Chamber Spotlight: Jeff Lewis, L.A. Lacy
What was your first job?
Selling shoes at A&N (now defunct). I started the same week I got my driver’s license and chose them because they were willing to work around my baseball schedule. I worked for them all through high school.
What’s your go-to comfort food?
My mom’s meatloaf recipe – served cold the next day on a sandwich with Hellman’s mayo and a home-grown tomato slice, with chips (Fritos if we have them) and a cold beer (preferably an old German Hefeweizen – sorry local brewers but those guys did get a 500+ year head start) and for dessert my daughter Remington’s brownies. She makes them thick and cooks them about 50% of the time called for in the recipe – just the way her dad likes them.
What is unique about your organization and the work you do in our community?
Lacy is one of the oldest contractors in Charlottesville with operations dating back to 1922. We have worked in nearly every part of Charlottesville, Albemarle County and the surrounding communities but still focus on the same type of work we have all along (Commercial and Industrial Plumbing and Heating – now Mechanical/HVAC systems). Despite growing in size and sophistication (Lacy was acquired by The Branch Group in 2018), we strive to maintain the same level of service and “small company feel” we have had since day one.
What’s your favorite local activity for out-of-town guests?
If they happen to show up on the first or third Friday of every month and the weather is clear, the McCormick Observatory Public Night is worth the trip. UVA Baseball games at Davenport during the Spring or Tom Sox games in the Summer are personal favorites. We like movies at the Violet Crown and walking the Downtown Mall. Brazo’s for breakfast tacos, picnic sandwiches and sides from Ivy Provisions or FEAST that we take to the UVA Grounds, BBQ from Red Hub. Old Cabell Hall (which Lacy helped renovate some years ago) is a beautiful performance venue. Hitting the local breweries. Carter’s Mountain Orchard. There are a ton of good options and for all ages and tastes.
What’s most important for the future of our regional business community?
My viewpoint may be a bit skewed to the trades but I think it is more important than ever that we drive intelligent and ambitious young people to consider working in skilled areas. College is the right choice for some but not for all. There needs to be more information and education provided to students and parents alike along the way to make informed decisions about these options. There are opportunities for work in healthcare, construction, industry, culinary and more right here in our community. And I am not just talking about jobs but rather the provision of legitimate career paths that are meaningful, stable and potentially lucrative. For many, local employers are willing to contribute some if not all of the training, costs and time to support them along the way. Lacy is amongst those looking for eager and hard-working candidates that are willing to learn and grow with us – not for us.
Who do you cheer for, and why?
Don’t hate me but I am a Virginia Tech Hokie through and through. The school has changed dramatically since I attended starting in 1997 but I can credit both the foundation of my career and the start of my family to Tech. My wife, Shannon, and I met there and about a year after graduation were married at the Duck Pond on campus. Despite my Hokie pride, I did find myself rooting for UVA Basketball (and even attending some games) on their run to this year’s National Championship. I think you have something special in Tony Bennett and that he is a terrific steward of character, humility and preparation for his teams. My son, Connor, started in Biomedical Engineering at VCU this year so I guess I will be rooting for the Rams sooner than later. I am also a lifelong Baltimore Orioles fan but that is growing tough these days. We took our annual weekend trip to Camden Yards last month and the stadium is as beautiful as ever.
What’s your most prized possession?
We have an older Chris Craft boat we keep at Smith Mountain Lake. We haven’t gotten out on it as much as we have liked the last couple of years. I doubt it is the boat itself but rather the times we have had with family and friends on it (and knowing that it is floating there for more) that I prize the most. As long as I am able, I will own a boat. But if you consider him a possession, I wouldn’t trade anything in the world for our dog, Mr. Pickles, a lab mix who is afraid to jump off the boat into the lake and not much of a bird dog either.
What's the best advice you ever got (or gave)?
My father is a man of few words and rarely dispensed advice unless he was asked. Instead he chose to lead by example. Without asking, he told me once “there is just something about that feeling you get from putting in a full day’s work, after giving it your all. When you look at yourself in the mirror, you can be proud of that – no matter what the actual work was you performed that day.” Today, I reference “looking in the mirror” as often as I can – whether it be in parenting, in coaching, in management. I think of it often before the day starts and when the day is done when I look in the mirror.