By Leah Fallon
No doubt running a business with your father can have its challenges, but these area businesses run by father-son, father-son-grandson and father-daughter teams make family harmony look easy.
Loudoun Now spoke with several fathers whose children have followed in their career footsteps. They said they not only have daily opportunities to inspire and support their children, but they have the benefit of knowing their life’s work will be kept alive.
As Craig Damewood, owner of Damewood Auctioneer, put it: “It fills a spot in your heart knowing that someone will carry on your legacy.”
Here’s a sampling of careers inspired by Loudoun County dads.
Damewood Auctioneers, Purcellville
Craig Damewood and his son, Brian, have been in business together for six years. Craig has been in the auctioning business for 35 years in Loudoun County, a community that once thrived on auctions. Years ago when a farm went out of business, the house, land, livestock and tools were sold at live auctions. Craig takes pride in carrying on the tradition with his son, making the auctions an experience for buyers. He says it’s been fun watching his son Brian develop into a fine young auctioneer.
After attending Virginia Tech for communications, Brian realized that he wouldn’t be happy doing TV news for the rest of his life. He started going to auctions with his dad on the weekends and found they were a lot more fun and profitable. “I should have listened to my dad when I was 16 and gone to auctioneer school,” Brian said.
Craig said his son has been a real asset to the company, especially when it comes to technology. Brian has updated the website to make it more user friendly and set up live, online auctions. “He has a knowledge of technology that didn’t come with my schooling and background,” Craig said.
The two have grown closer since working together. Brian considers his dad one of his best friends. “I tell him as much as I tell my buddies,” he said. Traveling to auction sites together gives them plenty of time to talk about personal situations or business decisions. Brian says these discussions helped him grow up. “A lot of sons want to spend more time with their fathers. I get to spend most days with him.”
Dodson Heating and Air Conditioning, Purcellville
Al Dodson, 68, has owned Dodson Heating and Air Conditioning in Purcellville for 41 years. His sons Michael Dodson, 49, and Kelly Dodson, 45 joined him soon after they graduated high school. Al graduated from W.T. Woodson High School in the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning vocational school in 1966. Kelly has been in the business the longest, working since 1989. After studying electrical at Monroe Technology Center in Leesburg, he started working for his father right after graduation. Michael also attended Monroe, studying HVAC, but worked at a few other businesses before settling in with his father and brother in 1997.
This is one busy family, working long, hard hours. “This is a tough time of year, very busy,” Al said. A glance at their schedule board shows a stack of appointments for this week. He said it’s difficult to find people qualified to help in the field. “This trade is really several in one. You need to know electrical, HVAC, plumbing, and welding.” He is grateful he has Kelly and Michael out on the field, while he does the bidding, design and welding. “But we are always looking for more help,” Al added.
Al’s granddaughter, 21-year-old Jessica Dodson, also lent a hand to the family business for two and a half years. She answered phones, filed invoices, and even traveled on to job sites with her father, Michael. “Jessica was the best helper we ever had,” Al said.
She decided to pursue a career with the U.S. Navy, and is stationed on the USS George Washington in Norfolk. “We wished she would stay and work for us, but we are very proud of her,” said Dianna Dodson, Al’s wife.
The family tends to get together after work too, for family dinners that involve lots of laughs and lots of love, and very little work.
Loudoun County Public Schools, Aldie and Leesburg
Education is a family business for the Petrellas. Four of the five Petrellas are on the Loudoun County Public Schools’ payroll. Six, actually, if you count the son-in-law and daughter-in-law.
Ron Petrellas, 53, retires as Heritage High School’s athletic director next month after 30 years in education. But he said ending his career seems easier knowing his two children, and their spouses, will be carrying the torch.
Brother and sister, Mike Petrella and Kaitlin Murray, both teach at John Champe High School. Mike, 32, teaches health and physical education, and Kaitlin, 28, teaches business and marketing.
Ron, who’s worked as a teacher and administrator in Loudoun, never expected two of his three children to follow in his footsteps, but he’s happy they did. “It’s built-in support,” he said. “We understand what each person is going through, and we can brainstorm ways to improve things.”
Mike went into education because he was excited about the influence teachers can have on young people. “I like building relationships with the kids,” he said, “and I feel it’s extremely important that kids know how to live a healthy lifestyle. I try to teach that and live it out.”
Kaitlin went into teaching after first working at an insurance company. She started coaching softball and found she enjoyed working with teens. “It’s a really impactful time in their lives, and I didn’t really feel like I was making that kind of impact before,” she said.
One of the perks of having a family of educators is the similar work schedules. While the school year is hectic, they have much of the summer off. “That works out,” Kaitlin said. “We’re all going to the beach together in July.”
Clegg Chiropractic, Leesburg
When Dr. Charles Clegg opened Clegg Chiropractic in Leesburg in the 1970s, it was the only chiropractic office in the county.
Although the 70-year-old has no intentions of retiring any time soon, he acknowledges that running a chiropractic clinic is hard work, mentally and physically. He works every day with people who are in pain. Through stretches, adjustments and exercises, he gets their bodies back in pain-free motion.
His son, Dr. Bradley Clegg, grew up observing the admiration his father got from people in the community, and was eager to get his doctorate of Chiropractic. “People would stop my dad and thank him. They were appreciative and grateful. It felt good to know he helped people,” he said. Bradley, 35, says he likes the feeling of providing a better quality of life for his patients.
Working together every day helps the Cleggs have a deeper relationship, as they can connect on a personal and professional level. Being able to share information and advice about patients strengthens the father-son bond they have, a bond that Bradley hopes to one day have with his 6-month-old baby, Penelope. “She’s the little ‘therapy baby,’ always smiling in the office,” he said.
Bradley hopes she’ll be the next one to continue the Clegg Chiropractic legacy.
Toth Financial Advisory Corp., Leesburg
Call Toth Financial Advisory Corp. and ask for Tom, you’ll likely hear Mo Schwarting politely ask, “which Tom?”
There are four Toms, and three of them are the father-son-grandson trifecta, that help make one of the county’s largest independent investment advisory firms run. Having his son and grandson on the payroll was something Tom Toth Sr., known around the office as T1, never imagined when he started the business almost exactly 30 years ago.
“I never pushed them that way,” he said. “Especially T3 (Tom Toth III), I never would’ve dreamed he’d be here.”
Thom Toth Jr., call him T2, joined his father at Toth Financial in 1996, after he’d worked in the IT field for about a decade. As the company’s chief technology officer and portfolio manager, Thom Toth Jr. provided the tech talent that the company would have otherwise lacked, his father said. “I was thankful when he came on board. He had all the IT skills, which we put to good use.”
Thom Toth Jr. now focuses most of his work week on his chili sauce company, Voodoo Chile Sauces, but he still consults for Toth Financial.
T3 had thought he’d go into politics. He majored in political science, and is still a political junkie (he’s communications chair for the Loudoun County Republican Commission). But after he graduated from Liberty University in 2013, he caught the family itch.
“It became something I was really excited to pursue,” he said. “I realized there was a legacy beyond the Toth family to be proud of. There was a business and relationships and a contribution that the company was making to the community to be proud of. I wanted to be a part of that.”
And if there’s a T4? Tom Toth Sr. joked, “Oh, he won’t have much of a choice.”
Danielle Nadler contributed to this report.