Few companies have a four generation-strong family history, even fewer have been in business for 80 years; however, A.J. Padelford & Son Inc. (AJP) is an exception in the California construction industry. “This year, we’re celebrating 80 years and four generations running,” shares Diane Young, treasurer and secretary of AJP. “We are a general contractor, performing strictly commercial work, mostly in the retail sector. Our approach is different because we’re very hands on. Every project has a family member or owner involved. Our field team has an overage of 25 years of service with the company.”
Young says AJP handles buildings and projects as if they were its own. “We build how we would want our own building to be done with top-notch quality,” she explains. “We take it very seriously and have great pride in our 80-year heritage.”
Roots that run deep
AJP’s roots began in southern California’s dairy land in the early 1930s. “My grandfather, Arthur James Padelford “A.J.,” started the company back when this area was all farm land, building dairy barns and chicken coops,” recounts Diane. “Today, we remain grounded in the community we live in and our team is heavily involved in civic and historical organizations. My father, Gene Padelford, actually helped incorporate the city of Artesia, Calif., where the company began and in 1959, he served as the first mayor of the town.”
In 1934, the milk business was booming and as a young carpenter, A.J. saw an opportunity to start a small company to support the industry in Dairy Valley. The new one-man company sustained through the end of the Great Depression by building dairy farms and occasionally homes.
After graduating from Cal Berkeley, Gene served in the Army during World War II. He was discharged in 1944 and returned to help his father build dairies to help support the war effort. In the ensuing postwar years, Gene and his high school sweetheart and wife, Bettye, built AJP and their family.
In the 1950s and 1960s AJP shifted its focus to the commercial side of construction, which included the first auto dealership, Pioneer Ford, as well as new clients, such as All America Market. Later, Market Basket and other various small to midsize shopping centers also became clients.
Growing alongside the market
In the 1970s, with the rapidly growing suburban area, the dairy farms moved east and AJP expanded to county and local city work. AJP built many public works facilities, libraries, city halls and parks with the help of Gene’s two sons, Doug and Dan, both graduates of USC, as well as his nephew Hollis “Gene.”
During the 1980s, AJP built for major corporations, such as Vons, Ralphs and The Home Depot. As southern California thrived, AJP built luxury shopping centers in neighborhoods such as Manhattan Beach, Dana Point and Laguna Hills. Furthermore, AJP has built many automobile dealerships in the past, including a large part of the Cerritos Auto Mall.
During the last decade of the 20th century, AJP’s partnership with Home Depot prospered and the company worked on more than 60 of the home improvement stores. “Today, 60 percent of our work load is commercial remodels but we do ground-up construction, as well,” notes Diane.
A reliable retail sector
AJP’s work in recent years has been in the retail-grocer arena. “With the economy the way it has been, supermarkets are essential because everyone still has to eat and it’s really been our bread and butter through the recession,” states Diane. “These supermarkets have included Vallarta, Northgate Gonzalez, Super King, Amapola, 99 Ranch, Vons and Gelson’s. These very diverse markets and clients, cover the varied cultures of southern California.”
Additionally, the company finished a 13-story renovation of a 1920s building for the Public Storage Company in Silverlake, Calif. “That was a significant project due to the building’s history in the area,” explains Diane.
Safeway Companies is another one of AJP’s longstanding clients. “We are completing a large-scale shopping center project for PDC Properties, the real estate arm of Safeway Companies,” details Diane. “Our team did the 14-month project in multiple phases, delivering a $12 million expanded supermarket and facelift on a shopping center that was built in the 1970s in Santa Clarita, Calif.”
Not far away in Long Beach, Calif., AJP recently completed a new Gelson’s Market near Marina Pacifica Harbor. “This unique $5 million market includes a rooftop patio complete with fireplace built for customers to enjoy sweeping harbor views,” Diane continues.
According to Diane, AJP wouldn’t be able accomplish its extensive workload without the very professional team of subcontractors. “The right team is essential in building the repeat business that has helped AJP stand the test of time and 80 years in business,” she details. “We continually build for the same clients because of the quality of our work and our hands-on approach. There is always a family member on every project, which gives us a unique feature to serve our clients.”
Diane goes on to note that AJP’s clients trust the company’s integrity. “This is because it all comes back to the ethics we have exemplified for the past four generations,” she explains. “We have been blessed over the last 80 years to team with so many wonderful clients, architects and especially our hard working subcontractors who have completed our team.”
Currently AJP’s fourth generation includes Doug’s two sons, as well as Hollis’ two sons and daughter and Diane’s son. “There aren’t many companies that have succeeded for four generations,” Diane says proudly. Moving forward, A.J. Padelford & Son Inc. continues to build with the integrity and trust that comes with 80 years of family-focused business.