By Sara Gilman | SDUN Reporter
L.B. Powers & Son Plumbing Company, Inc., operating as Powers Plumbing, is one of San Diego’s oldest plumbing companies. Established in 1914, they are a service, repair and remodel contractor located in the historic district of Mission Hills, at 1705 West Lewis St.
Powers Plumbing was founded by Luther B. Powers and eventually handed down to his son Calvin, and between the two of them, they ran the company for over 50 years. Ownership turned over twice more with long-standing employees until it was sold to Janet O’Dea in 2010.
O’Dea first learned about Powers Plumbing as a customer. “Every [Powers] plumber came to my house at one point or another,” she said. A toilet fiasco in 2007 changed the course of her career when she went to their store location to retrieve a missing ceramic handle. After a conversation with the then-owner, Phillip Stull, she was hired to do the bookkeeping for the company.
Soon after, O’Dea started to help with customer service calls. She encouraged the company to acquire a credit card processing machine and develop a website. “I guess I was a go-getter in their eyes,” O’Dea said.
In only two years, O’Dea was promoted to vice president and began preparations to take over the company, as Stull was ready to retire. Her passion for the industry flourished and she attended San Diego County’s Regional Occupational Program for training. She obtained her Green Plumber certification and non-plumber license. Her courses ranged from pipe soldering, plumbing codes, drawing and planning to the fundamentals of green plumbing.
“It was a nurtured transition when I took over the company,” O’Dea said. “I wanted to emulate the most important traditions of the company by holding the relationships and services as the top priorities.”
Environmentally conscientious, O’Dea said, “Our motto has always been: repair rather than replace.” The company does not throw anything away if it can be repaired in order to leave less landfill waste, O’Dea said. They encourage their customers to steer towards quality parts, as they typically last longer, require less service calls and help save water.
Displaying a 1900’s tankless water heater, 1929 Kohler sink as well as tools and parts dating back to that era, the shop is self-proclaimed as San Diego’s closest thing to a plumbing museum. Additionally, visitors can find modern-day; high-end parts mixed in with a random collection of hard-to-find colored toilet covers and discontinued accessories. “We are a boneyard of tanks and parts,” O’Dea said.
The company takes a modern approach to the line of old-fashioned, know-your-customers-by-name service. They have high-tech sewer line cameras, iPads for their off-site employees and use social media for marketing. “We wanted a new approach to problem solving and trouble-shooting,” O’Dea said, “There was a learning curve at first, but now everything is working out well.”
O’Dea added that their customer base crosses generations with parents recommending to their children and neighbor word-of-mouth referrals.
Community involvement plays a large role at Powers Plumbing. As a founding member of the Mission Hills Heritage Organization, O’Dea said she believes in preserving the historic character of the community.
The company enlisted local historian Allen Hazard to compile a self-guided walking tour booklet, entitled “Power Walks.” It features three separate walks, pointing out over 50 homes and historic sites in Mission Hills. The profits from the sale of the book help raise funds for neighborhood beautification projects. Past proceeds have paid for a new bus bench on Lewis Street. They are currently working towards the goal of raising funds for a Calvary Cemetery/Pioneer Park marker to honor the founding citizens of San Diego who are buried there.
For more information regarding the services of Powers Plumbing or to inquire about “Power Walks,” visit bestsandiegoplumber.com.