Family Tradition

The '& Sons' businesses continue to thrive and operate even on Father's Day

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It's a tradition that has faded over time but has not completely died out: sons who follow their fathers into the family business.

"It's been wonderful. It's a family thing," said Sandy Morris, who keeps track of all the bookkeeping for Morris & Sons Electric, one of three "& Sons" businesses in Steamboat Springs. Her husband, Bill Morris, runs the business with sons Alan and Dale. Like most "& Sons" companies, the label gives the business an air of longevity; Morris & Sons is a 25-year-old organization, which has spent eight years in Steamboat Springs since relocating from Florida.

A search of the telephone directory yielded 10 father and son businesses: three in Steamboat and two each in Craig and Meeker, with the remaining three from Yampa, Walden and Hayden.

The majority, seven, are contractors or in the construction field.

"It just says that there's more reliability, that they're still here and you can count on them to stick around for a while," said Jim Shepherd of Shepherd & Sons Inc., a heating contractor. His father, the late Mark Shepherd, started business 77 years ago. They officially became M.L. Shepherd & Sons after World War II, with Jim, 78, currently running things with son Marty, 40.

At the other end of the spectrum is Krause & Son Excavation LLC, which will be completing its first year in business this month. The company was started by Richard Krause Jr., whose father's involvement came in the form of a capital investment.

However, Richard's son, Collin, is already getting involved in the business, riding along on the bulldozers and excavators plenty of fun for a 6-year-old.

"I don't know if there's any impact on the customer," said Cassandra Krause, speaking for Richard, who was away for the week working in Denver. "My husband made the choice to make it 'and son' because he wanted it to be a family business. And Collin's going to be a part of it and contribute to it as part of this family."

But the bench mark for father and son businesses in Steamboat any business for that matter has been F.M. Light & Sons. The Lights have the oldest retail establishment in Steamboat, "Outfittin' the West since 1905," five years before the first Father's Day was even celebrated in this country. Francis Marion Light ran the business with sons Olin, Clarence and Day.

The Lights arrived from Missouri on April 2, 1905, with "seven kids and one black dog," according to R. Wayne Light in "My First Eighty-One Years." The store opened just seven months later, 25 feet by 50 feet at the exact location it is today, and is still owned by descendants of the Light family. Clarence sold the store to son-in-law Lloyd Lockhart in the 1960s, who in turn sold it to his son, and current owner, Ty Lockhart in the 1970s.

"It denotes age," said Lockhart of having "& Sons" in a company name. "It's a little older, most names now don't have that. An older name also denotes family."

Ty Lockhart had worked in the store through high school and college, and decided that he couldn't pass up the opportunity to stay and work in Steamboat.

"It says that it's been around for a while," said Stark Beard, who was looking for a T-shirt in the store. "Also that it's a family business, you hope."

But Father's Day is no different from any other holiday, according to most of the owners. Jim Shepherd had a particularly special Father's Day memory when his son Al invited him to play at the Pebble Beach Golf Course. Lockhart and his family still manage to gather together for Father's Day.

For Elwood Eisenhower, who took over for Ike & Son Trans and Auto Wrecking, a 40-year-old business, Father's Day reminds him of the one constant shared by the disappearing breed of "& Son" owners.

"Memories?" he said. "Not really. Just a lot of hard work."

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