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Latest News in El Nido, CA

Merced County’s long-delayed jail expansion moving ahead, but costing tens of millions more

The long-delayed upgrade of the John Latorraca Correctional Center — one of Merced County’s aging jails — is moving forward, and the enormous price tag is advancing along with it.The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously approved an allocation of more than $30 million in matching funds to expand the jail off Sandy Mush Road near El Nido.The planned expansion has been in the works for years, as the board first accepted $40 million in state grants for the project back in 2016.Still, five years later...

The long-delayed upgrade of the John Latorraca Correctional Center — one of Merced County’s aging jails — is moving forward, and the enormous price tag is advancing along with it.

The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously approved an allocation of more than $30 million in matching funds to expand the jail off Sandy Mush Road near El Nido.

The planned expansion has been in the works for years, as the board first accepted $40 million in state grants for the project back in 2016.

Still, five years later, the expansion hasn’t happened — and the initial estimate to upgrade the jail has ballooned roughly 58% from $45 million to $71.3 million.

Because of the expanding cost, the county had to increase its matching funds Tuesday by roughly $25.8 million over the original match, in order for the state Department of Finance to green light the project.

The inflated price tag is blamed on “escalation costs,” county officials said.

Simply put, what the county was able to get for $40 million five years ago doesn’t go as far in 2021.

“There’s been several delays on the state level and locally to get this project started,” said Undersheriff Corey Gibson. “COVID played a role in that. It’s been very slow, but for the last couple months, we’ve actually taken some steps in the right direction to get this project moving.”

There’s not a set timeline for construction, but officials estimate it would take three to five years to complete once it starts.

The expansion would result in a 256-bed maximum-security facility at the John Latorraca Correctional Center. The existing facility houses up to 563 inmates at any given time.

A sheriff’s administration services facility would also be constructed at a site that is yet to be determined. The long-term goal would also be to close the Merced County Sheriff’s downtown Main Jail, which officials have said is outdated.

Merced County’s jails for years have had numerous issues, and inmate escapes have been a headache for successive generations of sheriff administrations.

Most recently, in January six inmates escaped from the Merced County Main Jail, and one more escapee broke out of the John Latoracca Correctional Center in April.

Although each of the escapees was recaptured, the jailbreaks were blamed on outdated infrastructure and staff failures.

“When (the John Latorraca Correctional Center) was built (in 1990), it was built for weekenders,” Supervisor Scott Silveira said.

“When prison realignment came, we were forced to reduce numbers and now you’re holding a lot more hard criminals than what the facility was originally designed to hold. We’re now at a point where we’re trying to correct that stuff with cinderblock walls, metal doors, things like that.”

When asked about why the project expansion has been subject to delays, Silveira cited the impacts of COVID-19, among other reasons -- including the slow pace of bureaucracy.

“We’re government, and things don’t always work at the speed of business,” Silveira told the Sun-Star on Tuesday. “The pandemic really slowed things down. People were working from home. You have to go back and find information, and there’s been an administration change in there, too. It’s a combination of all those things that lead up to delays.”

In terms of the ballooning cost of moving the project forward, Silveira said it’s not only the jail expansion — construction projects across the board have been impacted.

“Basically, the biggest portion of it is the cost of materials, the cost of doing business, wages, you add it all up, it’s caused the price tag to go up,” he said.

The long-delayed project — which is now projected to cost $71.3 million — will be funded partially from the $40 million grant awarded by Senate Bill 863 from the California Board of State and Community Corrections, which was accepted by the county in 2016.

County officials also identified more than $5 million in additional funds for the project from county long-term facility funds and tobacco funds, according to county documents.

Other sources of matching funding coming from the county includes $10.2 million from the county’s general fund, $6.5 million from additional tobacco funds, $3.2 million from a behavioral health fund and $5.9 million from a public health intergovernmental transfer fund.

In June, the Board of Supervisors approved a $1.35 million contract with CGL Companies, Inc., based in Sacramento, to provide construction services for the first phase of construction.

Inside Odin, the East Bay’s Stylish New Mezcal and Tequila-Focused Bar and Restaurant

After on-off openings and closings during the pandemic, Oakland restaurant Nido will reopen for good, this time with a new look and food partner and a bar focused on one thing: agave. Nido returns May 27 as Odin, a bar focused on mezcal and tequila, with Devin González of Tacos El Precioso running the kitchen.It wasn’t something Nido owners Sylvia and Cory McCollow initially planned for the space; after the first shutdown, the couple decided to focus on their other restaurant Nido’s Backyard located just a few block...

After on-off openings and closings during the pandemic, Oakland restaurant Nido will reopen for good, this time with a new look and food partner and a bar focused on one thing: agave. Nido returns May 27 as Odin, a bar focused on mezcal and tequila, with Devin González of Tacos El Precioso running the kitchen.

It wasn’t something Nido owners Sylvia and Cory McCollow initially planned for the space; after the first shutdown, the couple decided to focus on their other restaurant Nido’s Backyard located just a few blocks away, porting over menu items from the original restaurant into the newer, open-air space. But when they briefly reopened the smaller spot — or, Little Nido, as Cory affectionately calls it — the couple found the two restaurants competed with each other, especially with similar menus and at a time when restaurants weren’t open indoors and most customers said they felt safer eating outside.

“Here we were, presented with this [feeling of], ‘Now what are we gonna do?’” Sylvia recalls. “We just decided we were going to try something that we had talked about for a long time, which was opening up a mezcaleria here in town.” The duo previously tried offering pairings and tastings of mezcal at the backyard, but it never stuck. “It just made sense to rebrand the space and align ourselves with Devin,” Sylvia says.

During much of the pandemic, while the McCollows were focused on Nido’s Backyard, they allowed other businesses, such as Pie Society to use their kitchen. This led the couple to consider letting another person handle kitchen duties at Odin, eventually turning the reins over to González, who they’ve known through events and his pop-ups Cafe Con Pan and Tacos El Precioso. “We just saw how uplifting it was for someone who otherwise would not be able to get a permit and open up a restaurant or a bakery anytime, let alone during COVID, and thought, ‘Well, how else can we let someone else shine?” Cory says. The McCollows were busy at the backyard and rather than divide and conquer, they went a different direction. That grew into a conversation with González, and the couple felt that his food aligned the best with the mezcaleria they had in mind.

Fans of little Nido may not recognize the restaurant; it’s gotten a facelift courtesy of designer Jon de la Cruz, who outfitted the space in darker colors and added a bright onyx bar to anchor the room and pop against the dark interior. “John calls it mezcal church,” Cory says, and the description certainly fits, from the church pews used as seating to the host stand at front, to the wall of mezcals and tequilas behind the bar. Works from Oaxacan artists hang on the walls and tables pair with striking wooden chairs in the shape of hands.

Great care has been taken with curating the bar program, which doesn’t offer much beyond mezcal and tequila — but goes deep in both options. There will be cocktails made with mezcal and tequila, but the McCollows tapped Hugo Gonzalez, who’s worked in the mezcal industry for a number of years, to create a bottle collection perfect for flights and learning about the spirit. Gonzalez led tastings at the backyard and the selection of mezcal and tequila create a fuller, richer bar — and one that gets conversations going on mezcal production itself. “The makers, their stories, and the impact of what it means to support this maker versus that one, the conservation aspect, there’s just so many layers,” Sylvia says. “Our hope is to be able to host events where we invite speakers to talk about the beautiful things about agave, but also about the not-so-nice things, and having the space to have those conversations is really exciting to us.”

On the food side, Devin Gonzalez (no relation to Hugo) and his Tacos El Precioso team created a menu that’s 60 percent plant-based, but will play well with Odin’s drinks. “Essentially, we’re really showcasing the best of California seasonality with Mexican influences,” Gonzalez says. The menu will rotate seasonally, with different types of tacos, salads, ceviches, and desserts. “So you have the different flavors from the different distillations of mezcal, mixed with the strong acidity and fat and richness and brightness of all of our food,” Gonzalez says.

For the opening menu, Gonzalez will have dishes such as ceviche de champiñónes made with trumpet mushrooms, a smoked salmon tostada, and two tacos, one made with a morita sofrito and the other made with charred yam. Gonzalez also highlighted the tabla de carne, a meat board of sorts that will feature a carne seca — a dried beef rubbed with citrus, chilis, and sea salt, and dehydrated in-house — along with a carnitas ríete, pickles, and corn tostadas. There will also be a cheese board, or tabla de Quesos Salazar, highlighting cheesemaker Queso Salazar. That board will feature a salsa macha-marinated queso fresco, quesillo, a Oaxacan-style cheese, along with others, including local honey, spiced almonds, and pickles. The menu will also offer three types of desserts, including two vegan offerings, like the Budín de Chocolate, a dark chocolate pudding spiced with cinnamon, cayenne, and chilis, which Gonzalez calls a “mole inspired pudding.”

Gonzalez has been at the helm of Tacos El Precioso for nearly five years, working as a pop-up and catering business, but never imagined he’d be running a proper restaurant again. He recounted working his way up from washing dishes for free in exchange for cooking lessons to working farmers markets to supper clubs and more. “What’s fascinating is, I’ve learned to never say never,” Gonzalez says. “I always told myself, I never wanted to own a restaurant again, I never wanted to run a restaurant again. .. for me, I feel like this is almost like a coming home.”

Odin (444 Oak Street, Oakland) debuts Friday, May 27 and will be open 4 to 10 p.m. Thursday to Saturday.

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Odin

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Wednesday's Major League Linescores

agate APAMERICAN LEAGUEB.Keller, Vizcaíno (7), Barlow (8) and Melendez; Pilkington, Morgan (6), Shaw (8), Clase (9) and Maile. W_Pilkington 1-0. L_B.Keller 1-6.Verlander, B.Abreu (8), Pressly (9) and Maldonado, J.Castro; Irvin, Acevedo (6), Puk (7), D.Jiménez (8), Selman (9) and Bethancourt. W_B.Abreu 3-0. L_D.Jiménez 2-3. Sv_Pressly (10). HRs_Oakland, Bethancourt (1).Ray, Romo (6), Murfee (6), Misiewicz (8) and Raleigh; Bradish, Pérez (5), Bautista (7), Akin (8) and Chirinos. W_P&eac...

agate AP

AMERICAN LEAGUE

B.Keller, Vizcaíno (7), Barlow (8) and Melendez; Pilkington, Morgan (6), Shaw (8), Clase (9) and Maile. W_Pilkington 1-0. L_B.Keller 1-6.

Verlander, B.Abreu (8), Pressly (9) and Maldonado, J.Castro; Irvin, Acevedo (6), Puk (7), D.Jiménez (8), Selman (9) and Bethancourt. W_B.Abreu 3-0. L_D.Jiménez 2-3. Sv_Pressly (10). HRs_Oakland, Bethancourt (1).

Ray, Romo (6), Murfee (6), Misiewicz (8) and Raleigh; Bradish, Pérez (5), Bautista (7), Akin (8) and Chirinos. W_Pérez 4-0. L_Ray 4-6. HRs_Seattle, J.Crawford (5). Baltimore, Odor (5), Mountcastle (7), R.Urías (5), Mancini (4).

Kopech, Crick (4), Foster (6), J.Ruiz (7), Sousa (8) and McGuire; Ryu, Stripling (5), Phelps (7), Y.García (9) and D.Jansen. W_Stripling 1-1. L_Kopech 1-2. HRs_Chicago, Pollock (3), J.Abreu (6). Toronto, Espinal (3), D.Jansen (7), Guerrero Jr. (10).

Ober, Megill (7) and Jeffers; Skubal, J.Jiménez (8), Vest (9) and Barnhart. W_Skubal 4-2. L_Ober 1-2.

INTERLEAGUE

Greene, Cessa (4), Gutierrez (6), Detwiler (6), Hoffman (8) and T.Stephenson; Whitlock, Houck (7), Schreiber (9) and Vázquez. W_Whitlock 2-1. L_Greene 2-7.

NATIONAL LEAGUE

E.Lee, Arano (4), Edwards Jr. (6), Cishek (7), Finnegan (7), Weems (8), J.Rogers (8) and Adams, K.Ruiz; Carrasco, Lugo (6), Ottavino (8), Ed.Díaz (9) and Nido. W_Carrasco 6-1. L_E.Lee 0-1.

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Darvish, Crismatt (8) and Au.Nola; Dak.Hudson, VerHagen (8), Whitley (9), Wittgren (9) and Knizner. W_Dak.Hudson 4-2. L_Darvish 4-3. Sv_Wittgren (1). HRs_San Diego, Voit (4). St. Louis, Arenado (10).

E.Cabrera, Floro (7), Pop (8) and Fortes; Senzatela, Chacín (6), Ch.Smith (7), Estévez (8), Grichuk (9) and El.Díaz. W_E.Cabrera 1-0. L_Senzatela 2-3. HRs_Miami, Chisholm Jr. (8).

Wright, McHugh (7), Chavez (9) and Willi.Contreras; Bumgarner, Ramirez (7), Ca.Smith (7), Fry (9) and J.Herrera. W_Wright 5-3. L_Bumgarner 2-4. HRs_Atlanta, Riley (13).

Rodón, J.García (6), Littell (6), McGee (8) and Casali; Aa.Nola, C.Sánchez (7), Hand (8), Knebel (9) and Realmuto. W_Aa.Nola 3-4. L_J.García 1-2. Sv_Knebel (9). HRs_San Francisco, Flores (6). Philadelphia, N.Maton (1), Schwarber (12).

(10 innings)

Tr.Rogers, Head (4), Bleier (5), Nance (5), Okert (7), Bass (7), Sulser (10) and Stallings; Márquez, R.Stephenson (6), Gilbreath (6), Colomé (7), Kinley (8), Bard (9) and Serven. W_Bard 3-2. L_Sulser 0-3. HRs_Miami, M.Rojas (4), Astudillo (1), J.Sánchez (6). Colorado, Rodgers (5).

(10 innings)

Alexander, M.Sánchez (8), D.Williams (9), Milner (10) and Narváez; Hendricks, Norris (6), Rucker (7), Wick (8), Robertson (9), Leiter Jr. (10) and Wills.Contreras. W_Leiter Jr. 1-1. L_Milner 2-1.

Quintana, De Jong (5), Peters (6), Stratton (7), Banda (9) and Heineman; White, Phillips (6), Vesia (8), Grove (9) and A.Barnes. W_De Jong 2-0. L_White 1-1. HRs_Pittsburgh, B.Reynolds (8), R.Castro (1). Los Angeles, Betts (16).

Opinion: Here’s how El Nido transitional housing helps domestic violence survivors

Survivors of domestic violence and become self-sufficient can go on to have happy lives.Petitti is a development officer with the Interfaith Shelter Network and has worked in homeless services for the past 10 years. She lives in La Mesa.Many domestic violence survivors, fearing for their lives, will flee with only their children and what they can carry. They’re traumatized and scared. They often don’t know where to go for help. They reach out to law enforcement or medical providers and get hot...

Survivors of domestic violence and become self-sufficient can go on to have happy lives.

Petitti is a development officer with the Interfaith Shelter Network and has worked in homeless services for the past 10 years. She lives in La Mesa.

Many domestic violence survivors, fearing for their lives, will flee with only their children and what they can carry. They’re traumatized and scared. They often don’t know where to go for help. They reach out to law enforcement or medical providers and get hotline numbers to call local services and emergency shelters.

Social workers accept them into services and perform needs assessments. Because the most dangerous time for survivors is when they leave their abuser, the need for secure housing is very high. Those whose safety may be threatened by their abuser are referred to domestic violence emergency shelter and transitional housing programs. Interfaith Shelter Network (ISN) provides one such program, our El Nido (“the nest” in Spanish) domestic violence transitional housing program.

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One survivor came to El Nido early last year after her husband of 15 years backed her up against a wall with a knife to her throat. Luckily, her neighbors heard her screaming for help and called law enforcement. When officers arrived, she was bleeding from a deep gash. Paramedics saved her life. Her husband was taken into custody and their children were taken to the Polinski Center by Child Protective Services. Because of safety and financial concerns, she was accepted with her three children into the El Nido program.

El Nido is one of eight site-based transitional housing programs for adults and families affected by domestic violence in San Diego County, providing 11 of the county’s 180 existing transitional housing units. These numbers are estimated to fall far short of the actual need. The FBI index logged 8,936 domestic violence offenses in the San Diego region during the first half of 2021. This is up 5 percent from the same period in 2020.

Some programs have waiting lists. Survivors can be forced to go from emergency shelter to shelter until a space opens up. Those who work are eligible for rapid re-housing assistance, which can be used to keep them safely in their homes by changing locks and adding other security.

Some of our families have complex needs to recover from the ravages of domestic violence. At El Nido, we concentrate on providing survivors with the knowledge, skills and services they need to achieve long-term self-sufficiency. Staff partners with survivors to create individual plans for recovery and move towards achieving them.

El Nido program participants receive on-site case management and psychological counseling, financial planning, housing search help, life skills classes and referrals to additional services, such as legal assistance programs, medical and dental services, educational programs such as ESL and GED classes, job training and employment readiness programs.

Children also receive counseling and services. They attend preschool or school and after-school and camp programs. What sets El Nido apart from the other programs is the fact that we are one of the few to accept undocumented women, and the only program to accept large families (with five-plus children), pregnant mothers and families with teens. Survivors and their children can stay in Interfaith Shelter Network’s El Nido program for up to 12 months.

El Nido is supported by a committee of community congregations and organizations, which provide furniture and household goods for the apartments and host special events for participants, such as a graduation ceremony where graduates share their successes with current program participants.

Interfaith Shelter Network has successfully provided case-managed, transitional housing to more than 250 homeless women with children fleeing domestic violence for the past 24 years. We serve about 45 people each week. Historically, more than 85 percent of participants have achieved their personal goals and successfully exited the program for permanent housing. Survivors who have recovered from the trauma of domestic violence and become self-sufficient can go on to have happy lives, raise their children, even enter healthy and safe relationships.

When asked how Interfaith Shelter Network had helped her, one El Nido program graduate responded with: “How did it NOT help me? ISN assisted in every way possible.” She wanted other victims of domestic violence to know, “There is help available. You can get out. For a long time, I did not think I could, but then I found Interfaith Shelter Network.”

If you would like to help, please visit interfaithshelter.org to learn more about us and the ways to support our programs.

Farm Bureau brings Agribee Contest to local students

Bee honest, if you will.Can you spell “penicillin” or “aggregate” without looking up (or googling) those words?How about define them?Well, Emma Jhuty, a fifth grader at McSwain School, did so correctly at Merced County’s first-ever Agribee Contest last Friday at the Mainzer Theater.Jhuty took top honors among 23 other local students by accurately spelling and defining those words in the final round of the contest. She won the First Place award and a new iPad. Second place was awarded ...

Bee honest, if you will.

Can you spell “penicillin” or “aggregate” without looking up (or googling) those words?

How about define them?

Well, Emma Jhuty, a fifth grader at McSwain School, did so correctly at Merced County’s first-ever Agribee Contest last Friday at the Mainzer Theater.

Jhuty took top honors among 23 other local students by accurately spelling and defining those words in the final round of the contest. She won the First Place award and a new iPad. Second place was awarded to Camila Aguayo, also fifth grader at McSwain. She received a $100 gift card to Barnes & Noble.

The Agribee program was originally developed by the Butte County Farm Bureau. It’s a spelling bee contest focused on the spelling and defining of agriculturally related words. This year, the Merced County Farm Bureau (MCFB) brought it to this region for the first time.

“We had wanted to do it for awhile,” said Breanne Vandenberg, the MCFB executive director. “This year we increased our staff, and we thought it was a great program to ad to our educational portfolio.”

The Farm Bureau invited all 4th and 5th graders in the county to participate, and sent out a list of words to school that would be used in the contest.

“The teachers and students took it from there,” Vandenberg said. “I’m assuming there is a lot of parent involvement, which we love to see, in helping the kids get involved.”

The local elementary schools that responded were Ballico, Plainsburg, El Nido, McSwain and Washington.

“We were so excited to get the turnout we did for our first Agribee,” said Denelle Flake, project specialist for MCFB. “The students should all be proud of the hard work they put in to study for the contest.”

Alexxis Rudich, MCFB project assistant added, “We hope that the program teaches the participants and their families how important the agriculture industry is to our community. We cannot wait to watch this program grow in future years and for more schools to be represented.”

The Agribee judges included: Nikki Malm, a retired third grade teacher from Marks Elementary in Dos Palos; Joe Sansoni, an almond farmer and MCFB President; and Nita Pedrozo, a retired Merced County Schools administrator.

MCFB would like to thank the following sponsors for their support: American Ag Credit, Arnold Farms LP, Chance Land and Cattle, Cortez Growers Association, Double G Farms, Fluetsch & Busby Insurance, Ed Silva Farms, Shannon Pump Company, Van De Pol Petroleum and Willow Tree Ranches.

A special thank you goes to the Mainzer Theatre and Kimberly Gardner for the use of the Mainzer facilities and aid in the coordination of the event.

The following students participated in the event:

Ballico Elementary School

Plainsburg Elementary School

El Nido Elementary School

Washington Elementary School

McSwain Elementary School

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