By Pamela Savage
In January of 1978, Rich Deweese founded R.L. Deweese Painting and Decorating. Deweese did not have any experience as a painter, and he had no intention of becoming a painter. However, he was searching for a career opportunity, and that’s where the story gets interesting.
Deweese’s wife, Susan, was attending a women’s prayer group when a friend mentioned that she needed some painting done in her home. Susan quickly answered, “My husband can paint your house.” And with those words, Deweese had an answer to his career search, and a multi-generational family business was born.
Nearly 50 years later, that family business is still thriving under its current name: Dan Deweese Painting and Wood Finishing. The youngest of seven children, Dan has vivid childhood memories painting alongside his siblings. In fact, the family has a photograph of Dan’s brother, David, sleeping with a stepladder in his crib at the tender age of 3 years old. Sister Amy Deweese-Peterson remembers that the family’s telephone was used as the business line, and the siblings got used to answering the phone with, “Deweese’s.”
Dan and Amy share that their father never pressured them to paint, he simply gave them the opportunity to do so over summers. “We did get paid, but we all got fired or quit during those summers,” says Amy.
“Our parents were old-school,” says Dan. “They were not uptight, and they let us do and try anything” to learn the painting business.
These childhood experiences stuck with the Deweese siblings, and all seven have painted at one time or another. Today, five of the seven, along with their father, Rich, work together at Dan Deweese Painting and Wood Finishing. Dan never imagined the business would become family-owned, but that familiarity has given the business an edge.
Says Amy, “We all know each other quite well, and we are loyal to one another. We can count on one another.”
Dan adds that each sibling specializes in one aspect of the business, and that means they don’t second-guess each other. They trust each other to get the job done right. “No one tries to act like they are better than anyone else in the family. I guess we got all of that fighting out of our systems as kids.”
The camaraderie and admiration for one another’s skills doesn’t just apply to family. Dan tries to bring the same connectedness and appreciation to all of his employees. Everyone in the company generally works no more than 40 hours per week. Dan tries to avoid overtime, and weekends are respected. Spending time off with friends and family is a priority for the business, as is connecting with the community. “We want to go above and beyond for one another, and we aim to treat our employees and customers like family,” he said.
And what of the next 50 years? Dan hopes that the younger generations will continue the business, but isn’t certain what the future holds.
“I just don’t know. I’d like to say it’ll be around for another 50-70 years, but I guess we will see. None of us set out wanting to be painters, and we fell into it anyway.”
Pamela Savage is a freelance writer living in Springfield.
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