By Rachel LaFranchi, Farm News Production Editor
|Sunni Ashley stands in front of years worth of 4-H thank you letters and pictures from local youth who sold market animals at the Sonoma County Fair purchased by VIP. Photo by Rachel LaFranchi.|
The concept of Vineyard Industry Products came about in the early 70’s when Paul Downer was selling t-posts from the trunk of his car. By the late seventies, Paul and Laraine Downer were working out of the spare bedroom of their house and had six phone lines running to the room. They officially started Vineyard Industry Products in 1979.
The Downer’s son, John, joined the business in the 1980’s. Having known the family for a long time, Sunni Ashley started at the company in mid-90’s to set up the computer systems. But Ashley, a business-minded person, quickly became more involved.
In 2000, John Downer and Ashley purchased Vineyard Industry Products from Paul and Laraine.
Vineyard Industry Products grew quickly and steadily moving from a spare bedroom to an established office in Windsor. Now, they have expanded to three locations, with stores in Paso Robles and Los Alamos.
They employ 12 people full time across their stores, with the biggest location, Windsor, having 10 employees. Their stores have a friendly feel to them, and customers often find up to four dogs in the Windsor store – who all have their own roles, Ashley said.
For Vineyard Industry Products, how they treat other people is an important part of their business. “Paul and Laraine set standards for how we treat our employees, how we treat our vendors and how we treat our customers,” said Ashley, “John and I continue that and luckily we’ve been fortunate enough to do so.”
Vineyard Industry Products takes pride in the fact that they are innovative. They strive to provide growers with products that make their life easier and they are always watching out for the best prices.
Supporting the community and local organizations is also important to Vineyard Industry Products. They have been Farm Bureau members since 1981, more than 34 years, and jump on any opportunities to sponsor events, provide equipment or help in any way they can.
“When I see all the things the farmers have to deal with, all the regulations and now the labor shortage, it reminds me that it’s important to continue to support the organizations that fight for farmers,” said Ashley.
Vineyard Industry Products also supports local youth in agriculture by buying four to five animals each year at the Sonoma County Fair. “4-H and FFA is a wonderful learning experience for the children,” said Ashley. “To see all these kids blossom into professional business people is amazing.”
After 36 years in business, Vineyard Industry Products has built a successful company. With aims to support community and offices spread over three locations, they’ve come a long way from Paul selling items from the back of his trunk.