MINDEN, Nev. — Ray Robertson and Michael McLaughlin weren’t sure what to expect in 1987 when they co-founded RAMAC Industries Inc., and little did they know their trail to success would lead from the Bay Area to Carson Valley.
RAMAC — a combination of the names Ray and Mac — last week closed the book on a business that primarily distributed BMW, Volvo, Saab and MINI Cooper wholesale auto parts to repair shops locally and nationwide.
At its peak, the company employed 29 workers at 2527 Aviation Way, located in the Carson Valley Business Park off Johnson Lane.
The Douglas County men have only good memories of their partnership.
“It’s been a good run,” McLaughlin told The Record-Courier. “It’s been a long run, and we’ve had lots of fun along the way.”
Robertson, who was joined in the business by his wife of 56 years, Brenda, emphasized that it was a lot of work.
“When people say, ‘Boy, you guys were lucky,’ I tell them we worked our butts off,” he said. “When we first opened up, my wife and I worked 90 days without taking a day off … receiving stuff, packing it up, putting it on the shelf. So it was a helluva lot more than good luck.”
Robertson originally hired McLaughlin to work at what was then known as World Wide Trading Company.
“Ray hired me from another company to help grow their Volvo and Saab program,” McLaughlin said. “That worked out well for both of us; I was the marketing manager and salesman, Ray was the executive vice-president and he was in charge of sales and purchasing.”
In May 1987 they opened the doors to RAMAC in Scotts Valley, Calif., near Santa Cruz.
“One day we were sitting in Ray’s office and we made the decision to do this,” McLaughlin said. “It took us six months and we manufactured 20 parts, hence RAMAC Industries. We got on the phone and started selling into the repair shop world and one thing leads to another. Ray was doing the purchasing and I was doing sales, and the company began to grow.”
Within four years, they were looking to expand and move to another location. The company’s direction took a turn one day after Robertson spoke with some hunting buddies.
“One of them asked, ‘Have you ever heard of Minden, Nevada?’ I said, ‘Where the heck is that?’ So I flew up here in the springtime, and found that it was a green and beautiful valley,” he recalled.
Added McLaughlin: “You called me from the airport here. I had no idea where Minden was. So my wife and I came up to Tahoe two weeks later and as soon as we hit the Valley floor, I said, ‘This is it. I’m here.’”
About eight months later they purchased property with a 1,600-square foot building on Nolin Road. They moved around the corner to a new 57,000-square facility in 2000.
McLaughlin has a college education, having pursued economics, while Robertson followed a path that could be called the school of hard knocks.
“I was in pre-med and engineering, but I didn’t study hard enough,” McLaughlin said with a chuckle when asked about his time at UCLA.
“I know how that works,” added Robertson. “I took a few classes and I went, ‘This is not for me.’ So I got into business … and here we are.”
RAMAC has been active in the community over the years, including contributions to such organizations as Boys & Girls Club and MEFIYI.
Brenda Robertson has been involved with the Douglas County Community Services Foundation, Crystal Angels, Community Emergency Response Team and the University Women, and in 2014, she was recognized as Carson Valley Citizen of the Year.
McLaughlin, who played tennis at UCLA, served as a tennis coach at Douglas High School, during which time he worked with 2009 boys singles state champion James TenBroeck.
Ray Robertson is also an avid hunter and has enjoyed success as a sporting clays shooter.
“I’ve gotten to where my legs and lungs are not as good as they used to be,” he said about hunting. “It’s harder to get up the hills and going down is hard on my knees.”
Robertson is now looking forward to retirement and Brenda already has a trip planned to visit their newborn great-granddaughter.
McLaughlin says he will continue his work with Chargerback, a Carson City-based software company that helps customers locate items they have lost while traveling.
“The software matches up the item that reported lost with the item that was found and facilitates the process or shipping and getting the item back to the rightful owner,” McLaughlin said. “The idea came from Brian Colodny. He had left a charger in a hotel and all he wanted to do was get his charger back, so that’s why it’s named Chargerback.”
Robertson and McLaughlin are proud of the legacy they’re leaving behind.
“The thing we’re really proud of, the average tenure of the employee who worked here was probably 15 years; one came over with us from Santa Cruz and he stayed to the very end, (salesman Ed Cardoza),” McLaughlin said. “And in some cases they wanted to come back and we would invite them back. We ran an organization that people not only liked to work at, but they wanted to come back to.”