Not just a sheet metal business
Edward Holland sat in his office on Hammett Court this week with installation designs spread out before him. He smiled as he recalled a quote attributed to Mark Twain: "When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years."
Holland shared fond memories of his father, Howard, who was the founder and original owner of H.V. Holland Heating and Air Conditioning Contractors. "He opened a sheet metal shop," Holland noted. His father installed gutters and cornice molding, working with copper as well as other flat sheet metal. "Look at the roof on St. Joseph's Church in Newport. He did the copper dome," Holland said.
The elder Holland was a sheet metal worker at Quonset Point in the 1950s. He moved his family to Jamestown in 1957, "so he could get up at 6 a.m. instead of 4 a.m. for his commute to work." The commute was shortened again when he started his own business.
Holland grew up at the end of Grinnell Street and learned about manufacturing sheet metal products by watching and helping his father.
As a young man, Holland wanted nothing to do with his father's business, however. He graduated from college with a psychology degree instead, and worked as a probation officer for ten years. Holland admitted his father was disappointed, but the older man accepted his son's decision. "When he said he was closing the business, I said, too bad," Holland remarked.
The business was closed barely a year before Holland changed his mind. His father took him for a ride to the Mt. Hope Bridge, pointed out the light fixtures, and said he wanted to make them. "I came on board in 1977," he noted. The elder Holland turned over all of the decision-making to his son, and agreed to provide the young man with expertise. "At 30, I had a lot more respect for him," Holland added. "I was fortunate enough to have that expertise."
A turning point came in the family business when General Electric called Holland in 1982 with an offer. "They said if you use G.E. air conditioners, we'll train you to be a central air conditioning dealer," Holland noted. The air conditioning business was booming at that time, with a 300 percent increase in installations between 1970 and 1980. Holland knew the proposal was a good idea.
The company has since grown into an established provider of heating and air conditioning services, and continues to manufacture ductwork in residential and light commercial buildings. Holland stood at one end of the 50-foot workbench and displayed the traditional process of cutting galvanized metal. He then walked over to a large machine called a bending brake to demonstrate how to press a 90- degree angle into a long steel sheet. "These are all hand tools," he explained.
The company installs advanced systems as well, Holland went on say. He described the high effi- ciency of geothermal heat pumps, pumps that extract heat from deep in the ground.
Holland spoke with gratitude about his wife, Sharon, who has been in the business almost as long as he has. He pointed out that being in business with a family member either works or not. "One benefit is that he or she (the family member) knows your weaknesses and calls you on it," he said. He also spoke with pride about his daughter, Emily, who is about to graduate high school. "Emily shows about as much interest in the business as I did at that age," Holland chuckled.
He briefly mused how life might have been different if he had decided to follow through on his notion as a young man to become a priest. "The transition from seminary to business was a big leap," he admitted. Nevertheless, Holland regrets nothing and exudes confidence in his profession. He quoted his father, "If you're going to do things, you should do it right."
For more information about H.V. Holland, visit online at www. hvholland.net, or call 423-0614.