By Amy Blades Steward
In 1962 at age 23, Larry Hill had a dream. He was working for an electric motor business in Salisbury and decided to approach his boss, Al Meilhammer, about helping to make his business turn a profit. With a challenge from his boss to make that happen, Hill purchased the business for $1,800, with a loan from his best friend and the rest is history. Hill’s Electric Motor Service in Linkwood, MD, has grown from two employees in 1962 to 25 employees, plus family members, today. The business just celebrated its 50th anniversary, with family, friends and employees honoring the vision Larry and his wife, Pat, had when creating the family-owned company.
Larry Hill sat with his best friend, Tommy Wade, at the recent celebration, reflecting on his friend’s generosity in loaning him the $1,800 to start the business. He comments, “I was so young and had so few assets that it was impossible to get a loan to buy the business. I was turned down by three banks. My best friend Tommy Wade offered me the loan, without interest, and through my wife’s encouragement, we took it.”
Wade’s version of the story is that he had grown up with Hill in Salisbury and knew his friend’s work ethic. Wade comments, “He was a worker and knew what he was doing in repairing electric motors. I believed in him.”
Hill credits his wife and three sons with providing the support over the years to grow the business. He comments, “When I first got into this, my thoughts were about having a job, paying my bills, and supporting my family.”
Pat Hill echoes her husband, stating, “Neither one of us had any idea what it would grow to be. We never dreamed our sons would also work in the business.”
The Hills’ three sons, David, Mark and Steve, have been with the business since they were young teens, working first a half-day and progressing to full day employment, learning about repairing electric motors on the job. The sons serve as vice presidents for Hill’s Electric Motor Service. David Hill quotes the motor repairs and manages the company’s accounting functions; Mark Hill handles the invoicing, motor controls work, and outside sales; and Steve Hill provides the vibration analysis and manages the company’s East Coast Supply Division which they bought in December 2011.
Over the last 20 years, Hill’s company has found a niche in the electric motor business, focusing on the poultry industry, including processing plants and feed mills, as well as the wastewater business. The company’s territory includes Maryland, Delaware and the Eastern Shore of Virginia, as well as western Virginia. As the company needed space to expand, it moved from Salisbury to Cambridge, MD, then to Linkwood in 2004, which is the business’s current location. Since then, the business has grown considerably, adding a machine shop on the property in 2005, adding on a warehouse in 2007, and building a new warehouse in 2011. The business has permits for future expansion.
David Hill comments, “Through it all, my dad has worked in the shop every day. He is the first one here and the last one to leave.”
Larry Hill credits his sons with bringing technology into the business and recognizing the trend toward selling new electric motors in addition to repairing them. This new direction prompted the business to build its new warehouse this year to accommodate the motor sales division. Mark Hill adds, “The biggest change over the years has been society’s perception of the repair business. Repairs take time and some people don’t want to wait. We are now growing our motor sales business along with the repair business and are having great success.”
Larry Hill is humble when he talks about his accomplishments over the last 50 years, deriving pleasure from the long term employees who continue to work with him, many with over 20 years of service. He states, “It’s all about the people who work for you. I also credit the customers who have been with us for 50 years: Dorchester Lumber, John W. Tieder, and Friel Canning Company.” He adds, “I have been very fortunate and have had a lot of breaks.”
Even so, David Hill comments about his father’s success, “It is a momentous occasion today. Not many businesses survive 50 years.”
Hill’s Electric Motor Service is located at 3901 Vincent Road in Linkwood. For further information, contact them at 410-228-4447 or visit hillselectric.com.