The Back Story...
You might see a company with a very similar product offering to mine. The following story may be the reason why. I am writing this in defense of our reputation and long history of providing quality customer service.
The following account actually makes me a bit nauseous and very sad to think about and more so to write about. I had thought these folks were friends. They ended their last conversation with me with the following comment: "business is business and your retirement is your problem!" This is the ugly story: In January of 2016, Tim Vickers, the owner of the local company who was building all of my sinks since day one, indicated he was planning on retiring soon and put his stepson, Dave Havens, in charge. I won't go too deeply into the details, but it appeared to me that the quality and service deteriorated quickly.
It all started when Lori (who has done our patina work for many years) inquired as to why the finishing on the sinks had deteriorated and that the exterior of the copper under mount sinks was no longer finished nicely. She was having to spend many additional hours finishing the copper sinks. We were noticing that the finishing on the stainless sinks deteriorated significantly as well. (See the photo below) Having sent a sink back based on incorrect production, as well as issues with finishing quality control, I began to wonder if the production crew at Vickers Metal Works had changed as we had not ever had, in all the years of working with Vickers, so many issues. Having become quite concerned I reached out to Vickers. Dave Havens (stepson to the owner of Vickers Metal Works) indicated to me that nothing had changed and alluded to the fact that Ray Uvalle (who did all of the fine finishing on stainless sinks) was still working there. (In actuality, he had been given his "pink slip" and had been laid off) Ray later told me he suspected he was laid off due to his flat-out refusal to cut corners on our sinks. Coincidentally, I had to send sinks back to them that were far below my standards to be refinished. One sink had to be sent back twice. A copper sink was made slightly smaller than it should have been and the stock accessories didn't fit. I returned the sink only to get it back 10 days later with no alterations. (click on image below)
Vickers Metal Works made a new "smaller" grid and sponge caddy to fit the mis-sized sink!) (I have photos of this sink showing the size error). Ray was actually able to fix that sink in less than 15 minutes. They did not bend the ledges for my Signature Series design properly, making the interior almost 1/4" too small below the ledges. Ray was able to fix the sink to perfect specifications in my office with no special tools! That example is a glaring example of the unique expertise that Ray Uvalle had and the apparent lack of expertise they were able to offer in fixing the sink without Ray.
The photo below is one of many photo examples of the quality we received after Ray was laid off. Ray actually came in and finished this sink properly for us before we sent it to our customer.
Having been laid off for a couple months, Ray came to me to tell me that he had been laid-off and that the issues we had experienced were during the time period that he was no longer at Vickers Metal Works. Ray informed me that Dave Havens had plans to go into competition with me. He said they had already produced at least one of my sink designs with their logo on it. I found it very difficult to believe him, as I hardly knew Ray at this point. Over all the years, I had very little contact with any the workers in their shop.
Key dates here:I believed I had a 17 year understanding that Vickers Metal Works would provide sinks based on my designs on an exclusive basis. This was a verbal understanding and nothing had been in writing. Having learned this shocking information from Ray, I asked the step son, Dave Havens, to formalize our longstanding relationship with a short paragraph sent via email. He verbally agreed to do so, however, he refused to agree in writing on April 11th of 2016. See response.This date is a key date! Note below that they had already purchased a domain well in advance of this communication - giving more evidence that what Ray had told me was true. Upon reading his refusal, I asked to speak to his step father, Tim Vickers, who I thought was a friend. He claimed we never had any agreement and ended the conversation abruptly telling me "business is business!" and my eventual retirement was "my problem". That told me all I needed to know. They were indeed gearing up to go into competition with me! (which would have put me out of business instantly). I later found that they had purchased their new website name in advance of this time-frame and had newly filed a dba as Havens Metal Works. It doesn't take a genious to see that I had no choice. (See the date on their domain filing: April 4, 2016.
It appeared to me that they no longer were happy with a piece of the pie, they wanted it all. See a recent article in Fabricator Magazine talking about how we managed to put this factory together in less than 2 months.
I felt I had no choice. I had to open my own factory - and fast! With the help of Ray, I was able to put together an amazing sink factory with all of the machinery and tools needed to manufacture our sinks (and more). Just before finishing the factory, Tony (a Union Mechanic), Ray (a Union Mechanic), Rey (a Union Mechanic) and Roy (an Apprentice who had recently began to finish copper sinks only, as Ray felt he did not have the skill level to work on brushed stainless sinks yet.) came to work for me without me asking one of them! In fact, I had don't recall having any conversations with most of them in all the years I had a relationship with the company. Tony, Ray and Rey were the top tier metal workers and some of the original men that had been building, welding and finishing my sinks for years - in fact Ray Uvalle for well over a decade! From they day I discovered the need for a factory to the day we produced our first sink was less than two months. When I hired all four men they were in awe of the fact that they could set their own hours, have music in the shop, have the ability to talk to each other freely, carry a cell phone into the building, set their own lunch times, set their break times, and have no cameras on them all day watching their every move.
Their previous employer (now known as Havens Metal Works) has indeed gone into competition with us. They have done so by implementing a significant amount of my ideas. Sadly, I had spent quite a bit of time with the step son (Dave) showing him valuable "ideas" regarding web design and other marketing techniques just before all of this happened. I am generous to a fault. The things I shared took me 18 years to learn.
Dave Havens even had the audacity to repeatedly (to the point she was feeling harassed) call Lori (our patineur) offering her the moon to work for them. I received a similar call from our past patineur that lives in Louisiana. They wanted her to drive to Florida once a month, pick up sinks, finish them, then return. She called me to complain about the multiple phone call she was receiving. My patina and finishing work has evolved over 17 years of hands-on experience. Imagine getting a sink installed and having finish issues! I am certain no other company (anywhere) has the years of experience in patina and top coating aprons that we do.
These are the working conditions reported to me by the men who work for me now and several who currently work at Havens who regularly keep in touch with us. No phones or radios allowed. Alarm bells rang when you had to be at your work station. Talking amongst workers was frowned upon during work hours. Ray told me that cameras were installed at each work station and he assumed they were regularly monitored. The list goes on... The first item I purchased for our new factory was a boom box for the guys.
I found it sad when we met just before opening the factory to hear these questions. 1. What time should we come to work in the morning? My answer: Whenever you like. 2. When do we take breaks during the day? My answer: Whenever you wish to.3. When and what time do we have lunch? My answer: Whenever and as long as you wish. 4. Are we allowed to have phones? My answer: Of course 5. One of us has small children. Will he get in trouble if he comes in late? My answer: Of course not. 6. Are we really allowed to watch TV during lunch? My answer: That is one of the reasons I have cable in your office. I treat my men like I would like to be treated.
Not once has any one of these fine men taken advantage. The exact opposite has been true!
I had no intention of telling this story until I saw all of the confusion about our two companies. Buyers should be informed of fact, not fiction.
This is an excerpt from an email I received in August that alarmed me. As you can see by the email, this customer thought Havens was a less expensive subsidiary of my company. This has happened numerous times, hence I feel I need to tell the back story."Dino, I really want to buy American made that is how I stumbled on to Havens Metal Works. Their products looked like yours and since they are also in Florida I thought they might be a less expensive subsidiary of your company. I will admit your products are not inexpensive, but it is the one kitchen item everyone uses everyday and this is my last renovation ever so it will be well worth it. Your quality, guarantee and customer service have sold me."
Reproducing sink designs without a long history of kitchen design (or even knowing why some features were introduced) can offer disastrous results.
The following designs and products are just some of my designs and ideas that I developed over 17 years of research and study as a former kitchen designer and student of ergonomic studies. Sadly, it is my opinion that Havens Metal felt it was just fine to imitate the vast majority of my designs.
- Single bowl sinks with rear corner drains - I have been designing sinks with rear corner drains for over 15 years. To the best of my knowledge, I don't believe any other company offered the majority of its sinks with rear corner drains prior to my doing so. This should tell you all you need to know. After seeing my innovative single bowl, rear corner sink designs for years, Dave Havens had a triple bowl sink made for his home - that should give you an idea of how far in the past his design ideas are. Tim Vickers, the owner, had a double bowl sink made for his kitchen. Both, in my opinion, are obsolete designs of the past. Now, all of a sudden, single bowl rear corner workstation sinks are the best???
- Millennia Textured stainless steel sinks. I came up with this idea back in 1999 and, to the best of my knowledge, I was the only company in the world offering this as a main line sink material. Now, Havens shows the same material on their website. Can they not come up with an original idea?
- The workstation sink with an interior ledge for a grid and cutting board. The interior ledge system was first designed with the assistance of one of my customers who was an engineer (Robert Pennybaker) well over a decade ago. We came up with this idea before any other sink company. I have absolute proof that this was my original idea.
- 8" deep sinks that are ergonomically correct. I was the only company offering 8" deep sinks as a standard. My sinks were the ONLY line of sinks that were 8" deep in the industry. This depth was formulated based on my years of experience as a kitchen designer and my intensive studies in ergonomics.
- Corner single bowls sinks - I designed these over 15 years ago.
- Naturally weathered copper sink interiors. I developed the process over 17 years ago. To my knowledge, I was the only copper company using this method.
- Specialty patinas on the apron fronts of farmhouse sinks and many more designs and products. (Prior to the break up, Dave Havens would stop by our shop, ask questions of Lori, and linger in the patina area to the point that Lori would come to me and say she felt uncomfortable about all the specific finishing questions he would ask.) These visits only occurred in the last several months of our relationship.
- The Sponge Caddy accessory. (Designed by a past client and myself quite some time ago. I was the only company with such an item.
- Add-a-Bowl™ and Strainer. Shortly after we showed these items on our site, Havens showed very similar ones on theirs.
- My assistant, Debbie, took time to go to Vickers and meet with Dave to introduce and help set up a Database Management System to help with the flow of sink orders between our two companies.
I am not the only company that Haven's seems to have gleened design ideas from. Check out the Zuma sink design by Native Trails. Compare it to the Nova by Havens. Hmm, looks strikingly similar- right down the the exact 22" front to back specification.See the Native Trail Zuma design
If you would like to see a partial listing of the pages, dates and times Havens Metal has been on our site, click here. You will be impressed! They also had the audacity to contact the host of our website asking them to take down our website because I am disclosing this information. I have the right to defend my intellectual property and to explain to those who mistakenly feel Havens Metal is somehow connected to my company. That question has come up over and over again by phone. I have checked every comment for truthfulness and if "they" feel I have any misleading information, or have misstated facts, I invite them to contact me to either prove or remove the comment.