Case Studies

Ray Wetmore – Pacific Bay Masonry Inc.

Laying a foundation for the future

The need for multifamily housing growing in the Bay Area as well as in much of the Golden State, there’s no shortage of work for Pacific Bay Masonry and its team approach for materials and labor.

“We’ve got around 70 projects right now,” President and Project Manager Ray Wetmore tells Blueprint in December from his San Jose headquarters. “It gets a bit crazy as we’re in a strong market with a lot of construction going on. But we’ve got some very good people doing their jobs and that keeps us going.”

They’re currently working on some notable apartment complexes as well as commercial and industrial facilities mostly between Monterrey and Sonoma counties with a few elsewhere, including Sacramento. But as Wetmore explains, there’s not much reason to solicit work far from home where the company’s specialties are in such demand.

Near downtown San Jose, Pacific Bay Masonry can take credit for the Lexington family of luxury apartments. This is a wrap-around complex with a multilevel CMU—concrete masonry unit—garage for all dwellers.

Not too far away is Gallery South, also assembled in the CMU style that’s become trendy in Northern California. Combined with exterior finish that might be ground face, split-face or precision, it adds up to a unique look. The same holds for another company offerings of stone and brick veneer or pre-cast.

New talent welcomed

It’s what his team members—some of whom have been with Pacific Bay Masonry since Wetmore acquired the company in 1999—have been conditioned to do. Though the senior members are getting long in the tooth, the boss assures younger ones are being hired and trained in the skills, sometimes by Wetmore himself.

There’s much satisfaction to be gleamed, he says, about seeing a project come to fruition, though it can be a challenge rounding up the next generation of talent and work ethic.

“Most people don’t have the passion for physical labor,” laments Wetmore, who’s long accustomed to rising early and producing something tangible. “It can be really tough to find people who are willing to be outside when it’s cold, damp or hot.”

Wetmore often hires migrants and immigrants—with the right attitude and aptitude, he says new hires can be tomorrow’s foremen or superintendents. While he doesn’t often actively recruit, word of mouth gets around about Pacific Bay Masonry’s work environment.

Supply chains have been more of a challenge these past three years, which much of the needed materials being concrete blocks. Even with a couple local sources, Wetmore’s endured some shortages but says his projects rarely are delayed for long.

Sourcing supplies

Though he couldn’t have known it at the time, Wetmore had been preparing himself to lead this company since the late 1970s when, as a high school student, he honed his skills in construction and building materials. He was born to build, he says, and during the 1980s he befriended a couple Irish immigrants, Mike McGrath and Martin King, who had been masons in the old country and were looking to ply their skills here.

Wetmore connected his new friends with clients whom he had been selling construction materials to. When McGrath and King formed their own company in 1986, they too bought from Wetmore. Then they hired him for an estimating and administrative role, and the company grew—it was renamed Pacific Bay Masonry from Martin King Masonry in 1998. One year later, with McGrath returning to Ireland and King willing to stick around and mentor, Wetmore bought out the pair.

Though passionate about the construction industry, the 60-something Wetmore acknowledges his career is winding down, though he’s unlikely to just step aside. “A gradual slowdown” is his preference and he reckons the company will be in capable hands with the next leadership team including his daughter, Kristy Auerbach, who’s acquitted herself as secretary and treasurer, and Ramiro Flores as vice president and estimator.

Wetmore himself would appreciate more time for recreation, as he’s an outdoors type who enjoys mountain biking, skiing and golf. But he’s all business when it comes to Pacific Bay Masonry. He oversees every project from estimating to ribbon-cutting, and on his watch the company’s sales have increased seven-fold.

There’s much opportunity in this trade, with Wetmore citing himself as an example of how far one can go when good with hands and willingness to learn on the job. While the Bay Area housing crisis is unlikely to decrease, Pacific Bay Masonry has also been building big-box stores, banks and restaurants. Though the company doesn’t pursue institutional projects, it recently did the stonework for the University of California, Berkeley’s athletic training facility, which could open more doors.

“We’ve been very blessed,” Wetmore says. “There’s been a lot going on and we’ve been doing it well.”

View this feature in the Blueprint Vol. III 2023 Edition here.

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