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Family's Reputation built on Norm Tessier Cabinets

Denise Beavers grew up with the smell of sawdust and the whirr of machinery in the air. Her father, Norm Tessier, had been a cabinet-maker for as long as she could remember, eventually opening a custom shop in Rancho Cucamonga in 1978.

His cabinetmaking know-how and professional ethics now survive him in his children and grandchildren.

The family runs Norm Tessier Cabinets Inc. - a business they've expanded into a building that's four times larger than its original spot.

That expansion rode the wave of a housing boom, as the development of new homes created a demand for their custom cabinets.

But they've also endured the bust - which has forced the family to grow closer to keep the business afloat.

"We've come full circle," said Beavers, who co-owns the company with her husband, David Beavers.

Indeed. Before the recession, Norm Tessier Cabinets' showroom was so busy, the Beavers hardly had time for a lunch break.

"We had to lock the door or post a sign: Out to lunch," David said. "We now have plenty of time for lunch ... Builders are not building as many homes. Some of the homebuilders are holding back before proceeding with jobs."

The economic downturn has forced the company to whittle down and revert to a truly family-run business, Denise said.

As the recession paralyzed the housing industry, the company's workforce shrank from 35 employees to about 10. While Denise concentrates on day-to-day office operations, her husband fills the general manager role. Her daughter concentrates on running the front office, sales, and designing cabinets. And her two sons help construct and install the cabinets.

With advances in technology and to cut down on manpower, they purchased machines that operate under the direction of computers, rather than manual control.

For Denise, the circle began when she was in high school.

Her father hired her then-high school boyfriend, David Beavers, to work and train under him.

But in 1990, Norm Tessier contracted non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a cancer of the white blood cells. Denise and her husband took over the business three years later when her father decided to sell the company. He sold the business in order to help provide for his wife after he died, Denise said.

"He was looking long term," Denise said. "If he passes away, who will take care of my mom?"

Denise, the youngest of six children, said she had held no aspirations while growing up to take over the business.

But she valued working closely with her father.

"It was quite rewarding," Denise said. "The last year of my dad's life, I got to spend more time with him."

Tessier died a year after selling his business at 63 years old.

But his legacy of professionalism continues to serve the business he built up.

Rocky Bettar, an administrator at Rowland Unified School District, found Tessier in a phone book 25 years ago while searching for someone to build cabinets in his new Rancho Cucamonga home.

This year, when he looked to renovate his house, Bettar went back to Norm Tessier Cabinets.

Bettar said Tessier's granddaughter, Jennifer Beavers, who designs many of the cabinets, met him in his home, and he saw many similarities in her attentive manner with Tessier's.

"They've changed with the times - you can't stay the same as 25 or 30 years ago - but the way they treat people and do business \," Bettar said.

Norm Tessier Cabinets works for home developers and residents to custom-design and make cabinets for the kitchen, bathroom and living area.

Instead of outsourcing parts such as doors, drawers and molding, the Beavers construct each component of the cabinets. They select their wood from nearby mills, such as Hardwoods in Riverside or Peterman Lumber Inc. in Fontana.

The husband and wife were novices at running a business and worked hard to learn quickly while raising three young children in the early years, they said. Denise had taken accounting courses while attending Chaffey College and David had experience writing contracts for the company, which helped the couple.

"We learned the business from sweeping floors, building cabinets," Denise said. "When we transitioned we had to learn the inside: paperwork, payrolls, payables."

In pushing the company forward, the Beavers moved the operations in 2004 into a 20,000-square-foot space in Rancho Cucamonga, an expansion from the former 5,000-square- foot location.

It wasn't long after when the recession came.

Still, the family keeps the memory of Norm Tessier alive through a shop cat they've named Norm and their work.

"Since my dad passed away, the smell of sawdust brings back memories of him," Denise said. "That smell of sawdust smells like dad."

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