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A shining symbol of a trade that isn’t all high-tech

August 14, 2000
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The building is inconspicuous. It sits on a fairly busy two-lane road in a mixture of commercial buildings, retail stores, and homes. None of the surrounding structures are fancy or eye-catching. What makes this a story worth telling?

Delmar Everhart.

Everhart is the owner of the McCraw-Everhart company in Mt. Airy, N.C. In a town made famous by its likeness to the television town of Mayberry (The News, July 19, page 3), Delmar Everhart is as real a person as any you could find. His story is an example of what our trade is all about and where our roots are. You see, Everhart is a throwback to the days of hands-on craftsmanship and hard, sweaty work.

Proudly working in his sheet metal shop, Everhart fabricates ductwork for his customers, and for customers of fellow contractors. He doesn’t have a fancy plasma cutter with special CAD programs. He has his hands and his sharp eye for detail.

Everhart says that a lot of his business comes from walk-in traffic. His storefront resembles a potpourri of parts and supplies, with a place to sit and chat, and a television set behind the counter. It is comfortable.

Through the door and into the back, one comes upon Everhart’s backroom domain. He puts in a lot of time there, planning and designing ductwork for new installations and retrofits. His competitors have come to him when they needed a fab job and he seldom turns them down.

Everhart works a 44-hour week, including Saturdays. He hasn’t taken a week’s vacation in 16 years. He did take a week off in 1994 to grade the yard of his new home. Today, the sticker shock of travel might delay any travel plans.

“If I went on a vacation now and the Holiday Inn costs more than $35, I’d probably turn around and go home,” he quipped.

He won a trip to Hawaii a few years ago but sold it — he couldn’t take the time to leave the business. He said he deserves a vacation now but just isn’t sure when it will happen.

Everhart recently lost his partner of 28 years and co-owner of the business, Charles McCraw. McCraw died suddenly and unexpectedly. This left a void in Everhart’s life, and it has made him think of what might have been.

Everhart wishes he had started training someone years ago to learn his trade. Now he is not sure what will happen in the future.

It is hard to find someone who is willing to learn the sheet metal fabricating trade, especially in a small community like Mt. Airy. The new people who do come along are installers or service techs, and they are hard to find, too.

“I’d like to work a few more years,” he said.

In our high tech world of estimation systems, two-way communications, and business management software, we tend to forget about what it was like before these conveniences. There are a lot of Delmar Everharts in our business, people who have defined the hvac trade.

I’ve had the opportunity to meet many fine contractors and their employees. The knowledge I have gained from my visits is immeasurable. And every so often, I run across a person who affects my perspective and who puts a smile on my face.

I am proud of our business because of people like this. And if you want to feel good again about what we do, stop by Mt. Airy and visit Delmar Everhart. If you go next year, bring along a 60th birthday card.

He will make you appreciate our business just a little bit more.

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