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Thursday, Jun 1, 2023

Valley Businesses as Diverse as Population

Business in the Valley isn’t just where or what we think it is. A horseback survey (that means I asked four friends) shows that most of us think of the Valley business community as a barbell-shaped entity: two large round weights at Universal City and Warner Center, connected by a bar known as Ventura Boulevard. If you’re in need of a lawyer, an accountant or a medical professional, there’s probably some truth to that view. But the richness of Our Valley is that a kaleidoscope of businesses survive and thrive across our North-of-Mulholland region and most of the people who work therein don’t take elevators up several floors to oak-paneled offices. Those of us who do work in offices know the truth of poet Robert Frost’s view: “The brain is a wonderful organ; it starts working the moment you get up in the morning and does not stop until you get into the office.” Much of the best “work” in the Valley doesn’t take place in offices as evidenced by Bobrick Washroom Equipment, one of the few remaining Valley-based companies founded more than a century ago. In 1906, George Augustus Bobrick, a manufacturer of waxes and ammonias, conceived the idea of the first liquid soap dispenser and obtained a patent for it in 1908. He later developed a soap dispenser for Pullman railway passenger cars and a soap dispensing giant was born. The company has since morphed into the world’s leading designer and manufacturer of washroom equipment and supplies. They celebrated their 60th anniversary in 1966 by moving into a new 32,000-square-foot headquarters building on Hart Street in North Hollywood, where the firm continues to be flush with success. In May, 2005, then-Mayor Hahn selected Bobrick’s North Hollywood headquarters as the location for signing Los Angeles’ business tax reform ordinance. And just when we feared the Valley would be taken over by an endless string of chain restaurants, hotels and coffee shops we discovered thriving businesses based on individuality and craftsmanship. Take Silver King. Designers of almost everything in silver you could imagine, Silver King was founded in 1977 by Miguel and Maria Davalos, a couple who immigrated from Mexico. Silver King is one of the many small shops located along Devonshire Street in Chatsworth, where the Old West still echoes. Three of their four children Marcia, Malila and Miguel Jr. have turned the silversmith shop into a family affair, with Miguel Jr. creating new artistic designs. Among their more fascinating creations is a belt buckle they made for Governor Schwarzenegger. Not to be outdone, Antonio Villaraigosa had the Davalos family create a buckle for him, which modestly proclaims in raised silver letters: “Los Angeles Mayor.” Other celebrities who have found their way to the unprepossessing north-end-of-the-Valley shop are Tom Selleck, Dwight Yoakam and Jennifer Tilly. Miguel Jr. will be demonstrating the age-old art of silversmithing at the upcoming free SummerFest 2007, which will be held at the historic Chatsworth Train Depot on June 9. And since we’re at the north end of Our Valley When you think of Ted Diggins, only one word comes to mind: “grizzled.” A wiry man who won’t see 60 again, Diggins is one of the Valley’s last farriers (that’s “horseshoer” to city slickers like me and probably you). Raised in West Virginia, Diggins grew up with horses. He started shoeing at 14 and has spent his whole life around equines except for the years he served in the military in Japan, Korea and Vietnam. Diggins has been living and shoeing in Chatsworth for 32 of the 45 years he’s been practicing his craft. He says he loves this area for its spirituality and its connection with the Native American cultures. He talks about standing on Devonshire Street, looking up at Pregnant Indian Mountain and thinking about those who lived in this region hundreds of years ago. Diggins reflects on his many years as a Man of the West: “I live every day as an adventure; the key things for success in my business are integrity, knowledge and a sense of caring for horses. Every horse I shoe, I shoe as if it’s my own,” he said. “I love having my own business,” Diggins said. “I’m the Employee of the Month every month.” “Diversity” has become one of the top ten politically correct words that pepper our 21st century nomenclature. Perhaps we should keep in mind that diversity is not just a word that refers to ethnic, racial and religious groups, but to where we live and work and what we do as well. Our Valley contains slightly more than 50,000 businesses with a workforce of 825,000 people. It includes people who make bathroom supplies, etch silver and shoe horses. Ain’t that grand? “There’s no labor a man can do that’s undignified, if he does it right.” Bill Cosby Martin Cooper is Chairman of Cooper Beavers, Inc., marketing and communications. He is the Immediate Past Chairman of VICA, Past President of the Public Relations Society of America-Los Angeles Chapter, and of the Encino Chamber of Commerce, and is Vice President of the Los Angeles Quality and Productivity Commission. He can be reached at mcooper@cooper beavers.com.

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