Like most people, Joe Volpert of Hot Springs wakes up every morning and heads to work, putting in a day’s work for a day’s pay. But, unlike many people these days, Joe has been putting a day’s work to the tune of 32 years at the same company, Garrett Excavating, where he oversees the mechanic’s shop keeping the construction equipment owned by the company serviced and ready for the next job.
He’s been there so long, in fact, that when he first arrived, he worked for Irvin Garrett, who, with his wife Mary, founded Garrett Excavating 35 years previously, and their son Gilbert Garrett. In the 32 years since, a lot has changed, says Joe, the company has grown, and a third generation Garrett, Gilbert’s son Grant Garrett, is now at the helm of the family business.
Also changed is the size of the company, and it’s footprint in the construction industry, as it has grown and prospered over the years.
“When I started in 1985, we had maybe 30 pieces of equipment,” said Joe, noting that most of that equipment had been around for a while by the time he arrived. “It was all old and we had to work on it a lot. I remember it was several years before we were able to buy a new bulldozer.”
But regardless of the age or condition of the available equipment, the jobs came in and the jobs got done, the times were good and kept getting better, Joe said.
“When I started in the shop, there was one welder, me, and another guy, and now I’ve got two full time welders, four other people who work in the shop, even a field mechanic,” he said. “We’ve just grown tremendously. I don’t even know for sure how many pieces of equipment we’ve got now.”
“In ’85 we got small jobs but we got a lot of them,” he said. “You could drive up and down the street and places we’d worked were lined up on both sides. Now, we do a lot of the big jobs, too. You can start in Hot Springs and go to Malvern, to Benton, to Little Rock, to Russellville, the list goes on.”
Recently, Grant and Betsy Garrett, along with their eight-year-old daughter, Emma, welcomed the newest Garrett, Michael, furthering chances that the family business, which celebrates its 77th year this year, may enter its second hundred year stretch with a fourth generation of Garretts at the helm.
As much as he enjoys his job, and as much a he likes and respects the Garrett family, Joe said he expects that he will be long retired by then.
“I’m 60 years old now, and I don’t know when I’m going to retire,” said Joe. “I still love coming to work every day but when Michael is 16 or so and starts getting involved, I’ll be 75 or 76. I don’t know what I’ll be doing but I’m sure I won’t be in the shop.”
Then, with a laugh, Joe said, “Now, if he takes over when he’s five or six, I’m sure we’ll be doing something!”
So time marches on, the world turns, and things change. But one thing never did change, Joe said, which is largely why he remains with the company 32 years later.
“The Garretts are good people. “They take good care of us and they’ve never given me any reason to go look anywhere else.”
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