Eight of the original employees of the Patterson Logistics fulfillment center in Dinuba who have worked together since 1996. From left: Natalia Urzua, inventory supervisor; Merla Magarin-Pascua, receiver; Nelda Gonzalez, West Region office manager; Javier Murillo, animal health international department manager; Ernie Pasillas, senior director of distribution; Vicky Aguila, vet shipping clerk; Christine Trinidad, inventory department manager; and Yolanda Luna, receiver. Photo contributed
Written by Frank Lopez
Most people don’t spend nearly three decades working for the same employer, let alone working with multiple co-workers who all started at the same time.
At Patterson Logistics Services, Inc., a medical supply conglomerate with a fulfillment center in Dinuba, eight employees are still working alongside each other since it opened in 1996.
At the time, it was one of the first major companies to set up shop in the town with a population of about 13,000.
Today Dinuba has more than 25,000 residents and several large employers.
As the Dinuba Fulfillment Center was preparing to launch 27 years ago, 5,000 people from Dinuba and elsewhere in the Central Valley applied for positions.
Only 55 were hired.
Eight of the those hired between December 1995 and February 1996 were Natalia Urzua, Merla Magarin-Pascua, Nelda Gonzalez, Javier Murillo, Ernie Pasillas, Vicky Aguila, Christine Trinidad and Yolanda Luna.
In the decades since, the eight employees have grown their bond and helped the fulfillment center thrive.
Nelda Gonzalez, today the west region office manager at Patterson Logistics, recalls that when they first started, the facility had no running water and electricity. Employees had to visit nearby restaurants to use the restroom, she said.
Today, the Dinuba Fulfillment Center employs 166 people and has expanded from 47,000 square feet to 212,000 square feet for the distribution of dental and veterinary medical products.
The eight employees have all worked in different departments over the years, with some in human resources, shipping and receiving and supervisory roles.
Department Manager Christine Trinidad started off in the human resources department. In less than sixth months, she was working on the floor as a supervisor.
“Back then it was so different from what it is today,” Trinidad. “Today we use robots to help us pick. Back then everything was paper and now all the house orders go to the robots.”
Many of the eight employees attribute their career trajectory to how they grew with the company over the years. As an agricultural town, Dinuba had many job opportunities working in the field but little else. Patterson Logistics moving into town was a big deal, they said.
The fulfillment center, like the industry, sees constant transition, Trinidad said.
“Regulations have forced us to change,” Trinidad said. “What our veterinarians, what our dentists, what our farmers face, and what is happening with technology, demands for newer equipment and different products.”
A more recent and pressing call for change came with the Covid-19 pandemic.
For the first few weeks of the lockdown in 2020, demand dropped. Some workers faced mandatory furloughs. Some employees got sick.
“That was my full-time job,” Gonzalez said. “Having people call in, having people call our nurse triage number. It was a headache.”
After the pandemic, it was hard to find employees to get back to work, and there has been a lot of new people hired more recently.
Inventory Supervisor Natalia Urzua said that around 10 years ago, it was difficult to get a job at Patterson. Applicants had to know somebody working at the company for a chance.
She said that now, it’s more common to hear of people quitting their jobs.
As the company has grown, and the group of eight with it, so have their families.
Patterson Logistics has empowered the group to succeed outside of the workplace.
“This place has allowed us to raise our families, buy our homes,” Gonzalez said. “When I first started I was barely buying my home, and now I’m a homeowner.”
The group said that Patterson Logistics is very accommodating for family and personal time. They realize the importance of keeping employees happy, so they stay. There are no plans for retirement anytime soon.
Merla Magarin-Pascua said that there are differences in the work ethic of younger generations that requires a certain level of patience when training them. Having children of your own helps — something also celebrated at Patterson.
“We went from having babies and baby showers here to announcing grandbabies,” said Magarin-Pascua.
Many from the group have worked alongside their children at the fulfillment center, with some still working there, raising their own families and buying their own homes.
Ernie Pasillas, senior director of distribution at Patterson Logistics, who now works out of Saint Paul, Minnesota, was 20 years old when he first started at the Dinuba fulfillment center, taking the job to pay for his car insurance.
After working at Patterson, he began to embrace the people and culture. Like any family, there were also disagreements, but they were always there to support each other and challenge each other to be the best they could be.
The Central Valley has a lot of people with a great work ethic, Pasillas said, which is why the Dinuba facility is one of the top performers for Patterson Logistics. New technologies such as automation and robotics will only improve performance.
“The Dinuba culture is willing to take on any challenge — and it’s where I come from,” he said. “To see the Dinuba team always leading the charge gives me a feeling of pride.”
Because the Dinuba fulfillment center performs so well, Pasillas doesn’t get to visit too often. But when he does, he said it’s like time stops and they all remember the good times.