Taro Martinez: Stair Man
By James Florence, Diamond Certified Resource Reporter
Taro Martinez used to be an auto mechanic, but when he got tired of that livelihood, he decided to take a step in a new direction. “After owning an automotive repair shop for several years, I needed a change in both career and scenery, so I moved from Los Angeles to Northern California,” he recounts. “Soon after my arrival, I was offered a job with a staircase builder. I’d never done any work like that—I doubt if I’d even cut a piece of wood in half before—but I decided to give it a try. Naturally, there was a steep learning curve in the beginning, but I stuck with it and found my way. In 2004, I struck out on my own as an independent staircase builder.”
Regarding the transition from automotive work to building staircases, Taro says he appreciates the improved character of customer interactions. “Nobody likes having their car worked on. It’s kind of like going to the dentist—something you only do because you have to. In contrast, staircases are often more of a luxury item, so clients come in with a completely different mindset—it’s something they actually want to do. When a customer is actually happy to see you and ecstatic at the end of the job, it makes for a really nice interaction.”
A resident of Concord, Taro spends his time outside of work on a variety of active pastimes. “I’ve been drag racing since I was 13 and I’m still active in that,” he details. “Besides the actual racing, I spend a lot of time working on my car between races. I also practice Brazilian jiu-jitsu, which I’ve been doing for many years.” When he’s not at the race track or martial arts studio, Taro likes relaxing at home. “I live on an acre of property in Concord and it’s very peaceful, so it’s nice to just hang out and enjoy the tranquility.”
In regard to a professional philosophy, Taro espouses the value of helping others. “My business supports a lot of charities, including children’s hospitals, food banks and animal shelters,” he says. “That’s very important to me. It upsets me to hear about some of the bad things that are going on in the world, so I’m grateful that there are organizations dedicated to helping those affected. Also, I believe you have to give in order to receive. Even when my business was really hurting back in 2008, I continued to give. I figured that even though I wasn’t doing very well, there were others who were doing far worse. I think if you’re generous toward others, it will come back to you in the long term.”
When asked what he would do if he were to retire tomorrow, Taro says he’d continue pursuing the activities he currently enjoys in his free time. “I would continue to do jiu-jitsu a few times a week and work on my car. I’d also probably travel. I enjoy driving, so maybe I’d take a road trip across the country.”
Ask Me Anything!
Q: Music or talk radio?
Q: If you could immediately master any musical instrument, what would you choose?
A: The drums.
Q: What’s your favorite local restaurant?
A: Nola Po’Boy and Gumbo Kitchen in Concord.
Q: Reality TV or documentaries?
Q: What’s your favorite snack?
A: I’m into fruits and vegetables these days, so probably an apple or banana.
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