When John Nelson found out he was named Small Business of the Year for 2017 by the Greater Tehachapi Chamber of Commerce in coordination with Tehachapi News, he said he was overwhelmed.
Owner of John the Plumber, Nelson brought his business to Tehachapi in 2012, and runs it with the assistance of his wife, Sarah Rose.
"It's exciting and very much an honor because there are quite a few amazing businesses in town," said Rose, who married her plumber husband last August, but chose to keep her last name.
Before moving to Tehachapi, John owned and operated Cal City Plumbing, but changed the name of his business after meeting Rose and relocating. Although the move made more sense to he and his wife, John says he still serves his Cal City customers on a daily basis as a plumber of 18 years.
Rose, who nominated the business, wrote, "Even before becoming a full-time Tehachapi resident in 2012, John Nelson … was active working in and supporting the community of Tehachapi. During the housing boom of 2005, he was busy being the lead plumbing company for AMA Homes in Stallion Springs, and donated his labor to plumb the bathrooms of the Stallion Springs Community Center."
In addition to managing their business, the husband and wife team are active in a number of community organizations.
Rose wrote that she and her husband truly believe that it's both a duty and a blessing to give back to the community that supports them.
Four years ago, Nelson and Rose became members of Tehachapi's Community Emergency Response Team, working under CERT team leader David Shaw. As members, the couple attend ongoing training to be able to care for themselves and assist others in the community in the event of an emergency.
Last summer, Rose was activated and spent three days in the Lake Isabella community assisting victims of the Erskine Fire. Last month, she and Nelson worked with CERT assisting the Red Cross, canvassing neighborhoods in Golden Hills and installing smoke detectors in residences, free of charge.
Said Rose, "We just went out and talked to people, and chatted about fire prevention."
As members of CERT, Nelson and Rose have also lent a hand to other local organizations, providing manpower for events such as the Gran Fondo and the National Night Out campaign held at Central Park.
For the past three years, John the Plumber has been a sponsor of Chalk on the Walk, an event that raises money to purchase art supplies for local schools.
"That's actually kinda cool," said Nelson. "It's for kids, so everything they get out of it goes straight to the kids."
Rose said she was really impacted after watching the craft supplies being loaded up before their delivery to local schools.
"It was really nice to get to see your money in action," she said. "It was great to see her (Gale Caldwell) loading up the crayons and makers, just knowing that the teachers otherwise are having to buy this stuff."
The couple are also volunteers for the Visitor Center located in downtown Tehachapi. They also foster a close relationship with the Tehachapi Cancer Foundation.
Wrote Rose, "The cause that is perhaps nearest and dearest to our hearts is the Tehachapi Cancer Foundation. Several years ago, I worked with and befriended Tammy Wallace, the founder of the Foundation. After Tammy's passing from cancer in 2014, her husband, Jim, continued her legacy of providing support to local cancer patients."
When John the Plumber began looking for an organization that it could formally support, it didn't take long for Nelson and Rose to decide on TCF. The couple have pledged a donation of 1 percent of labor profits to the foundation, and for their recent wedding, they asked that guests donate to the foundation in lieu of gifts.
Said Rose, "I got to know Tammy and Jim really well, and Tammy was our team leader during the Relay For Life before I met John. Part of us growing as a company, I wanted to associate ourselves with some kind of cause. It didn't take but 10 seconds before I thought of the Tehachapi Cancer Foundation."
John the Plumber continues to grow as the company has recently employed Rose's two sons, Ben and Sam Hanley, and Mark Swisher, lead plumber.
Along with their community and charity work, John the Plumber is committed to growing, and has plans to hire at least two more plumbers within the next two years. The couple say they are excited and honored to think that their hard work and dedication within the business can empower other families to achieve their dreams and goals, thus supporting the Tehachapi economy and community as well.
Said Nelson, "We have some business prospects that we are looking over … but basically, we would like to take over all of Kern County. I absolutely love what I do. It just comes naturally to me."
John the Plumber maintains a solid policy: "If we don't fix it, you don't pay."
Said Ida Perkins, president of Greater Tehachapi Chamber of Commerce, "It is an honor to be able to recognize John and Sarah, John the Plumber, for their contributions and dedication to our community."
For more information, visit johntheplumberca.com.
As recipients of the Small Business of the Year award, John Nelson and Sarah Rose will be honored at the Greater Tehachapi Chamber of Commerce's annual Installation and Recognition Gala on Saturday, Jan. 21, at Villa La Paz located at the National Chavez Center in Keene. Dinner tickets to "All That Jazz" cost $50.
During the evening, awards will also be given to Citizens of the Year Jim and Cheryl Wilson, and Kenny and Christy Harrison of P-Dubs Grille & Bar, named Large Business of the Year for 2017.
To RSVP for the dinner, call the Greater Tehachapi Chamber of Commerce at 822-4180 by Jan. 13.
Editor's note: This story has been updated to clarify a name.