- Associated Press - Saturday, June 13, 2015

YORK, Pa. (AP) - On a Wednesday morning, the delivery truck pulled in to Hake’s Grocery in Dover Township.

Allen McKinney stepped out, opened the truck’s freezer door and unloaded about 100 half-gallon tubs of Carman’s ice cream, which he made earlier that week.

“The big guys make their ice cream in winter, store it in a warehouse and sell it in summer,” McKinney said. “I control the ice cream the whole way until the customer pulls it out of the freezer.”

For McKinney, the long day spent driving to his 15 wholesale vendors in York County and Maryland is a Wednesday ritual.

But soon, the 59-year-old owner will retire. His two sons already have successful careers in the Coast Guard, McKinney said, and with nobody to take Carman’s over, the business that’s been in his family for three generations could come to an end.

Henry Hutcheson, author of “Dirty Little Secrets of Family Business,” said family businesses often outperform their competitors.

“It’s the name of your family,” Hutcheson said. “You’re held to a higher ethical standard. When you do things right, the family gets the benefit from that.”

Compared to their corporate counterparts, though, family-owned businesses often fail to plan for a successor, Hutcheson said. Two-thirds of family businesses don’t survive to the second generation.

The transition to the third generation has a similar rate of failure, he said.

An owner-operator who’s ready to retire, Hutcheson said, might have several options: pass the business to an heir, sell it, or keep the business but find someone outside the family to run it. Each scenario is playing out in well-known York County businesses.

Passing it on

With a Budweiser Clydesdale statue and flags visible from Interstate 83, Brewery Products Company is a York landmark.

It wasn’t always that way, though, according to John Keesee, the company president.

Keesee started working there in the 1960s and eventually took over the business from his father-in-law. When Keesee started, it was a 3,000-square-foot operation with 10 employees at 333 W. King St. in York.

“Everything at that time was done by hand,” said Keesee, who started out as a janitor while attending York College. “It was a very physical job at that time - no fork lifts.”

Today, Brewery Products operates a 65,000 square-foot warehouse and employs 72 people, according to Derek Siegel, Keesee’s grandson and the fourth-generation heir to the company. Keesee said the journey from his father-in-law’s small operation to the present day involved a lot of factors, including some luck.

When he started, Ballantine ale was their top seller, Keesee said, and Budweiser, the only Anheuser-Busch beer the wholesaler carried, made up a small percentage of sales. That changed, of course, over the next decade.

“We’ve been fortunate to have some very good brands,” Keesee said, referring to Budweiser’s market dominance over the past 40 years.

That said, Keesee also attributed Brewery Products’ growth to the company’s success in acquiring new territory and brands.

“We went from a company that covered one county to four counties in 1978 when we purchased Myers distributing,” Keesee said. “The second biggest jump was when we acquired the Yuengling franchise.”

At 69, Keesee is already semi-retired. He said his approach to keeping the business in the family was to get his daughter, Wendy Keesee, and grandson, Siegel, involved gradually over many years.

Wendy Keesee said that approach helped her to take charge of the company amid a male-dominated industry. Keesee said she also had a strong female role model, company board member Sue Whitsell.

Keesee said she wasn’t always set on taking over the business. But in her late 20s, after she had her children, she decided to get involved.

She started in administration in 1995, and said she held a number of positions over the next 12 years.

Siegel said his mother and grandfather took the slow-immersion approach with him, bringing him to the office from a young age and hiring him on as a driver’s assistant and eventually a Class A licensed driver when he was in college.

While the beer wholesale market is relatively stable, Siegel said he doesn’t take anything for granted in the business.

“We have to do the right things today to make sure the future is guaranteed,” Siegel said.

One example of that, he said, was using new technology to better manage deliveries.

He said his mother was instrumental in modernizing their operation, which went from having one “computer room,” so named because it was the only computer in the building, to having a delivery team that relies on mobile computing to take invoices.

From adopting new trends to updating their brand every few years, Siegel said he’s working to do whatever it takes to keep the company strong for the foreseeable future.

“I have a two-year-old son,” Siegel said. “I want him to be able to experience the kinds of things I’ve experienced.”

A family investment

Meanwhile in York’s Market District, barbershop owner Tony Orr is planning for his retirement - and with it, the barbershop’s transition to his successor.

Orr, 52, got his start cutting hair at Leon Wilson’s barber shop that used to be at 142 E. College Ave. He got licensed in 1989 and has been running Tony Orr Sons & Daughters out of his 116 W. Philadelphia St. property since 2000.

Though he’s the first generation owner of this particular barbershop, business ownership has been in his extended family since the 1930s. Orr said his cousin, David Orr Sr., owned a trucking company, and David Orr’s son, David Orr Jr., owned The Basement barbershop at Princess and Pershing in York.

Orr said he dabbled in cutting hair while studying business at Cheyney University. When he came home to York, he saw that Leon Wilson’s barber shop in York was profitable, and he became Wilson’s apprentice barber.

A lot has changed since then, Orr said, including the value of the property he owns next to The White Rose Bar & Grill in the Central Market District. Further development of the Philadelphia and Beaver Street area has helped to attract customers to his barbershop.

Most of Orr’s five sons and three daughters have learned to cut hair at this point, Orr said, but with his children pursuing their own careers, he’s uncertain if any of them will replace him behind the barber’s chair.

To Orr, it’s less important that one of his children takes over as a barber and more important that the business ownership itself stays in the family. Orr said other local business owners have offered to buy the building, but he declined those offers.

“This is my legacy,” he said.

While the property is for his family, Orr said the business is simply about employing quality barbers. One other barber, Elgin Kent, operates out of his shop. Kent and Orr both said the most important factor in the business was having a team of barbers who get along, have a good reputation in the community and who therefore tend to have a lot of repeat customers.

Orr said Kent’s input and his own faith will be what help him decide who will take over his barber chair.

“First and foremost, God allowed me to be in this barbershop,” he said. “This is his house, not mine.”

The prospect of selling

Back at Carman’s Ice Cream in Loganville, McKinney said the clock is ticking toward retirement.

“I anticipate I’ll have the business five to 10 more years,” he said.

Though his sons are unlikely to move back to York, let alone take over Carman’s, McKinney said one cousin, living in Chicago, has expressed interest.

Still, he knows it’s a long shot, and it’s more likely he’ll end up selling the business that started in 1953 and which he has run since 1996.

If he gets to the point where he’s looking for buyers, he said he’ll look for someone who can maintain product quality while expanding.

“I’d like to see someone with a bigger vision take over,” McKinney said.

The challenge, he said, is making enough locally-sourced ice cream without “stabilizers” to extend the product’s shelf life to support expanded production and distribution.

He and a couple part-time employees make the ice cream five to seven days a week, generating about 200 gallons per day. He’s already turned down Giant Grocery stores when they tried to sign a deal with him to supply the ice cream. He decided he couldn’t make enough to fill Giant’s shelves without changing his means of production.

Most importantly for him, McKinney said he wants the Carman’s brand to survive, as well as the brand’s reputation for fresh, old-fashioned ice cream.

“People come by the store and call me Mr. Carman, and I don’t take offense to that at all,” McKinney said.

York County small business facts

33,176

Businesses with less than 500 employees

1,731

Businesses with five to nine employees

3,534

Businesses with one to four employees

514

Businesses with zero employees

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Online:

http://bit.ly/1GqYe2Z

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Information from: York Daily Record, http://www.ydr.com

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