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DIAMOND CERTIFIED EXPERT CONTRIBUTORS IN THE Bay Area – Termite Control CATEGORY

Richard Estrada is 19-year veteran of the pest control industry and owner of ATCO Pest Control, a Diamond Certified company since 2009. He can be reached at (415) 669-4994 or by email.

Richard Estrada

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Richard Estrada: Getting the Bugs Out

By James Florence, Diamond Certified Resource Reporter

NOVATO – When Richard Estrada first started working in the pest control industry, he was at a crossroads: burned out, overtired and looking for change. “I was delivering produce for a company based in San Francisco, which meant a lot of very early mornings,” he recalls. “I had just become a father a couple years earlier, and I found I wasn’t able to spend as much time with my son as I wanted because I was always trying to catch up on sleep.”

Richard knew he wanted to transition to a job with regular daytime hours, but he wasn’t sure where to start looking, so when he got an invitation from a friend to try his hand in a totally new industry, he didn’t hesitate to accept. “A good friend of mine owned a pest control company, and he invited me to work with him for a day to see if it was something I’d like to do,” he explains. “As it turned out, I found it very interesting and decided to keep working for him. Sixteen years later, I’m president of ATCO Pest Control.”

Born in East Los Angeles and raised in Iowa, Richard moved to the Bay Area in 1989, where he still lives with his wife, Stella, and their two sons, Nathan and Marcus. After nearly 25 years, he says he still appreciates the natural beauty of the indigenous landscape. “We have the bay, the mountains and so much more. I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else at this point.” Richard and his family like to take advantage of all the area has to offer, engaging in a variety of outdoor activities such as biking, hiking and skiing. One pastime that Richard especially enjoys is golfing with his sons. “My boys and I go golfing quite often. It’s a great way for us to enjoy the beauty of creation and spend some time together.”

In his professional career, Richard says a crucial ingredient for success has been his personal associations. “When I went into business for myself, I knew it would be important to surround myself with people who were smarter than me when it came to business matters. Today, whether it’s industry colleagues or company employees, I continue to partner with people whom I can collaborate with and learn from.”

When asked the first thing he’d do if he could retire tomorrow, Richard says it wouldn’t be a likely scenario. “Quite honestly, I can’t see myself retiring. I enjoy what I do and love working alongside my team members. I might travel and play golf a little more often, but I could never see myself fully retired.”

Ask Me Anything!

Q: What were you most known for in high school?
A: My smile.

Q: Which super power would you choose, flight or invisibility?
A: Invisibility.

Q: If you were an insect, what would you be?
A: I think I would be an ant—they’re hard workers and they don’t need to be told what to do.

Q: Do you have any memorable job stories?
A: One time, I got a call about an ant problem at a client’s house. As we were in the kitchen looking at the infestation, the client brought my attention to an ant farm that was sitting on the countertop. We both had to laugh at the irony.

Q: What’s one movie that people would be surprised you’ve never seen?
A: “Arachnophobia.”

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How to Prevent and Remove Rodents

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NOVATO — When it comes to keeping your home free of pests, rodents are a primary concern. Here are a few tips on how to both prevent rodents from entering your home and remove them after the fact. Prevention The most… Read more

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Video: Keeping Rodents Out Of Your Home

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NOVATO — Host, Sarah Rutan: If there are rodents disrupting your neighborhood, there are some ways you can keep rodents out of your home. Today, we’re in Novato… Read more

Jim Darling is a veteran of the pest control industry and owner of J & M Termite Control, Inc., a Diamond Certified company since 2005. He can be reached at (650) 530-0987 or by email.

Jim Darling

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Jim Darling: Daily Earnings

By James Florence, Diamond Certified Program Reporter

MOUNTAIN VIEW — With an educational background in horticulture, Jim Darling originally planned to pursue a career in the landscaping industry. Little did he know, that was merely a stepping stone to a bigger professional opportunity. “My brother-in-law, Jim Meredith, started J & M Termite Control, Inc. in 1973,” he says. “Soon after, he talked to me about coming to work for him, but I was more interested in developing my landscaping career. Later, the landscape business partnership I was in wasn’t working out very well, so I decided to take him up on his offer. Eventually, he put me in charge of the office, and when he retired in 2005, I bought the company from him.”

Today, as owner of J & M Termite Control, Jim says the one aspect of his job he enjoys more than dealing with termites is dealing with people. “I like the social interaction of going to people’s homes and meeting them. A lot of our business is real estate inspections, so it’s always interesting to talk to people about their circumstances.”

A lifetime resident of the Bay Area, Jim lives in Pleasanton with his wife, Donna, where he appreciates the temperate climate. “Here on the Peninsula, we have some of the best weather in the world,” he says. “When I was in the Army, I had the opportunity to see a lot of the United States, which convinced me that where I came from was one of the best places to live.”

Outside of work, Jim engages in a variety of pastimes, particularly ones that take place outdoors. “We have a cabin in the mountains where we go to relax and kayak,” he says. “I also enjoy gardening at home, which goes back to my horticultural background.” Additionally, Jim likes spending time with his grown sons, Kevin and Scott. “My older son, Kevin, is a deputy sheriff in Sacramento County and has two sons, so we enjoy getting together with them as often as we can. My younger son, Scott, works in the pest control industry. He worked here at J & M for about 20 years, and he’s currently working in the Los Angeles area.”

In his professional career, Jim espouses the importance of professional integrity. “I believe in doing the best job you can and being honest and straightforward with people,” he says. “After more than 40 years in business, this company has earned a very good reputation, but we have to keep earning it every day.”

When asked the first thing he’d do if he were to retire tomorrow, Jim says he’d hit the open road. “We have a big SUV that doesn’t have a whole lot of miles on it, and I think it’d be fun to take it for a road trip. I’ve always wanted to go to Glacier National Park, so I’d probably drive there.”

Ask Me Anything!

Q: Do you have a favorite local restaurant?
A: I like brew pubs and pub food, so two of my favorites are Main Street Brewery and Redcoats, both of which are located in Pleasanton.

Q: What’s your favorite thing to do on a rainy day?
A: Read or work on whatever home improvement project I have going.

Q: If you could live in the city or the country, which would you choose?
A: The country.

Q: Do you collect anything?
A: I collect different types of weather thermometers. Ever since I was a pilot in the military, weather has been a hobby of mine.

Q: Pancakes or waffles?
A: Pancakes. We always make them when we’re up at our cabin.

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Identifying Signs of Termite Infestation

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MOUNTAIN VIEW — Termites are a constant concern for Bay Area homeowners, which is why it’s a good idea to be aware of typical signs of infestation. One of the most common indicators of termite activity is tiny wood granules, which are… Read more

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Video: Signs of Termite Infestation

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MOUNTAIN VIEW — Host, Sarah Rutan: The key to identifying a termite infestation in your home is knowing what signs to look for. Today we’re in Mountain View… Read more

Jeremy Schreckengost is owner of Elite Bay Area Termite Control, a Diamond Certified company since 2014. He can be reached at (877) 312-3289 or by email.

Jeremy Schreckengost

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Jeremy Schreckengost: A Constructive Collaboration

By James Florence, Diamond Certified Program Reporter

BELMONT — With a background in construction, Jeremy Schreckengost didn’t get involved in the pest control industry until a long-time friendship led to a professional collaboration. “My business partner, Ben Kahner, and I have been close friends since we were teenagers,” he explains. “His father owned a termite company, so he grew up in the business, whereas my experience was in construction. At one point, we started talking about starting our own business—one where we’d have the freedom to set our own standards and ideals. Over a period of about three years, these discussions culminated in the founding of Elite Bay Area Termite Control.”

As both the owner of the company and head of its wood repair department, Jeremy employs his construction skills to help customers make the most out of bad situations. “We provide custom repair of termite wood damage, which is pretty unique in our industry,” he says. “I enjoy engaging with homeowners and helping them get the most value out of their wood repairs. For instance, if we have to tear out a section of flooring, I’ll suggest taking advantage of the opportunity to implement structural or energy efficiency upgrades.”

A third-generation resident of the San Francisco Peninsula (where he lives with his wife, Marleena; son, Silar; and daughter, Audrey), Jeremy likes to spend his time outside of work enjoying the natural splendor of the Bay Area. “My weekends are just as full as my weekdays, as I’m usually on an outdoor excursion with my family,” he says. “We live in such a gorgeous area—I’ve been around the world two or three times, and I haven’t found any place that compares.”

In regard to his professional career, Jeremy says adhering to a high standard of quality is a must. “We maintain very high standards, and that’s reflected in the quality of the work we perform. However, we also like to save our customers money by tailoring our work to their specific needs. For instance, a general contractor might opt to knock down a whole room that’s afflicted with termite damage, but we have the patience to go in and conservatively make repairs while keeping the main structure intact.”

When asked the first thing he’d do if he could retire tomorrow, Jeremy says he’d head out on the open road. “I’d probably buy a big RV and do some traveling. Another thing I’ve always wanted to do is buy some land in Booneville and build a cabin. I’ve already helped a friend build one, so hopefully the next one I build will be my own.”

Ask Me Anything!

Q: What are your favorite sports teams?
A: The San Francisco 49ers and the San Francisco Giants.

Q: Talk radio or music?
A: Both—talk radio in the morning, music in the afternoon and evening.

Q: What’s your favorite local restaurant?
A: St. James Gate in Belmont.

Q: Do you collect anything?
A: I collect mementos from projects—mostly relics of old-fashioned construction or samples of wood damage.

Q: Pancakes or waffles?
A: Pancakes.

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Common Signs of Termite Infestation

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BELMONT — Despite the prevalence of termites in the Bay Area, many homeowners aren’t familiar with the signs of infestation. One of the most common signs is small, sand-like granules known as “termite pellets.” Often found on windowsills, these tiny… Read more

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Video: Frequency of Termite Inspections

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BELMONT — Host, Sarah Rutan: An important aspect of home maintenance is knowing when, and how often, to have a termite inspection. Today, we’re in… Read more

Andy Bongiorno is a 14-year veteran of the pest control industry and owner of Bongiorno Termite Control, Inc., a Diamond Certified company since 2012. He can be reached at (925) 364-5488 or by email.

Andy Bongiorno

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Andy Bongiorno: Taking on the Termites

By James Florence, Diamond Certified Resource Reporter

BRENTWOOD — As a former FedEx courier, Andy Bongiorno used to deliver parcels for a living, but now that he’s a termite control professional, he spends his days delivering clients from perilous, pestilent plights. “After working as a courier for several years, I started to look for something new,” he explains. “Basically, I didn’t want to be delivering packages for the rest of my life. I had a friend who owned a pest control business, so it seemed like a good opportunity to learn a specialized trade. After working with my friend for a few years, I got my license, and when he sold his business, I decided it was time to branch off and start my own.”

Today, as owner of Bongiorno Termite Control, Inc., Andy says while most of his time is spent dealing with termites, his favorite part of the job is working with people. “I appreciate the people I get to meet and work with, and it feels good to help customers. When you’ve removed a major threat from someone’s home and given them peace of mind, it gives you a good sense of accomplishment.”

A resident of Oakley (where he lives with his wife, Leeann), Andy expresses his appreciation for the versatility of the Bay Area. “It’s a great place to live. We have the mountains, the ocean, lots of parks and all kinds of activities. It doesn’t matter what time of year it is, there’s always something fun to do.”

Outside of work, Andy likes to stay active, both on land and on water. “I have a couple of sailboats and enjoy sailing out on the delta. I also like mountain biking, snowboarding and motorcycle racing. Basically, I’ll try anything that looks fun.” When he’s not thrill-seeking, Andy enjoys going wine tasting with his wife, barbequing with friends and spending time with family, including his three grown sons and his grandchildren.

In regard to his professional career, Andy espouses the importance of trust. “It’s not always easy to do the right thing, but as a professional, it’s critical to operate with honesty and integrity,” he says. “When a customer hires me, they’re trusting me to take care of them, and that’s a big responsibility. At the end of the day, it’s all about building upon that trust by doing what’s in their best interest.”

When asked the first thing he’d do if he were to retire tomorrow, Andy says he’d take his enjoyment of sailing to a whole new level. “I’d probably buy a yacht and sail around the world. I enjoy traveling, but I’m not able to do it as much as I’d like, and there’s still a lot of the world I have yet to see.”

Ask Me Anything!

Q: What’s the most death-defying feat you’ve ever attempted?
A: Probably going off a big snowboard or mountain bike jump.

Q: Music or talk radio?
A: Music.

Q: What kinds of movies do you like?
A: Usually action, but I like anything that has a good story.

Q: If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?
A: England and Italy—that’s where my heritage is, and I’ve never been there.

Q: Do you collect anything?
A: Memorabilia from sporting events and auto races I’ve attended.

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Protecting Your Home From Wood-Destroying Organisms

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BRENTWOOD — Wood-destroying organisms like fungi and termites exist in nature to eliminate dead wood from the environment and recycle it. As a homeowner, the last thing you want is for your home to end up on these organisms’ dinner menu. To… Read more

Understanding Termite Swarms

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BRENTWOOD — If you see termites swarming around your property, your first instinct may be to call a termite control company, but in reality, you should probably hold the phone. By learning about the swarming habits of termites, you can gain… Read more

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Video: Protecting Against Wood-Destroying Organisms

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BRENTWOOD — Host, Sarah Rutan: To guard your home from termites and other wood-destroying organisms, you’ll need to address a few areas of maintenance. Today we’re in Brentwood… Read more

Brandy Straub is owner of Redwood Empire Termite & Pest Control, a Diamond Certified company since 2011. He can be reached at (707) 654-4593 or by email.

Brandy Straub

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Brandy Straub: Dirty Work

By James Florence, Diamond Certified Resource Reporter

WINDSOR — Born into a family of pest control professionals, Brandy Straub cut his teeth doing the dirty jobs no one else wanted to do before expanding his career horizons. “My grandfather started Redwood Empire Termite & Pest Control in 1946,” he recounts. “My father got involved in the business when he was 15 years old, and I started even younger, working after school, on weekends and during summer vacations. Of course, they had me do all the dirty work they didn’t want to do, like going underneath houses and cleaning up rodent remains. Eventually, I got tired of doing that, so I decided to become a termite inspector. In 1981, I got my termite inspection license, and a decade later, I took over the business. These days, I don’t crawl underneath houses as often, but every now and then I still like to get in there and get my hands dirty.”

Today, as third-generation owner of Redwood Empire Termite & Pest Control, Brandy says his favorite part of his job is improving people’s lives. “Homeowners often don’t realize the extent to which pest problems can affect their daily lives. For example, if rodents get into heating ducts, it can actually make the home’s inhabitants sick by blowing germs around each time the heater gets turned on. It’s very satisfying to uncover these types of problems and make a positive impact on my customers’ lives by resolving them.”

A resident of Northern Sonoma County (where he lives with his wife, Cynthia, and five of their six children), Brandy spends his time outside of work on a variety of active pastimes. “We do a lot of entertaining at our home,” he says. “We have a big backyard with a pool and a Tiki bar, so we enjoy having friends and family over. I also like working out and mountain biking. Of course, having five teenagers, I do a lot of running around to sports practices and games.”

In his life and career, Brandy espouses the benefits of paying it forward. “I don’t go to a job with the intention of making money; I go with the intention of helping people,” he explains. “For example, I recently went to the home of an elderly couple who had termites swarming in their backyard. They were on a fixed income and didn’t really have money for treatment, so I gave them an alternative method they could use to knock down the termite tubes and basically treat it themselves. That’s just how I do my business—I try to help my customers save money instead of trying to sell them something they don’t need. As it turns out, this approach is good for business. After all, when you’re honest, you’re more likely to get repeat customers and referrals.”

Ask Me Anything!

Q: What’s your favorite local restaurant?

A: John Ash & Co. in Santa Rosa.

Q: What kind of music do you like?

A: Alternative music from the ’80s, the ’90s and today. Two of my favorite bands are Muse and Linkin Park.

Q: What’s your favorite family tradition?

A: Holidays. We do all the holidays pretty big. For Easter, we do these really elaborate egg hunts with clues and everything. At Christmas, we go all out and over-decorate, kind of like Clark Griswold in “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.”

Q: Do you have a favorite book?

A: Not really, but I enjoy self- and business-improvement books. Some of my favorites include “Getting Business to Come to You,” “Rich Dad, Poor Dad,” and anything by Tony Robbins.

Q: What’s your favorite thing to do on a rainy day?

A: I love listening to the rain, turning on the fireplace and watching a good movie or playing some board games with my family.

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The Importance of Professional Termite Inspections

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WINDSOR — Like most people, you probably take a preventative approach to checking up on your car, your teeth, and other crucial aspects of your daily life and health. However, even if you’re proactive about these things, there’s another crucial check-up you… Read more

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Video: The Importance of Recurrent Termite Inspections

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WINDSOR — Host, Sarah: When it comes to protecting your home, few steps are more important than having recurrent professional termite inspections. Today we’re in Windsor with Diamond… Read more

John Williams is president of Hi Tech Termite Control of the Bay Area, Inc., a Diamond Certified company since 2008. He can be reached at (888) 322-8889 or by email.

John Williams

diamond certified contributor profile and expert article

John Williams: Termite Tech

By James Florence, Senior Writer

HAYWARD — When asked how he got into termite control, John Williams says it was an offshoot from his background in property maintenance and renovation. “My father owned a lot of rental properties when I was growing up, and I used to help him repair and renovate them. During the course of my work, I saw a lot of termite damage and gained some experience dealing with it, so when it came time for me to choose a career path, termite control seemed like a good choice. About five years into my career, I joined Hi-Tech Termite and worked for them in Orange County before transferring to the Bay Area to manage their Fremont office. In 2002, the CEO decided to slow down the operation, so he sold me the Bay Area branch and I’ve been running it ever since.”
Today, as owner of Hi Tech Termite of the Bay Area, Inc., John says he enjoys just about every aspect of his job. “I like fielding customer calls, scheduling inspections…basically the entire process from start to finish. It’s very rewarding to serve our local clientele and leave their homes termite-free.”
A resident of San Leandro, John says relocating to the North Bay from Southern California has been a positive experience overall. “I like the diversity of the Bay Area. Also, the customers are a little more educated and have a better understanding of termites and the methods used to deal with them. Of course, there are also a lot of termites up here, which is unfortunate, but that’s why we’re here.”
Outside of work, John enjoys hobbies like cooking and reading, as well as outdoor activities like fishing and camping. He also likes volunteering his time to working with under-privileged youth. “I’m a board member of an inner-city charter school in Southern California,” he explains. “I also mentor young men whose fathers aren’t around and try to be a positive role model for them.” Additionally, John likes to keep up with his son, Micah, who is currently attending college to be an architect.
In regard to a professional philosophy, John espouses the importance of customer courtesy. “I treat every customer’s home like it was my grandmother’s home,” he says. “After all, you’re going to wipe your feet before you go into your grandmother’s house and treat it with respect and pristine care. That’s a philosophy I pass on to my entire staff to ensure our customers always feel taken care of and treated with the utmost courtesy.”
When asked the first thing he’d do if he were to retire tomorrow, John says he’d devote more time to the other ventures he’s involved with. “I still have a lot of ties to Southern California—besides being a board member of a charter school, I’m part-owner of a restaurant down there, so I would probably be more active with those things. Of course, before that, I’d take a few days to sleep in and recuperate.”
Ask Me Anything!
Q: What’s your favorite sports team?
A: The Los Angeles Dodgers.

Q: Do you have a favorite TV show?
A: I like home renovation shows like “Flip This House” and “Fixer Upper.”

Q: What’s your favorite season?
A: Winter—the termites are less active so I get a little more time to spend with family and friends.

Q: Do you collect anything?
A: I don’t know if you’d call it a collection, but I’m into old-school cars and I have a cherry 1967 Chevrolet Caprice.

Q: Who’s your favorite movie villain?
A: Darth Vader.

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The Key to Effective Termite Control

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HAYWARD — There are several ways to treat a termite infestation, but the best option is to prevent it from happening in the first place. You can do this by having a reputable termite company perform regular inspections of your… Read more

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Video: Preventative Termite Inspections

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HAYWARD — Host, Sarah Rutan: When it comes to termite control, there’s no better defense than preventative inspections. To learn more, we’re in Hayward with Jim Mortenson… Read more

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