When A Job Turns Into Much More

The Salinas Californian
January 22-23, 2011

In an era when loyalty between company and worker is becoming increasingly strained, employees who have logged decades with one firm are rare. Almost unheard of is a worker who has been with the same company since Dwight Eisenhower was president.

Meet Jonnie Barrient. Barrient is a warehouseman with Scarr Moving and Storage in Salinas. In fact, he has been there since before there was Scarr Moving and Storage. Barrient, who just celebrated his 70th birthday in December, came to work at Scarr’s predecessor, Olsen Van Lines, in 1957, and then when Warren Scarr bought the company in 1965, Barrient stayed aboard. And the rest has been a long history.

Barrient, who lost his father as a young man, went to work as a mover and truck driver when he was 17.

When Warren Scarr, himself turning 91 next month, sold a truck stop and bought Olsen, he kept the crew on. It didn’t take long for a bond stronger than boss-and-worker to emerge between Scarr and Barrient.

“Warren was like a dad to me,” Barrient said Friday as he logged in boxed sections of a client’s kitchen cabinets. “He never made me feel like an employee. This family makes me feel like I’m part of the family.” By “this family”, Barrient means two generations of Scarr’s – Warren and now his son Mark Scarr, who not only continues to build successful business in Salinas, but has embraced the same philosophy as his father.

“My dad is very loyal to the people who work for him,” Mark Scarr said this week. “He taught me that it is the employees that make the business work.”

Longtime employees

Scarr’s sales manager has logged 31 years, and his warehouse foreman has netted 30 years with the company. That comes to three employees having worked for two generations of Scarr’s for a combined 115 years. After finishing with the cabinets Friday, Barrient walked briskly down a hall at a pace of a 20-year-old, turning into an office he announces as his, but with more than a dose of humility.

“Why do I need an office? I work in the warehouse,” he asked rhetorically as he sat back beneath a framed poster of the California Rodeo. On the other side of the office were framed photographs of his daughter and granddaughter. “My daughter is a probation officer.” He said, a broad ear-to- ear grin lighting up his sun-wrinkled face.

Many of the men Warren Scarr hired were retired military –  most from the former Fort Ord, Mark Scarr noted. Warren Scarr flew a B-24 bomber during World War II and was promoted to the rank of major at the age of 21. Maybe it was that “band of brothers” attitude that forged Warren Scarr’s relationships with his moving crew, an attitude Mark Scarr now fosters enthusiastically.

Friday, while sitting back with his hands clasped behind his head, sporting a Boston Red Sox hat somewhat a-kilter, Barrient talked about Mark Scarr’s fishing adventures and how Scarr works hard for the community.

“He just got back from Peru, taking a bunch of kids from Salinas High down there through his Rotary Club,” Barrient said shaking his head in obvious admiration.

“I tried to retire on time, when I was 65-and-a-half, but Mark wouldn’t let me,” Barrient said with a laugh. “I think he knew that if I retired the lights would go out.”

He placed his palms flat on his spotless desk and looked around. “Yep these people have been so loyal to me,” Barrient said as he stood and walked to the door. He paused in the doorway, that wide grin spreading across his face again.

“That’s why I’m here.”