MOUNT DESERT — “I actually had to beg him to hire me,” Sam Burr said of his father, Dave.
“He said, ‘It’s a tough industry. If you want it, OK, but you’ll be the lowest man on the totem pole.’”
That was eight years ago. Now, Dave is retired and Sam is running S.R. Tracy Inc., the family’s 126-year-old painting and contracting business in Northeast Harbor.
Seldon Rosebrook (S.R.) Tracy, Dave’s great-grandfather on his mother’s side, started the business in 1895. Later it passed to his son, Edwin Tracy Sr.
When he died, Dave’s parents, Eleanor “Tiffy” Tracy Burr and L. Douglas Burr, moved the family back to Maine from Foxboro, Mass., and took over the business.
“They had no particular experience running a business, but they did a bang-up job with it,” Dave said. “They had a great crew that had been here for years.”
Dave worked as part of the crew for a number of years, and then in 1980 his father decided it was time for him to take over.
Forty years later, he turned the business over to Sam.
“He has been a dynamo,” Dave said. “He has taken on a lot of things that he came in not knowing but was hungry to learn.”
S.R. Tracy is now doing much more wallpapering and furniture restoration and refinishing than it had for a number of years.
“It’s fun to see the history,” Sam said. “In one of the old houses we were working on this spring, one of the guys here stripped the wallpaper off and saw that it had been wallpapered by my dad’s old foreman, Sonny Coombs, back in 1970. He had signed the wall.”
Asked why he thinks S.R. Tracy has stayed in business so long, Sam said, “I think it’s being upfront and honest with people. There’s a standard that comes with the S.R. Tracy name.
“We’re not the cheapest outfit; we’re one of the more expensive, and with that comes happy workers. We’re not going to cut corners and leave you with something you’re not happy with.”