The Franklin News-Post|
P. O. Box 250
310 Main Street, SW
Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
Photo by Charles Boothe:
It’s all in the family at McCall’s Insurance. In front are Maya, 4, and Spencer, 7, the children of Brad and Cay Lee McCall. Behind the children are, from left, Becky McCall, her husband, Johnny McCall, Johnny and Vivian’s mother, Dove McCall, Brad McCall, Joe Norkus, Vivian Norkus and Cay Lee McCall.
Wednesday, June 27, 2012
By CHARLES BOOTHE - Staff Writer
The McCall family has done what few families have accomplished -- keep a business thriving for 50 years.
The McCall Insurance Agency celebrated its milestone golden anniversary last week, and it all started in a basement.
But John "Johnny" McCall Jr. said his father, the late John Douglas McCall Sr., did not start his professional life with the goal of being in the insurance business.
"Dad was born in the Glade Hill area and came from nothing," McCall said. "He was just a hard worker all of his life."
After service during World War II as a radio operator and gunner on a B-17 bomber, the senior McCall graduated from Virginia Tech in 1950 with an agriculture degree and soon was teaching in Charlotte County.
However, Johnny McCall said, teaching was just one of his jobs.
"He did a little bit of everything," he said. "Dad was a jack of all trades. He could wire houses, paint, any kind of job he could get to make some money."
He also dabbled in insurance and was a State Farm agent during the 1950s.
"We lived in Keysville and he had an office in Farmville," McCall said. "He was with State Farm for nine years, the last two as district manager."
But when the company asked him to move to either Charlottesville or Richmond, he didn't want to do that, McCall said. Instead, he started teaching again in 1961, this time in nearby Alta Vista.
But after six months, he made the decision to move back to Franklin County.
Since he already had an insurance license, he got a company, Northern Neck, to come in with him, McCall said.
"He started out of the basement of his house (in Rocky Mount), trying to nurture it along," he said.
That, of course, took time and meant other income would be needed.
"He was teaching high school, he was head of social services and he worked in the juvenile probation office (during this time)," McCall said. "He did a lot of odd jobs for several years before the insurance business could sustain itself."
In the late 1960s, he finally could go to the insurance business exclusively, he said, and "basically worked by himself."
But that would soon change as the business officially became a family business.
"I graduated from Virginia Tech in 1975 with a teaching degree," McCall said. "But I couldn't find a job and dad said to try it (the insurance business) for while and 'if you don't like it you can quit.'"
McCall did like it, though, and is still at the business, which has been at its current location on Tanyard Road since 1981.
McCall's mother, Dove, who was a teacher at Rocky Mount Elementary School, started helping out in the office in 1981, and in 1987, McCall's sister Vivian also joined the business.
"Vivian was a math teacher and got tired of all the administrative stuff," he said.
McCall's son Bradley graduated from Virginia Tech in 2000 with a management degree, and after a brief stint with Walmart, joined his father, grandmother and aunt in the family business.
"We've had various people work for us over the years," McCall said, "but two, Donna Winebarger and Susan Belcher, have been with us for a long and we feel like we are all family."
Add McCall's wife, Becky, to the roll.
"My wife taught for 30 years and retired in 2010," he said. "She now works here full time."
They all have carried on a family tradition of hard work.
McCall said his father never slowed down and at 78 years old was still working the day before he died in 2003.
"He came to work on Tuesday and died the next day," he said.
Another tradition in the family relates to the name "John."
"We have a tradition of John McCalls," Johnny McCall said, adding that his son, John Bradley McCall, is the eighth generation of John McCalls.
Last Thursday, on a very hot evening, a tent set up behind McCall Insurance was jammed with anniversary well-wishers as the Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce hosted a Business After Hours for the special occasion.
Johnny McCall said that with the excessive heat he didn't know what to expect as far as a crowd was concerned.
But he had nothing to be concerned about.
"I was amazed at the crowd," he said.
Fifty years is a long time for a family to be in business, and McCall said other companies have tried to buy them out along the way.
"We are a family business and have been all along," he said. "We're planning on being here a long time. We are fiercely independent."