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Manteca woodworker started business in parents garage
Nick’s Custom Cabinets and Christian Flooring owners Nick Fraser, left, and Christian Vanderhave look at some bamboo floor samples as Isabela, Christian’s daughter, looks on. The addition of the flooring business to the cabinet shop is the reason for Saturday’s grand opening and open house on Saturday. The event is open to the public. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO
There’s Bob the Builder on TV.

In the real world, there’s Nick the Custom Cabinet Maker.

This artisan in custom cabinetry is 28-year-old Nick Fraser of Manteca who juggles a growing business along with being a devoted husband and father to two young children.

This Saturday, Nick’s Custom Cabinets on Moffat Boulevard just behind Manteca High is inviting the public to an open house with barbecued hot dogs and refreshments from noon to 1 p.m.  The event is actually the grand opening for the newest addition to Fraser’s business, its flooring department.

What started out as a cottage industry based in the two-car garage of his parents’ home is now a 3,200-square-foot operation located in the building next to Precision Auto.

“I went from 400 square feet to 1,600 square feet, and now we have 3,200 square feet,” said Fraser tracing the growth of his business in the last eight years.

For the avid woodworker, his career goes back even farther than that. Armed with basic woodworking skills he was learning from his woodshop class at Sierra High School during his junior year, he landed a part-time job at Cabinet Systems in Tracy, which is now located in Lathrop.

 His vocational class at Sierra taught him “how to cut wood, assembling stuff like a step stool, sanding – pretty much your basic woodworking,” Fraser said.

“But I didn’t learn my cabinet trade there; I learned the trade working part-time at the cabinet shop.”

His part-time job stint at Cabinet Systems lasted until he graduated in 1999. His class was only the third at that time to graduate from Manteca Unified’s fourth high school campus.

After graduation, Fraser stayed on for another year at Cabinet Systems.

“Then I started doing things on my own. It was at age 21 when I went full-time. I just did it at my parents’ garage for a while. Then when I bought a house, I did it in my garage until I could afford to open up a shop (in) two years,” said the lanky young businessman with a serious mien.

It was the realization of a lifelong dream for Fraser. “Even when I was a kid, I always figured I was going to be a carpenter. I always just thought I’d be some type of a carpenter, although I ended up in finished carpentry,” he said.

He could have become a general carpenter building houses, he explained, but he found his interest and his niche in custom cabinetry. He liked the “beauty of a finished product” and the challenge of building a piece of art from scratch.

“It’s a lot more complicated to put together a cabinet than putting together a frame wall,” he said.

His business caters to both commercial and residential jobs.

“We do a little bit of commercial (projects) but not too much; we’re mostly targeting residential, mostly remodels,” he said.

“I usually start from scratch. A lot of times, customers will sketch something out that they had in mind. Most of the time they don’t have anything in mind, so I go and design it,” Fraser said explaining how he works with customers on custom projects.

“But basically we come up with a sketch or a plan together. They tell me what they want to incorporate and I give them ideas, so we pretty much come up with something together.”

For now, Fraser is happy with his 1,600-squre-foot shop which gives him plenty of elbow room when he is working on his projects. His parents’ garage was pretty adequate, too. “But business was getting good, I needed to expand. I needed to have more room. The garage was getting clogged, especially when you’re doing six to seven cabinets at a time,” and his tools were taking up as much as half of the space in the garage, Fraser said.

The latest expansion to his shop is for the flooring department which is the territory of his business partner, Christian Vanderhave. With this latest addition, the duo’s business outfit is now known as Nick’s Custom Cabinets and Christian’s Flooring. Vanderhave does his own flooring contracts and installations, while Fraser deals with all the cabinet orders.

The partners get some help from their spouses. Fraser’s wife, Marika, who lost her job at Wachovia in Modesto when the financial institution was bought out by Wells Fargo last  year, helps answer the office phones as well as help with the sales and printing out of invoices. She shares the office work with Vanderhave’s wife Claudia.

The Frasers’ two children attend St. Anthony’s School in Manteca – 3-year-old Chloe goes to preschool, and Xavier, 6, is in sixth grade.

Nick’s Custom Cabinets and Christian’s Flooring are open Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. They are located at 469 Moffat Blvd., Suite #D. The shop can be reached for further information at (209) 824-6729.