NEW PORT RICHEY — Dan Wright was a burly guy, so his oldest grandchild nicknamed him Big Daddy. Many people simply started calling the founder of Dan Wright Corp. “Big.”
Even though he died last year, Wright’s influence endures at the air conditioning and heating contractor business that he began in 1973. His daughter and son-in-law, DeAnna “Dee” and Kenny Parr, have followed his legacy as co-owners of the business.
In honor of their colorful mentor, employees will dedicate a community event Aug. 26 to Wright’s memory. Starting at 11 a.m., the company plans a barbecue to give away food and prizes to people who stop by the firm’s headquarters at 5319 Locust Place in New Port Richey. Visitors staff can chat with staff and maybe even share a few memories of Wright.
The company started 42 years ago in the garage of Wright’s home on River Road. The firm moved to the Locust Place base 30 years ago in order to become an authorized Carrier dealer.
More than 10 employees hired and trained under Big’s guidance are following suit with the current staff of 33 men and women, Dee Parr said.
Residential air conditioning service now covers Pasco and three surrounding counties. The commercial department now includes surgery centers, many national banks and prisons across the United States. The firm sponsors many local sports teams and stays active in community events.
Times were simpler in 1981, when Kenny Parr came on board. The refrigerant Freon sold for about $1.30 a pound in those days. Now, because of concerns about its impact on the environment, Freon costs up to $60, if it is available at all. Billings of about $150,000 a year then now totals just under $5 million. A fleet of two vehicles now numbers 22.
“We started doing the big jobs and I loved it,” Parr said. Helicopters and big cranes were used on some projects. Duct work was so big on one job that it had double doors. “You could almost drive a truck in there.”
Wright held strong Christian beliefs. “He would preach to you while he was ragging on you,” Parr said with a chuckle.
“He was like my father,” Chris Lincoln, who has been with the company some 30 years, said about Wright “You could write novels on what went on here,” he said.
When Wright would get bored, he might come out to the shop, Lincoln said with a laugh. “He was a good pot stirrer. He could get you riled up in about 30 seconds.”
One of Wright’s grandsons worked one summer at the shop and swore he would never work there again because of the tough work, Lincoln remembered. He became a doctor instead and started his own practice in Colorado.
Daughter Dee and others thought Wright could have had his own reality TV show. Her dad would speak in a direct manner reminiscent of Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd.
“That was Big,” office receptionist Susan Smith affirmed.
Greg Naumann came on board in late 1986 at age 18 and never left. “I walked in and the very first thing he told me to do was cut my hair. Didn’t tell me I had a job, no nothin’, just cut your hair. I had to prove to him that I could outwork everybody. He laid off me after he saw what I could do.”
Mauro Orellana joined the fold in 1998. “The best man I ever worked for,” he said about Wright. “Very honest, very straightforward. There were no shortcuts. Just get it done. I told myself I would never work for another company.”
Zachary Rupe was hired in 2008 years after Wright retired. But Rupe would go over to Wright’s house to consult. “He never lost it,” Rupe said. Wright could listen for a few seconds and tell what was wrong with a unit.
Published: August 25, 2015