechanical trades, like heating or plumbing, but I think machines can never replace real work.”

Gonzales is correct that trade programs have previously been overlooked in the United States.

However, the demand is certainly there, and data suggests that apprenticeships typically pay off.

Research indicates that completing an apprenticeship yields nearly $250,000 in additional lifetime income. The Department of Education also reports that apprentices generally rate their experience much more positively than college graduates.

Gonzales acknowledged that no immigrant has the same experience, but he is grateful that he was welcomed by a strong community in the Cannon Beach area.

“Seaside is multicultural, and Cannon Beach, Manzanita they are very embracing of immigrants,” he added.

He still misses Mexico, and occasionally feels split between his two identities, one as a Mexican and one as American. However, he is proud of where he is, and encourages other young immigrants to put in the hard-work.

“It might not pay you tomorrow, but somehow you will see a door open up for you. You just have to be ready.”


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