October 19, 2018
Golden State Fire Apparatus is the longest-tenured fire apparatus dealership in California today, and throughout the company's history, they have only represented one apparatus company - Pierce Manufacturing.
Bill Wright didn't know what was coming when he decided to start selling fire apparatus out of his house. Over the years, Golden State Fire Apparatus evolved into a multi-million-dollar dealership that has been established for over twenty-nine years, making it a highly prominent fire apparatus dealership in Central and Northern California today. Golden State is a family owned and operated business with an incredibly knowledgeable sales and service team. One of the most interesting aspects of the company is its history and the elements that helped Bill Wright develop such an extraordinary dealership.
The Year was 1968, the City: San Francisco
Bill Wright was an adventurous and ambitious 18-year-old who had just blown into town after a cross-country drive. It was a colorful era and scene. However, he wasn't there for the music, marches, or mischief. He had a few hundred bucks in his pocket, some belongings stuffed into his '66 Mustang, enough confidence to make his own way, and a desire to share his servant's heart.
After bunking at his sister's place, Bill found a volunteer job that offered free room and board - and paid plenty in real-life experience - at the suburban Corte Madera Fire Department just across the Golden Gate Bridge.
The fire department's "sleeper program" awakened Bill to a passion for teamwork and putting people first, whether it was a crisis call or a customer. Sleeper programs turned new recruits into firefighters, allowing college students, like Bill, to live and train at the station while responding to calls between classes.
He was a big kid living a little boy's dream. "What little boy is not enamored by fire trucks?" Bill remembers. "I knew nothing about fire departments, but I saw it as an opportunity to be on my own and grow up. I've never regretted it."
Heart of the Matter
As first impressions go, the fire engines left a big one. Their sheer size and clockwork-like machinery were inspiring. But it was more than just the nuts and bolts, the flashing lights, and sirens that fired his imagination.
What mattered most was the human element: the camaraderie and commitment of the firehouse. The finely-tuned preparation that allowed people to pull together at a moment's notice - when the alarm sounded, every second counted. All for the sake of making an impact on people's lives in the face of hardship and loss.
"That really shaped my perspective. It helped me to appreciate life," Bill said. "Today, I still feel that relationship with the community and our customers. I can relate to what they're going through. We listen to their stories and then we get to know them as people, and as unique operations that need to be served in different ways."
Miles and Years of Service
Bill lived at the firehouse for three years while finishing college. In 1971 he made a big decision that would later help shape the future family business: he married Marie.
In 1978, Bill was promoted to a field sales position, and the Wrights relocated from the Bay Area to Stockton, in California's Central Valley. In 1980, Bill joined Van Pelt Fire Trucks in nearby Oakdale, and sold fire trucks throughout California. Additionally, Bill served as a firefighter in Corte Madera for ten years, while also working as a West Coast salesman for the forestry/wildland specialist Western Fire Equipment.
Bill was first introduced to Pierce fire trucks when he moved to Paramount Equipment Sales of Sylmar in 1986. When Paramount closed three years later, the remaining sales force elected Bill to contact Pierce Manufacturing, Inc. to ascertain their future relationship with Pierce. Pierce approved the new venture, and Golden State Fire Apparatus was born. Culminating over two decades of Bill's travels and experience in the same region that the company now represents, the company was established and incorporated in 1989, and has represented Pierce Manufacturing ever since. Along with his wife Marie, the Wrights two sons, Ryan and Daron, have taken on major roles in the family business. Golden State is also well-served by a professional team of employees who have hands-on knowledge of firefighting and related equipment fields.
Growing and Rooting a Family
More than 1,700 pieces of Pierce apparatus dot the highways and byways of Central and Northern California. It's a long way from modest beginnings. Golden State started out in the Wrights' home in Stockton and from this humble home base, the company initially covered 34 counties comprising the Central Valley, Northern California and the Sierra Nevada region. Two years later, the company opened an office in Modesto.
Pierce offered Golden State Fire Apparatus the San Francisco Bay Area territory in 1995. It was kind of homecoming for Bill, a return to the backyard of that boyhood dream and his first firehouse job. The expansion doubled Golden State Fire Apparatus's customer base to include the central & northern 48 of California's 58 counties.
Ryan Wright joined the company in 1997 and his brother, Daron, followed four years later. Ryan and Daron have steered the company toward increased efficiency and technology investments. Marie Wright moved into a key administrative role in 1999; Ryan's wife, Tanya, did the same in 2012.
"The family has grown up with and into the business, while it was also being passed down, is a testament to Bill's selfless leadership and generous spirit," Ryan said. "My Dad is the most positive, encouraging person I know. His patience, poise and Christian faith have pulled this company through times of adversity. He puts others first even in difficult situations, without compromising quality. He trusts people to make decisions and help drive the vision he has for the company."
Ryan credits his Dad with instilling a work ethic that allowed the brothers to skillfully execute the fundamentals on major college and minor-league baseball diamonds. It's the same kind of precision teamwork and expertise it takes to build a fire truck - collaborating with the customer in that process.
"At the end of the day," Ryan said, "people still buy products from people. And that's our focus, customer service through strengthening of the relationship."
Learn more about Golden State Fire Apparatus newest deliveries and custom apparatus.