Truck of the Month: Cabrillo Plumbing, Heating & Air, San Francisco
Convey personality at Cabrillo Plumbing, Heating & Air.
A few years after coming to the U.S. from Germany, Abraham Kent started a small hardware store on Cabrillo Street in 1955. As work picked up, Kent got a contractor’s license and Cabrillo Hardware became Cabrillo Plumbing.
Current owner and President Jeff Meehan connected with the company in 1973. He worked as an apprentice plumber during the day and went to college at night to study business. Meehan left the company to start his own plumbing business, which he operated for eight years before returning as the owner of Cabrillo in 1990. Kent retired shortly thereafter, and in 1992, Cabrillo added HVAC to the business.
The company currently has 13 service trucks, an additional four support vehicles, and 21 employees. Cabrillo Plumbing serves customers from the Golden Gate Bridge to Silicon Valley and performs mainly residential services; however, the company spent many years in high-end remodeling. The work the company currently performs encompasses all aspects of plumbing and HVAC.
Meehan attributes the success of the business to the company’s 16 years in the Nexstar organization and said he would probably not be in the industry today if not for Nexstar. Cabrillo is also part of Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors — National Association, and Meehan recently retired as chairman of the board of his local Better Business Bureau.
As for the fleet, Meehan says their vehicles are almost all Ford, and always have been, with the exceptions being the GMC HHR compact sport utility vehicle and the Chevy 1954 fully restored “pride of the fleet” pickup truck. All Fords have been custom fabricated, and each of the three types are the same. The back ends of the trucks all feature custom-made removable aluminum bin shelving. The three boxes are made by Supreme with shelving installed by Hackney.
“There are six E-350 one-ton vans, which are primarily used for plumbing,” Meehan said. “These trucks are very unique and have substantial tools and part inventories. The next type of truck is the E-350 cutaway with a 10-foot box on the back. These trucks can be used for two trades due to their increased size. This truck, although difficult on narrow streets, is probably the most desirable.”
Meehan said they chose these vehicles for efficiency, capacity, and maneuverability.
“You really want a lot of tools and materials onboard,” he said. “Good grief, you do not want to have to give up your parking space to go get something. The joke is the best truck is the one that will fit into that parking space you are still looking for.”
Every truck in the fleet, except the 1954 truck, is wrapped. The truck design is customized for each vehicle make and model. Meehan worked with Graphic D-Signs’ Dan Antonelli in Washington, New Jersey, to complete a major truck wrap redesign that involved transitioning the entire fleet from paint and vinyl lettering to full wraps. It took a year to complete the project.
“For the wrapping of the fleet, we used our local vendor, Abby Conklin from A52 Signs & Graphics, who did a great job and helped customize the new branding on the smaller trucks,” Meehan said. “This new design is a continuation of our old design. Our design was intended to convey friendliness and cleanliness as well as give our company a personality. All the techs say that Mr. Cabrillo was modeled after them, which is funny because some of the techs don’t even have any hair.”