Everybody’s business

Closing the door
When Dan Evers started Feather River Wood & Glass back in 1971 out of a rented garage, he was inspired by the free spirit of the era to build magnificent hardwood doors with gorgeous glass.

Almost before he knew what had happened, the Chico- and Durham-based business had grown to have factories in three states and numerous distributors and franchisees and was poised to “go public” on the stock market. But the company’s growth ultimately spelled its demise, Evers said in a telephone interview from San Diego, where he is now plying his trade for charity. “As it grew, it lost track of its roots.” Today, the Feather River Door name is associated nationally with Home Depot, thanks to recent television ads.

Locally, it’s a riches-to-rags story with twists and turns that include layoffs, bankruptcies and court cases. And it ends, seemingly, with the acquisition of the Feather River Door name by a company with offices in Tacoma, Wash.

In the late 1990s, as imports began cutting into the company’s business, a new management team came on board and, Evers said, turned a debt-free company into one carrying huge debt.

In 1999, “the board unanimously voted me out.” To Evers, it was a relief. “It just wasn’t fun anymore.”

In March 2001, dozens of workers, which at one time numbered 225, were laid off and the company filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Its assets were liquidated.

But some employees didn’t want to see the company go, and Mark Medearis bought the door division, of which he had been the president, out of bankruptcy. It reopened under the name Feather River.

Two years later, Medearis was being sued by his sales and marketing manager, Valerie Navarro.

Navarro and her husband, Paul, paid $70,000 for a 20-percent interest in the equipment and inventory relating to the company, according to court records. Part of the deal was that the Navarros had to drop the words “Feather River” from the Fine Doors name by March 2004.

When you pay 10 grand for a door…
Four different people who had read coverage of the business’ closing and reopening have contacted the News & Review asking for help.

Bill Clark paid $9,000, two-thirds of the purchase price, to Fine Doors back in November 2003. The door never arrived. “I would like to negotiate a reasonable settlement … without going through lengthy and costly litigation,” he said.

Andrea Raschke said that after paying a 50-percent deposit for three doors, “our future e-mails went unanswered, their phone numbers all rang busy and their Web site is no longer valid.”

Then, in October 2004, the Navarros sued Ivan Hoath, the owner of Westgate Hardwoods, who had bought the Durham factory in July 2004. The Navarros claimed Hoath refused to let them retrieve goods and used the equipment to make his own, competing products. On March 12, the Navarros won a default judgment of $144,836 after Hoath failed to show up in court. Neither Hoath, his attorney, the Navarros, nor their attorney returned calls for comment.

Coming unhinged
Trinity Glass International, which now holds the Feather River Door Company trademark, has attempted to distance the company from Fine Doors and didn’t return calls for comment.

After reading complaints posted online at www.construction-resource.com, poster FRDOORS wrote, “Under a settlement agreement, Fine Doors was to discontinue the use of the words Feather River by March 1, 2003.”

Since the Home Depot ad began running, people have been asking Evers what he thinks about it. “For years and years our name was synonymous with integrity, and now that name is being exploited,” he said, referring to the quality of the current product. “I go to Home Depot all the time. I don’t even walk down that aisle … I’ve already done my grieving.”

Evers now sculpts custom-made awards (www.farallondesign.com), and his other passion is nonprofit work on an Optimists International project in which children with cancer create artwork that professional artists use to inspire them to make stained-glass windows and tiles.

“It’s sculpture. It’s back to the roots,” Evers said.