Island plumber Mike LaPensee retires after 40 years
SUN PHOTO/PAT COPELAND
Mike and Karen LaPensee in the well-stocked showroom of
LaPensee Plumbing in Holmes Beach. Mike has retired from
the business, but Karen will stay on with the help of field
supervisor Fred Wolfkill.
HOLMES BEACH – Mike LaPensee, of LaPensee Plumbing, spent the first four days of his retirement hanging around the office. The difference was that he didn’t have to be there and he didn’t have to stay.
"I plan on taking care of things at home," LaPensee said. "I’ve been retired four days and I cooked my first meal in awhile last night.
"I want to do things like that to free my wife, Karen, so we can spend our weekends traveling and doing things. And we’ve hired a field supervisor, Fred Wolfkill, to take over my duties."
LaPensee has spent more than 40 years in the plumbing business, moving to Holmes Beach from Michigan in 1967. He worked for several plumbers before going to school at Manatee VoTec, now MTI, and married Karen in 1977.
"I was working for J.G. Plumbing in Sarasota as a foreman and I ruptured two disks in my back and got laid off," he recalled. "No one wants a plumber with a bad back.
"It was 1985, I was 40 years old and Karen was pregnant with Shawn. If that wasn’t bad enough, I decided to get my license and go into business for myself."
He worked out of their home in Anna Maria for a couple of years and then opened his first shop in the Holmes Beach Business Center in 1988.
"The business began to grow," he recalled. "We were very fortunate. We outgrew that building in the early 1990s and moved across that street to the S&S Plaza. We were there for 16 years."
The last move 1 1/2 years ago was to the present location at 401 Manatee Avenue. The business continues to grow aided by the addition of pool, gas and irrigation divisions.
"Our son, Greg, started in the business in 1999 when he was a senior in high school," LaPensee said. "He has his master’s license and is a full partner. One day the business will be his.
"I was always brought up to believe that you didn’t hire family and friends, but Greg brought in several of his friends, and it’s the best thing that happened. They are such bright minds and want to make it better."
In addition to the business, the LaPensees have been active supporters of the Island Community Center and the AMI Chamber of Commerce, and Mike is a member of the Rotary Club of AMI. In 2003, LaPensee Plumbing was named Business of the Year by the Rotary Club.
"We made our life and living in the community, and try to give back when we can." he explained. "Now that I’m retired, I’d like to do more. And I’d like to thank everyone for being our clients and customers and letting me retire."
The LaPensees are putting their new resolve to travel to the test with a two-week trip to Ireland this week.