The mayor, city council members and the Riverbank Chamber of Commerce welcomed a new business to downtown this past weekend.
What began as a ribbon cutting ceremony on Friday became a two-day Grand Opening celebration on Saturday and Sunday.
Riverbank resident Lyndon Yates has opened the Kiwi's Custom Guns at 3332 Santa Fe St., across from Designs By Karen. Formerly, he was doing his gun manufacturing out of his garage.
“Before, I was a full time police officer, a full time single dad, and doing gun repair and manufacturing on the side, out of the garage,” he noted. “It was just overwhelming. And then my brother-in-law and sister came in.”
Now, along with owning their own shop, Yates said he has help from his brother-in-law, Pete DeMattos, with business aspects while his sister handles the marketing elements.
Yates said he plans to spend most of his time “out back,” in the shop, making and fixing the guns.
“They do the business and I make the product, you know?” he pointed out. “And we’ve got some really big stuff we’re working on to release next year, we hope will propel us even further.”
The shop owner said the process has taken longer than anticipated, but that seems to have been a positive thing.
“We’ve done it incrementally; we’re not rushing into anything. We bought the building in downtown late last year and we were thinking we were going to be in here in a month. And right now is when we’re open,” he explained. “We didn’t want to jump into something and then be constantly playing catch-up.”
Yates was born in New Zealand, he said, but came to the U.S. in 1993. After graduating from high school in ‘94, he joined the army. He served in Bosnia and Macedonia, then joined the National Guard afterward, serving for a time in Sacramento.
Locally, he’s been an officer with Modesto Police Department, serving for a time at the police academy, and as a patrol officer for almost 16 years, ending last fall.
But he also worked as firearms instructor and an armorer, repairing and maintaining police firearms, both for MPD and the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department. In addition, he’s taken on custom work, which has evolved into the present location.
The name for the shop comes from Yates’ New Zealand heritage: the Kiwi is the national symbol of the country, with its natives referred to as Kiwis, too.
Brother-in-law Pete DeMattos met Yates when he came to high school here in the U.S. And he met Yates’ sister.
“Yes, I married into the family, so I’m a married-into Kiwi,” DeMattos said. “We’ve been working together, talking about how to take his hobby and turn it into a business, and grow it. And here it is.”
Established seriously in the garage, in 2012, it has grown from a good, decent hobby, said DeMattos, into the commercial enterprise it is becoming.
“So far,” DeMattos added, “it has grown mostly by word of mouth.”
He said Yates decided to quit the police force about a year ago.
“We just kind of went full on,” he said, “got it structured, and everything put together so we could operate.”
DeMattos said as the company grows, they’ll be looking for trainees, possibly interns to help out.
He said Lassen College, in Susanville, has a good sized gunsmithing course. They also may look into working something out with nearby Modesto Junior College.
Kiwi’s Custom Guns (KCG) is a fully licensed type 07 manufacturer of firearms, located in downtown Riverbank. They offer complete restoration, gunsmithing and repair services.
Yates said KCG specializes in restoration of military firearms, however, “we also build modern weapons, sporting arms and offer retail sales.”
He has plans to eventually build a small shooting range on the lot next door to the store.