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Brought to you by John Sciarra, Bernard's Garage - AUTOMOTIVE INSIDER -

BERNARD'S GARAGE - John SciarraSummer's imminent arrival means your vehicle's air conditioning system will soon be under serious strain.

If your A/C isn't as frosty as it used to be, but it's still blowing cold, the system may need to be recharged.

Manufacturers used to use a type of refrigerant known as R-12, or Freon, until researchers found it caused ozone depletion. As such, it's illegal to use Freon in vehicles built after 1994. Now, manufacturers use R-134a to keep things cold in the cabin.

Working on an air conditioning system is about as much fun as sticking your hand in a blender. Twice.

Unless you are skilled in vehicle maintenance, it’s safest to take the job to a professional.

An AC compressor is usually driven by your vehicle's serpentine belt, and as it spins, it pressurizes the system's refrigerant. It's this change in pressure that cools the air coming into your cabin. The best way to keep your compressor from failing is to have your A/C system serviced once a year.

If your compressor needs replacement, most responsible shops will recommend swapping out a number of periphery components at the same time.

Why? The easy answer is working on an air conditioning system is about as fun as sticking your hand in a blender. Twice.

To avoid draining your refrigerant, removing your compressor, installing a new unit and refilling the system with new cool stuff — only to have you come back in a week and say it's still not cold enough — it makes sense to replace the necessary components.

Bernard’s Garage

2036 SE Washington St., Milwaukie



Brought to you by Mike Nielsen of Snap Fitness - FITNESS INSIDER -

SNAP FITNESS - Mike NielsenAs the inspirational saying goes, “Live less out of habit and more out of intent.”

While it’s true that starting a fitness routine can be difficult, I offer the following tips to get you in the gym door and on the road to good health.

Assessment — New SNAP Fitness clients receive a free jump-start session, including consultation with a trainer. The assessment determines the client’s baseline, helps us guide their first steps, and is an opportunity to discuss adding personal training.

Cardio — The national recommendation for exercise for all ages and fitness levels is to get to the gym at least three days per week, and to do a minimum of 30 minutes of cardio per visit. Working out with a friend will make it more fun, help you feel more accountable, help you stay at the gym for more months and achieve a higher level of success.

Strength training is key to replacing fat with muscle, becoming leaner, stronger and improving balance. Do two to three sessions of strength training per week.

Nutritional guidelines — Instead of eating three large meals per day, eat five to six small meals. This will fuel your energy throughout the day and avoid post-meal sluggishness. Also drink 96 ounces of water daily.

Online help — SNAP has a complete online nutritional program and training center. Free with membership, it provides a personalized workout plan, sample menus and a complete library of instruction videos.

Snap Fitness

Milwaukie: 4200 SE King Rd.



Oregon City: 19703 S. Hwy. 213, Ste. 170



Brought to you by Mike Nielsen - Snap Fitness - Fitness INSIDER

Mike Nielsen, Snap FitnessStrength training is an essential part of an exercise program, even for someone who hasn’t been active in a while.

Lifting weights, using weight machines and doing core work increases muscle mass and bone density.

As we age, our muscles deteriorate (called sarcopenia) and bone density decreases.

Research shows that seniors are more susceptible to bone breakage that younger adults. As people age, their metabolism slows down. We are seeing more and more seniors joining gyms.

If we take the average adult between the ages of 40 and 50 and do basic strength-training three to four times per week for 90 days, the outcome can be life-changing.

Here’s a myth-buster: Muscle does NOT weigh more than fat! A pound is a pound. 

Muscle is, however, more dense than body fat and takes up less area than fat. If you were to start an exercise program complete with strength training, you would increase your lean body mass and decrease body fat.

The body takes up less space and metabolism speeds up, resulting in a higher BMR (base metabolic rate, the amount of daily caloric intake needed to maintain LBM and weight.) This reverses sarcopenia and increases bone density.   

Not everyone walks into a gym and knows exactly what to do. Snap gives new members an opportunity to meet with a Certified Personal Trainer, who assesses their body and their goals. 

Let’s get started.

Snap Fitness

Milwaukie: 4200 SE King Rd.



Oregon City: 19703 S. Hwy. 213, Ste. 170



Brought to you by John Sciarra, Bernard's Garage - AUTO MAINTENANCE INSIDER

John Sciarra, Bernard's GarageRegular maintenance on your car is, quite simply, a good investment.

For example, when you bring your car in for a timing belt — typically needed at 90,000 to 100,000 miles— it costs in the range of $400 to $500. But if it breaks, it might be $1,800 to $2,000.

At our shop, when we do it, we do it right. With the timing belt, we also replace the timing belt tensioner, idler pulleys, camshaft seals, water pump and coolant.

Mileage interval maintenance, which is only done by shops, should be done at 30,000, 60,000 and 90,000 miles.

The ideal scenario is to get the car into the shop about three times per year for inspections, which will find things like rodent damage, which is more common than you might think. It’s mainly squirrels in this area.

An inspection will also uncover leaking coolant or oil, as well as plugged-up air filters. Once a year, you should get a brake inspection.

We do complete automotive repair, including pre-purchase inspections for $150. That’s a comprehensive inspection, which can detect unforeseen problems and save you from buying a compromised vehicle.

Our average cost for an oil change is $38; $58 for a brake inspection.

It’s a small investment. We do it properly and can save you a lot of trouble and expense down the road.

Bernard’s Garage

2036 SE Washington St., Milwaukie



Mike Nielsen - Snap Fitness - Fitness INSIDER

SNAP FITNESS - Mike Nielsen“We are a friendly, success-oriented fitness center,” says Mike Nielsen, vice president and co-owner of Snap Fitness locations in Oregon City, Milwaukie and Canby. “We’re like the ‘Cheers’ of the gym world, where everybody knows your name.”

Nielsen has been a certified fitness coach for 13 years and has been with Snap for eight years. He says being a fitness coach is all about helping individuals achieve the best version of themselves.

“It’s not just something that’s done at the gym, but it’s a lifestyle change,” he said of Snap. “We focus on not only the physical but also the mental and emotional aspects of everyday life, to make sure we are able to achieve long-term success.”

He says Snap gyms have a family feel and a personal touch.

The gyms are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with monitored access for safety. Snap has more than 1,500 locations nationwide.

The fitness centers offer cardio, personal training, weight-loss programs, a health center, strength training and Olympic lifting. An online web page for members offers nutrition counseling and an online training center.

“Our members are our greatest assets,” Nielsen added. “We do all we can to make sure they have not only the best facility and equipment, but a wonderful experience.”

Snap Fitness


Milwaukie: 4200 SE King Rd.


Oregon City: 19703 S. Hwy. 213, Ste. 170


Canby: 1109 SW 1st Ave.


Brought to you by John Sciarra - Bernard's Garage - AUTOMOTIVE INSIDER -

BERNARD'S GARAGE - John SciarraAfter nearly 100 years of providing excellent full-service automotive repair and maintenance, Bernard’s Garage is a classic Milwaukie institution trusted by generations of customers.

Founded in 1925, old timers and area residents still remember Joe Bernard Sr., who would design and build custom car parts when his customers’ vehicles needed it. Joe Bernard Jr., a former Milwaukie mayor, helped modernize Bernard’s and continued his father’s tradition of excellent customer service.

The current owner, Jim Bernard, another Milwaukie mayor and current Clackamas County commissioner, has computerized Bernard’s—turning his father’s mechanics into today’s technicians.

Besides providing free pickup and delivery, Bernard’s offers DEQ repair and adjustments, check-engine light diagnosis, manufacturer-scheduled maintenance, brakes, steering and suspension repair, timing belt tune-ups, radiator and water pump work, as well as engine, transmission and air conditioning service.

“We are straight shooters and will let you know what the problem is and what the cost is upfront,” Operations Manager John Sciarra says.

Sciarra, an 18 year veteran of Bernard’s, has attained numerous specialty vehicle class certifications. With 26 years in the industry overall, Sciarra is our INSIDER for automotive excellence.

Bernard’s Garage is a 17-year-long supporter of the Milwaukie Farmers Market, a Milwaukie First Friday participant and frequently donates to the Annie Ross House, Milwaukie Senior Center and other local schools and events.

A member of the Clackamas County Chamber of Commerce since 1955, Bernard’s has been named Business of the Year twice since 2000, and has received the BRAG award from the county for practicing responsible recycling and waste management.

Bernard's Garage 

2036 SE Washington St, Milwaukie, OR.

(503) 659-7722


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Local company builds ribbon racks and essentials for military uniforms


by: PHOTO BY ELLEN SPITALERI - Jared Zabaldo stands by the shadow box that was the inspiration for his company, USA Military Medals. He earned the awards as a result of a tour of duty in Iraq in 2004.It all started when Jared Zabaldo returned from a year of active duty in Iraq in 2004 and decided he wanted to have his campaign awards to put in a shadow box.

The journey he traveled to make this happen led him to start an Internet company, which ultimately led to his current business, USA Military Medals, in a 15,000-square-foot facility near Southeast Johnson Road in Milwaukie.

Zabaldo, a Happy Valley resident, is president of business operations.

Some awards and medals are handed to soldiers when they leave active duty, but in Zabaldo’s case the awards he wanted were just given to him on paper, and he wanted the actual physical award.

“I had two options, I could buy them directly from the military, which is not too easy since there is no military base with a PX (post exchange) in Oregon, or I could purchase them on my own,” Zabaldo said.

When he finally found a website that offered the correct medals and ribbons, he had a less-than-happy experience, and decided that soldiers should have a better option.

So in 2005, he and his brother, Nathan, a programmer, launched a website from a shed behind a house, with several hundred products.

“We did not have an overnight success, but over time we figured out what to carry. Fast forward to 2012, and we have 12,000 products, some we manufacture in-house, and we engrave nameplates and dog tags,” along with other services, Zabaldo said.

Because local soldiers found out about the company, they started dropping in, so the business expanded to include a small retail space, selling things like tactical gear and service-pride items.

“It is a total coincidence that Camp Withycombe is so close, but I was living in Milwaukie at the time, so that is why we started the business here. The retail space is run like an auto parts store; customers come in and we go into the warehouse to fill their orders,” Zabaldo said.

Ribbon racks

The company, which employs 48 people, is best known for its ribbon racks, Zabaldo said.

Members of all five branches of the U. S. military receive medals for their tours of duty, and all those medals also have ribbons associated with them.

On their uniforms, most service people wear their ribbons, which need to be properly placed in a pin-on medal rack, according to the date of their tours of duty.

“We manufacture a rack for slide-on ribbons, and we are one of only three or four companies that do that,” Zabaldo said.

His company also makes the ribbons. What is tricky about the process is figuring out the proper order of the ribbons in the rack, and USA Military Medals has that covered.

“We spent a few years refining a program we call EZ Rack Builder, which puts the awards in the proper order and allows you to visually build your own rack right on the computer screen,” Zabaldo said.

Service men and women can access the program for free to help them figure out the order of the ribbons, and his company has even installed three kiosks with the program at Ft. Lewis.

USA Military Medals has contracts with the U.S. Army and Air Force exchanges, and has formed a partnership with Vanguard, a uniform company in California that manufactures medals and badges.

“We take a lot of their products and re-fashion them,” Zabaldo said.

Specialty jobs

Matteo Monaco has worked nearly two years for the company, making ribbons and medals and filling specialty orders. Last week, he was working on putting 21 medals in order for a customer whose father’s medals were damaged in Hurricane Sandy.

The father had been in the Marine Corps, and the awards included a Purple Heart and a Silver Star, as well as medals for campaigns in Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan, Monaco noted.

Nate Peery, a 10-month employee at USA Military Medals, takes on several jobs, including engraving name plates, dog tags and badges.

He also puts together shadow boxes, containing a service person’s ribbons, medals, patches and other memorabilia.

“I really like that it is personal to the customer; it encompasses a person’s military career in a box,” he said, adding that he learns about history as he is assembling the boxes.

“I also like that I am doing something for a family, so there is an emotional attachment,” Peery said.

One unexpected aspect of the business is the company’s tie to the entertainment industry.

“We have done uniform work for the TV shows ‘Homeland’ and ‘Army Wives,’ “ Zabaldo said, adding that USA Military Medals put together Sacha Baron Cohen’s hugely impressive ribbon rack that he sports in the movie “The Dictator.”

A new aspect to the business was launched this past quarter, when customers began asking for custom uniform tailoring services.

“It was a natural progression, since we specialize in dress uniforms,” Zabaldo said, noting that the company just concluded its busiest season, from September through December.

“Once a year, companies hold dress uniform inspections and some major events, like the Marine Corps Ball, take place around the holidays,” he said.

Four months ago, Zabaldo hired Christina Sochirca, a professional seamstress from Moldova, to take detailed measurements and do the uniform alterations; she also machine embroiders name tags.

Sochirca attended tailoring school in her native country; in her former job she worked with brides, who can be picky, she said.

What does she like best about her current job at USA Military Medals?

“Everything,” she said.

Drive to Ft. Lewis

Zabaldo graduated from Southern Oregon University and joined the U.S. Army Reserves in 2001. In his first year in law school at Willamette University, he was called up to Iraq, and spent a year there in 2004, working as a journalist.

He and an officer worked in the public affairs office and reported to Gen. David Petraeus, for whom he wrote thousands of press releases.

Zabaldo was stationed in the Green Zone in Baghdad, but traveled across the country, accompanying soldiers on missions and sleeping in bombed-out buildings.

“It was a brutal job. We’d get back to the base, and everyone else could sleep or relax, but I had to start writing,” putting everything he had experienced into perspective, he said.

Zabaldo recently left the reserves, and also left law school to run the company full time.

As for the future of USA Military Medals, he wants to increase the line of products offered, and be especially responsive to customer requests.

But Zabaldo is adamant about one thing: “We want to support local soldiers, especially those at Camp Withycombe. If they need anything, they should come and talk to us; we don’t want them to have to drive to Ft. Lewis.”