Founded in 1950 by his father, Archie Pohl, owner Bill Pohl will be retiring from Pohl Metal Products after owning the company since 1972.
In 1970, Pohl had entered the family business after completing his degree in engineering through Cal Poly. With increasing needs for ditch and concrete pipe irrigation, Bill and his father implemented a new design for an iron welded irrigation gate that superseded anything on the market at that time.
The company now will be left in good hands as Pohl hands the reins over to his stepson and “little brother,” Chris Esteves, 36, who joined Pohl at the Hi-Tech Parkway establishment in 2005.
The relationship between Pohl and Esteves actually dates back to 1990 when Esteves, who was 12 years old at the time, had Pohl enter his life through the Big Brother Program of Stanislaus County.
Even after the Big Brother Program closed in 1991 due to financial constraints, Pohl stayed in contact with Esteves, continuing to mentor and take him on trips through his school years until he graduated from Downey High School in 1996.
Years later, after Esteves was discharged from the US Air Force as a seasoned jet mechanic in 2005, he went to work for Pohl, who always told him he would have a job waiting for him.
“We’ve just had an ongoing big brother-little brother relationship going since I got involved,” said Pohl.
Esteves said he’s always been grateful to Pohl for being in his life, remembering being included on family ski and camping trips.
“When he worked ski patrol, he’d always give me slope passes for me and my friends,” recalled Esteves, who added that Pohl taught him how to ski and passed that skill along to his friends.
Earlier in 2005, Pohl, who had been a widow since his wife Sue had died in 2004, ran into Esteves’ mother, who was divorced, at a Jamestown motorcycle event and the two started dating.
They were married in November, 2005.
“I like to joke that I married my little brother’s mother,” laughed Pohl.
Pohl said he feels the company, which now manufactures golf driving range equipment in addition to irrigation gates, will be well run by Esteves.
“He started me out at the bottom and worked me to the top,” said Esteves. “This has been a good fit for me and my family. I’m excited to continue with the business.”
Both men said they’ve been discussing the transition for when Pohl retires for about five years.
Pohl plans to still stay active and work at the business.
“I’ll be around here as much as he wants me and as much as he needs me,” said Pohl. “I now answer to my little brother.”