by J.B. Hyppolite
David Magargee, 64, is the former owner of Magargee Bros., Inc., a painting company that has been part of the fabric of the Philadelphia region for almost 80 years. Magargee Bros., Inc., has been servicing the Philadelphia region’s painting needs since the company was founded in 1932 by David’s father and uncle, Len and Bill Magargee.
“My grandfather got sick in 1932 and couldn’t work,” said David. “He was a cabinet maker. They knew a man named George Heebner, who was very well known around the city. My grandfather called him and said, ‘Can you use my two boys?’”
George asked if Len and Bill knew anything about construction. The answer was a resounding no. Fortunately for the two brothers, George said, “The only part of construction where you don’t have to know anything is painting.”
Len and Bill went door to door offering their services. Meanwhile, the Magargee family was able to make ends meet, due to the grandmother’s family owning a corner store and thus being able to buy food wholesale. By 1944, Len was drafted into World War II, and Bill was with Magargee Bros, Inc. Len mailed his checks to Bill, and the two would combine their checks, divide them by two, and David’s mom would get half of those two salaries. This example of teamwork is one of the qualities that helped them build such a successful company.
The second generation — David, Len and Stephen Magargee — took over the company in 1976 after their father passed away. Together they bought out their father’s estate. “When times are bad, though,” said David, “it’s tough to get work. It’s a constant juggling act. I read a quote from Ross Perot, who said, ‘Whatever business you’re going into, never go into a seasonal business.’ After I read that, I kind of swallowed and thought ‘Well, I wish I would have read this a long time ago.’”
Magargee Bros, Inc.’s location went from the basement of David’s grandmother in the Tioga section of North Philadelphia in 1932 to 525 E. Armstrong St. in Germantown. Its location was convenient due to its proximity to the Main Line, Chestnut Hill, Huntington Valley and center city. The building is now currently up for sale.
David and Len are not youngsters any more, and their brother, Steven, retired in 2008, but the two brothers wanted to continue the next generation of Magargee Bros, Inc. “We each have a son, but they’re not interested in pursuing the company,” said David. “We each have daughters, but they’re not interested, and their spouses aren’t interested.”
David and Len sought out Kevin Nolan, the owner and president of Nolan Painting, to explore the possibility of merging the two companies. “After about a 15-minute conversation, what was agreed upon was that we would sell parts of Magargee Bros. to Nolan Painting,” said David.
Kevin loved the idea because he had always respected Magargee Bros., Inc. “Magargee Brothers was my role model when I started in business over 30 years ago,” he explained. “They’ve been my mentors for all those years. We have a great relationship. So far (the merger) has been wonderful. They brought a lot of work with them. They have a lot of the same type of clientele that we have. They appreciate quality of service. It really has been seamless. It couldn’t have been any better.”
David, Len and Kevin have met three days a week since March to make sure the transition goes smoothly. “We have a tremendous clientele,” said David, “and we know that they’re going to be serviced well in the future. It’s just a great relief.”
Many of Magargee’s employees had spent decades with them, including eight employees who had worked nowhere else since high school. David took pride in mentioning that his employees were treated well, citing full retirement, medical benefits, life insurance, vacation time and more. “They were the backbone of the company. They produced the work. We felt they deserved good benefits.”
The Magargee Brothers were all born in Philadelphia at Germantown Hospital. David graduated from Drexel University with a five-year co-op degree in Business, and Len graduated from Albright College in Reading.
For more information on the Magargee Brothers and Nolan Painting, visit www.nolanpainting.com (610-642-1415) or www.magargeebrotherspainting.com (215-849-0950). The Magargee Brothers is now a division of Nolan Painting, and will continue to serve Delaware, Montgomery, Philadelphia, Bucks and Chester counties.