At 86, Lindsey Brothers Inc. founder James E. Lindsey Sr. is still working with the plumbing and heating company he started in 1966. Wednesday morning, he could be found bent over, wrapping up a vacuum cleaner power cord before his interview with Southside Daily.
Virginia Beach’s Lindsey Brothers Inc. continues to work with schools, colleges, homes and businesses in the Hampton Roads area and will celebrate its 50th year of operation Saturday Nov. 26 from noon to 3 p.m. at the Edmonds Center in Portsmouth.
“I’m happy mentally, physically, financially, you name it, I’m happy,” said James Lindsey. “This is an open business for all of the Lindseys and their relatives … it’s a foundation to build on and I’m looking forward to the young people who will make it much better than we have.”
What started at his family-owned Mobil gas station on Virginia Beach Blvd. half a century ago is now an office, commercial and residential space on Newtown Road run by his son, Larry, and includes 15 employees, including his brother, Connie Lindsey Sr., and sister, Cora Taylor.
James Lindsey said the secret to his business’ success is listening to the people, prayer and togetherness.
“My mindset 50 years ago was to bring the family together,” James Lindsey said. “We had five boys and they all had good hands … we always believed with togetherness, you can make a big difference.”
James Lindsey said he took interest in plumbing at 16 working as a plumber’s assistant and grew to love it. The money he made doing it wasn’t bad either, he said.
“I was raised on a farm … being there meant you would make a dollar a day, as a plumber’s helper I was making 60 cents an hour … it was quite a difference,” James Lindsey said. “I’ve grown to love plumbing, I’ve been doing it for 70 years. I get up every day ready to go to work. I may not do much [now], but I’m ready.”
Lindsey Brothers Inc. saw shifts in plumbing technology and American culture over the five decades it has operated. James Lindsey said growing a company as a black man in the Tidewater area during the 1960s was hard.
James Lindsey recounted when Norfolk plumbing companies got permits to work on Aragona Village in Virginia Beach. This left companies like Lindsey Brothers Inc. without a chance to work in its own backyard because of skin color.
“We had a master’s [plumbing] license in Virginia Beach, which was Princess Anne County at that time, and we couldn’t get a permit to work in Norfolk,” James Lindsey said. “They could come in our city to work, but we couldn’t go to their city and work.”
After the chief plumbing inspector for Princess Anne County recognized and confronted this problem, opportunities began to appear. But not all at once, according to James Lindsey.
Shortly after, Taylor went to Richmond and passed a test granting the company a Class A certification, meaning Lindsey Brothers Inc. could work anywhere in Virginia.
“Even then, we still had a lot of people try to deny us permits,” James Lindsey said. “I had to tell them ‘look in your state book.’ Of course, they didn’t like that, but we eventually got the permits.”
50 years later, James Lindsey said things are much better.
“Today we’re recognized by my most people, we work together with other plumbers and we treat each other like we ought to,” James Lindsey said. “That’s they way life should be.”
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