Rafael Mendoza: a community builder

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  • Ted Escobar/The Sun Tribune - Still to be finished on the project are exterior paint, drywall, floor coverings and interior paint.

  • 1

    Ted Escobar/The Sun Tribune - The Mendoza family apartments on Columbia Avenue in Mattawa should open this year, but the builder-owner has no specific date.

  • Ted Escobar/The Sun Tribune - Still to be finished on the project are exterior paint, drywall, floor coverings and interior paint.

  • 1

    Ted Escobar/The Sun Tribune - The Mendoza family apartments on Columbia Avenue in Mattawa should open this year, but the builder-owner has no specific date.

As I parked at the Mattawa Community Medical Clinic on the way to an interview, I saw a new apartment complex going up across the street on Columbia Avenue. I called City Hall to ask who was putting it up and learned it was Rafael Mendoza.

I wasn’t surprised. I’d spoken to Rafael before, when he was expanding and remodeling Mendoza’s Market, which is now next door to the apartments.

Rafael is no longer an owner of the store. His brother, with whom he was a partner, owns that entire operation now.

Mendoza is building two four-plexes with the help of his wife Carmen. Friends drop by once in a while to lend a hand, but they are building the new apartments themselves. They are all two-bedroom units, and Rafael expects to rent them at about $825 a month.

This is a private project all the way, no government money involved. That’s probably why it’s been taking a while. Rafael continues to work where he’s employed while building, and Carmen works mostly when he does.

“Once in a while, if there is something I can do without him, I’ll come here,” she said.

“I ask for time off here and there,” Rafael said.

Rafael is not just a builder of housing; he’s a community builder. He helped build and operate Mendoza’s. Seeing that this town needs good, safe housing, he’s doing his share.

The irony is that Rafael is not a trained carpenter, did not go to school to learn it, never worked on a construction crew. He did make furniture at one time.

“It’s like a big piece of furniture,” he said, smiling.

The Mendozas broke ground for the project in August. They’re probably halfway. The construction is as good as you’ll see.

But Rafael did have an electrician do the wiring. He knew it would be done and pass inspection more quickly that way.

What’s next?

Rafael didn’t say, but you can bet there is something ahead. Community builders build. That’s what they do.

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