Joe Lucasey, an Italian immigrant, started a TV and radio repair shop out of his home, but he wanted to get out of retail. He started making tables in his garage, which he then sold to local stores transporting them himself in the family’s station wagon. On a good day, he was home early and the car was empty. On a bad day, he was home late and the car was still full.
The turning point for the business came when Joe discovered a new niche. People were stealing TVs out of hotels. Joe had the solution – the Lucasey lockdown, a combination mount and lock. A variation of the original device is still sold by Lucasey Manufacturing sixty years later. Today, under the leadership of Joe’s grandson Chuck, Lucasey Manufacturing is the leader in television mounting systems and customized airport screening tables.
Formerly known affectionately as “Diablo” for the mischief he caused on the factory floor in his first job at the family business, CEO Chuck Lucasey now manages many of the same employees he used to bedevil. Chuck’s first job at the company was sweeping the floors for 75 cents an hour. He moved up to hardware assistant in high school, and after he graduated from college he began working for the family business in earnest. “It was always my dream. Friends would say, ‘I want to be an astronaut.’ I’d always say, ‘I want to be a businessman,’” Chuck recalls. Chuck learned every aspect of the business from the trenches, gradually working his way up.
To this day, this is still very much a family-owned business. Chuck works daily alongside his mother, Janet, and his brother, Chris. His five year old daughter is too young to join the ranks for now, but he sees potential colleagues in his older nieces and nephews.
Lucasey Manufacturing has been in its current location for over 18 years, in a neighborhood in Oakland known as Jingletown. Jingletown is now, and has been for decades, a neighborhood of mixed use, with small factories side by side with houses. Jingletown got its name from the day laborers who used to work in the factories in the 50’s who would jingle the coins in their pocket on the walk home to show off that it had been a successful day. Chuck recounts the history of the neighborhood proudly highlighting Lucasey’s current role in the neighborhood’s evolving story, from the family’s take over of the old Del Monte peach canning factory to establishing the studio that would become Green Day’s JingleTown Recording.
The recession had a big impact on the industry. People weren’t travelling, so hotels weren’t renovating, and fewer people were flying so TSA wasn’t placing new orders. In 2010, Lucasey Manufacturing got a 7(a) loan from Community Bank of the Bay for $2 million to refinance the business. “I don’t know if we’d be here without that loan,” Chuck said.
Lucasey Manufacturing has found many advantages to keeping manufacturing domestic. They can move more quickly than their offshore counterparts. They have more flexibility. When a company has specific needs, they can meet them for a small order. When manufacturing in China, a bulk order is needed to make the economies of scale work for the stateside seller. Chuck readily admits they had to give up some product lines, because they couldn’t compete on price with the undifferentiated products being mass-produced outside of the country. They have kept their clients because they offer purpose-built solutions, and as such they have kept more than 40 manufacturing jobs in the Bay Area. Clients from PG&E and SFO to AT&T Park and the Four Seasons appreciate the “Made in America” label.
“I love manufacturing,” Chuck mused. “To be able to actually make stuff – there’s no greater joy. Growing up in a factory I took it for granted, but when I tell other people what I do, I see the interest in their eyes. In this disconnected society, at the end of the day, I have something to show for my work. Most people don’t have that.”