From Shop Class to Shop Owner
Accessories Plus Fabrication brings creativity to the craft
With a background in general contracting and construction management, Accessories Plus Fabrication Owner Darren Slater is always creating something. As a kid he worked on race cars and hot rods, excelled in high school metal shop class and was even his shop teacher’s assistant. So, when the opportunity arose to put his welding skills to work, it just made sense.
“My stepdad was a welder so I learned to weld at a young age. The opportunity to purchase the business came up, so away we went,” he says.
Randy Bozarth started the company in 1980, but after his passing in 2016, his daughter needed a buyer for the company. A longtime friend, Slater wanted to help her keep the business in the “family.” He purchased the company and still employs the previous owner’s nephew and another welder who has been with the company since its inception. Slater’s brother, a retired welder, also worked for the company until his passing in October 2019. “It was a lot of fun having my brother in the shop with me,” Slater says.
Accessories Plus Fabrication is located in San Marcos, California, and serves the surrounding San Diego area, specializing in welding and fabrication. Slater says, “Welding is a trade that most people aren’t familiar with. But we pride ourselves on honesty and integrity. These values were set by Randy, and we believe that our customers see the difference.”
The firm tackles projects of all shapes and sizes, and Slater says he is proud to build products that are made in America. “We work on all kinds of challenges, from industrial welding to small fabricated parts,” Slater says. With more than 40 years of experience, Accessories Plus Fabrication offers tube bending, specialty welding, punching, wire and rod forming, helidecks (platforms used to transport helicopters in and out of hangars), display cases, work stations, staircases and railings, equipment platforms, custom one-offs and storage racks.
Slater uses a specialized powder coating on many of his products, a step in the fabrication process that most other companies outsource. Bringing this ability in-house results in significant savings for Accessories Plus Fabrication’s clients. The powder coating is applied to metals and then baked in a 420-degree oven for 40 minutes, creating a hard, protective finish much more durable than paint.
Delivering Creative Solutions
The company’s first product was a cooler rack on a three-wheel, all-terrain vehicle. From there, it branched out to exercise equipment, helidecks and construction products such as stairs and railings. Much of Slater’s work today is for branches of the U.S. military, such as the Navy and Coast Guard. One project of significance was for the Naval Base Point Loma in San Diego, where he replaced the base’s chiller pipe stands, which were severely rusted and decaying. “The chiller plant provides cooling to a computer center that handles military operations, so it has to stay up and running. The contractor asked me to come up with a plan to replace the stands without shutting the chiller down, so I did,” Slater says. He was able to remove the old stands, which were welded together, and replace them one at a time, allowing the machine to remain operational.
Also at Point Loma, Slater was asked to replace mounts on antennas that were 90 feet high atop a building. The contractor wanted to bring in a crane to change them out. Instead, Slater devised a tripod lift system, which was significantly less expensive and expedited the work, allowing his team to replace the mounts in just one day.
Leroy Weber is the general contractor who hired Slater for the projects at Point Loma. He describes a project where Slater was asked to fabricate and replace the steel for chiller pipe supports on a roof where they were exposed to outdoor elements. He says, “This was right next to the ocean. We had to come up with the right type of metal to withstand deterioration, and Slater helped us arrive at the solution.” This project was also unique in that Slater was not able to weld on-site at the military installation according to the army engineer’s criteria, so he prefabricated all the metal in his shop first. Weber adds, “Darren is also a really knowledgeable electrician. It comes in handy when we have to shut the power down and I don’t have to bring in another group to handle that aspect.”
Other projects of note include the design and fabrication of helideck landing platforms for the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department as well as pads for personal helicopter owners. The firm’s quality is underscored by a track record of 20 years of business with Channell Commercial Corporation, a manufacturer of telecommunications equipment in Rockwall, Texas, and Temecula, California. Accessories Plus Fabrication also built the stairs and railings for UFC GYM in San Diego.
How is Accessories Plus Fabrication different from other fabricators? Slater explains that the difference is in the process and materials the company uses—and in the quality of its people. “Our staff members are highly skilled and have years of experience. But, their dedication to making sure clients’ needs are met doesn’t come from that—it comes from within. And, it’s an attribute embraced and appreciated by all of our staff,” Slater adds.
Positioned for Growth
As Accessories Plus Fabrication celebrates its 40th anniversary, Slater is positioned to grow the business and bring in some new blood. “I’d like to concentrate more on estimating and leave the shop work to younger guys,” he laughs. Currently he employs one to four additional welders depending on workload, but he would like to delegate more projects in the future. A move is also in the cards for the company, which has been in its current location for 20 years. At the time of this writing, Slater had just signed a lease for a new space, which will provide more workspace for larger projects.
Moving forward, he wants to fabricate more steel products that are used in a design sense, such as custom stairways and open concept ceilings for restaurants and in other public places where people will see them on a regular basis. Slater says his custom one-offs also set his company apart from other welders, as his site furnishings, such as barstools, bar tops, conference tables and other metal furnishings, are unique. He says, “I like projects that are custom and not cookie cutter—they’re more of a challenge.”
Above all, Slater appreciates the creativity associated with the craft. He says, “Welding is like sewing with fire. You cut pieces and weld them together, and you’ve created something from raw steel.”