Long-time customers of B & L Outdoor Power Equipment in Hollister are now looking for a new place that can meet their equipment parts and service needs.
After more than 30 years of serving the community, the owners of B & L, Larry Vejraska and his son Jeremy, posted a letter earlier this month to the front doors of their building informing customers that they have closed down because, “Father Time and Mother Nature finally did us in.”
In mid-May straight-line winds ripped through downtown Hollister and left a trail of damage behind. One of the handful of businesses and properties impacted was B & L, which was the final bit of motivation the Vejraska family needed to call it quits.
“It’s not our first storm, or situation, dealing with mother nature. A lot of it is, again it’s a family owned business. There is basically my parents and me that run the company. I would really like to see them retire and get to enjoy some life,” said Jeremy Vejraska. “With health issues and the stress of things that are normally happening with the business.”
We’ve had four floods and then the storm – the tornado that wasn’t a tornado – that did the damage this time. I think we finally realized it’s time to take the opportunity to say ‘Nobody’s been hurt in any of the things that have happened to this point, so maybe it’s time to make that happen. Let’s retire and take that next step towards something new.”
B & L started in a little garage on the north end of town, but 24 years ago they moved to their current location along BB Highway. In that time, Vejraska said, flooding was never an issue until 2008, when the Army Corps of Engineers opened the floodgates to Table Rock Dam, and the Vejraskas experienced their first flood.
“The second one was the flash flood. That was the bad one when Turkey Creek and the whole valley from the airport down (flooded). It literally just destroyed buildings and houses. It was just amazing that nobody was here. It happened in the evening when most businesses were closed, and that nobody got killed in that one was amazing. But then again, we had elevated lake levels and run off that got us two times after that. But it’s all been since 2008 to now.”
Since the closing announcement was made, Vejraska said he was amazed by the outpouring of support from their generations of customers who understand why they’re closing shop.While his parents are looking to retire, Vejraska said he’s still undecided on what he will do next.
“I love the reward of the work that I do. I’ve always done work with my hands, whether it was antique furniture restoration or restoring cars or fabricating metal,” he said. “I’ve always done something like that, so I do enjoy it. I may do something of my own. I don’t know.”
Even though the store itself is closed to customers, Vejraska said he was insistent that they complete any repairs or service to equipment they had already been scheduled.
“So any equipment that was in here waiting for repairs that’s basically what I’m focusing on. Making sure that equipment is taken care of,” said Vejraska. “They were under the assumption that their equipment was going to get repaired. I want to make sure they know it is, because it’s still our reputation. That’s important to me. Especially if I go forward and continue in this business or a business like this, I want to make sure they understand that we’re still people of our name. That’s the one thing we’ve always stressed.”
Since the store closure was announced there have been a few people interested in taking over and purchasing the business.
“We’ve had a lot of customers, as well as commercial customers and just other people in the area that have shown interest in purchasing the company and keeping it going, which is fantastic,” Vejraska said. “I’m not going to put a whole lot of stock in that happening.
“I hope it does. The community definitely needs a store like ours, but we’ll just have to wait and see.”
Vejraska said, more than anything, he and his parents want people to know just how much they appreciate them.
“When it boils down to it, we’re a store and people have the choice to be in business with us or not. Over the years, we’re successful because they allowed us to be successful. That’s the thing that I just really, really want to be understood is ,we know it’s because of the community that we’ve become who we are.
“That’s also the same thing that’s made it so hard to decide to take this next step.”