The R&D Family. From left, Don Jensen, Chickie Street, Diana and Greg Jensen.
Jerry's View: Catching up on Chickie Street
I bumped into an old friend last week at the bank and had to catch up on her life since she last came to my house years ago to fix the leaky toilet. She was a fast worker and a whiz at plumbing.
Her name is Chickie Street. She once may have set a new land speed record when she rode a skateboard down 160th Street toward Five Corners as a teenager. She was on her way to work at her parents’ shop, R&D Plumbing on 153rd. She was 16-- the same age her grandfather was when he came to America from Germany with only a pair of tin snips and no English language skills.
R&D Plumbing operated successfully for 64 years in this community in a building that once was the site of grandpa’s house. John Eder opened Hi Line Plumbing and Tin in 1935 here. His son, Ernie, later took over the shop while his brother-in-law, Don and his wife Rose (John's daughter) moved the plumbing side to the building on 153rd in 1964.
The business was called R&D because grandpa said the R for Rose should be first. And so it was. Rose and Don had three kids. Chickie (named by grandma from birth), Diana and Greg. They all worked in the family enterprise helping householders with plumbing parts and plumbing repairs.
Chickie recalls that Dad (Don) taught Greg how to be a plumber. But that Rose (mom) taught Don how to be a plumber.
"She should have gotten a license. She was the one who to actually lay out the plumbing. Then, dad got his license and we later hired two plumbers and Greg was broken in as a plumber," Chickie explained.
Business at R&D was about fifty percent parts and fifty percent plumbing work. This was in the era before the big box stores crowded them out. But the key to their success was knowledge and that fact that they scavenged parts and saved them because people might need them if they had old plumbing.
"I loved taking faucets apart and putting new washers in them," Chickie told me.
And she said she loved working with customers, knowing so many people and working with her family, having pride working somewhere her grandfather had started.
These values might be what impelled her to become the first female president of the Burien Rotary Club.
Greg started his own business in 1995, as Jensen Plumbing and has been operating successfully since. Diana is the caretaker for her dad, who is 88.
R&D was sold to Rosen Plumbing Supply in 2007. Chickie stayed on to operate the store as a Burien branch of Rosen, but the store folded in 2008.
Since then, she and her husband have enjoyed their motorcycle and boating trips.