All in the Family
Growing up in the home of a serial inventor,
Eric Moen often showered in the same garage bathroom where his dad tested
new designs for the showerhead. He’d no sooner be dried off before his father, Alfred M. Moen, would be pressing him for his honest feedback on the experience.
“I did some research and development for the company at no charge,” says Eric, the youngest child in the Moen family and the only living member of the clan as both of his siblings and his parents have died.
His father, the namesake of plumbing giant Moen Inc. though he never owned the company, was most well-known for the invention of the single-handle faucet, which mixes hot and cold water before it exits the fixture.
“One particular morning someone must have flushed the toilet or something and, being half asleep, he went over and stuck his hand under the water and it was scalding hot. He was infuriated and it just came to him: ‘Why can’t you control the temperature of water?’,” says Moen. His father, who worked on the Seattle shipyards at the time in 1937, came up with a revolutionary design that changed plumbing and became the first of many times he would invent
solutions to address problems in the industry.
Unfortunately his creation was hard to sell, and it wouldn’t be until 1947 that he would find a willing manufacturer. That year, Ravenna Metal Products in Seattle sold 250 of the faucets to a San Francisco supplier, which retailed them for about $12 each.
By way of a company buyout, Moen’s creation was purchased by a company in Elyria called Standard Screw, and in the mid-1950s he grudgingly moved his wife and two children across the country to live in Lorain County.
“My father felt betrayed, hurt, devastated. The other factory owner had the rights to build the faucet and had gotten a sweet deal to sell his factory for it. My father didn’t get anything for it,” says Moen, 58.
The Moen family settled in Grafton and lived in the Brentwood Lake development. Moen, along with his older siblings, David and Christine, graduated from Midview schools. Right after high school, Moen married his high school sweetheart, started a family and by 1981 had started his own floor-covering business. Today he owns four locations in Lorain County, including two Attractive Floorings Carpet One Floor & Home locations.
His father would work at what would become Moen — one of the world’s largest manufacturers of kitchen and bath plumbing fixtures — until 1982 as an executive and head of research and development. He held more than 75 patents during his more than 40 years in the industry,
An avid pilot and golfer, Al Moen retired to Destin, Florida, to live off of a golf course and be five minutes from an airport.
“When he retired, his business card said: Alfred Moen, inventor,” says Moen, who estimates his father’s patents at more than 200. “He has all kinds of inventions — big things, little things, sprayers at the end of faucets and vibrating shower heads.”
Moen says he chose to remain in the area even when his immediate family moved away. He had four sons, two of whom work with him in the business. He also has 10 grandchildren, with another on the way. He has lived in North Ridgeville with his family since 1976.
“The Moen name gives people the feeling that it’s a Rockefeller or a Kennedy, and it truly isn’t,” he says. “In business it has been a double-edged sword: On one side it has opened up opportunities and doors that have been very helpful for me to run my little floor-covering business; but on the other side it has put me vulnerable to some horrible lawsuits because people think that I’m wealthy. They think we own the company, but we don’t.”
The Mould Family
If you’ve lived in Lorain County long enough, you might have cut down your Christmas tree at Don Mould’s Plantation, a hobby farm founded in 1961 by the patriarch of the North Ridgeville family that grew to include five children — four boys and one girl.
“Don’t ask me why he called it Don Mould’s Plantation, but he did,” says Don Mould, the oldest sibling of the family. “He was probably one of the first guys around to do that, frankly. I remember the trees selling for $3 or $4 a piece. He had 50,000 trees, and he did really well. That was our summer job. We had to trim the trees, and in the wintertime we had to help harvest the trees and deal with the people. Our parents taught us how to work.”
Nearly 55 years later, Don Mould’s Plantation has grown to be a diversified family-run business that caters to residential and commercial customers. The company, run by the five siblings — Don, Jeff, Laura, Gary and Steven — operates two full-service retail garden centers and nurseries in North Ridgeville and Amherst that offer a wide range of plant material, including some grown in their own fields.
It has a landscaping division that covers the spectrum of design and installation and pavers. And the company’s construction division offers complete concrete and asphalt work, site prep, utility work and can handle all phases of the construction process as well as building maintenance.
“We all don’t get along all the time but that’s family business,” says Mould with a knowing smile. “We keep pulling together. We strive to focus and move forward, but it gets a little crazy some days.”
When Mould graduated from high school in 1972, his father urged him to start a landscaping business with his younger brother, Jeff.
“He gave us his orange truck that had ‘Don Mould’s Plantation’ written on it and we went to work and started mowing lawns,” he says, adding that as the Mould siblings graduated from high school, they joined the family business. “That was 43 years ago, and we grew to where we are today. We’ve been very fortunate. We’re able to pay the bills and pay ourselves. I don’t know what else you need at the end of the day.”
The company still mows the grass at Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems in Elyria — an account it’s had since the beginning. Mould says it branched out into different areas — and became self-taught specialists — based on its customers’ needs.
“One day somebody said, ‘Hey, I can’t get anybody to pour concrete that big, you guys know anybody who’ll do that? And my brother and I said, ‘We’ll do it!’ Had we ever poured concrete before? No. Now we pour a couple hundred yards a week,” he says, marveling at how that wouldn’t be possible in today’s business world.
The company employs 70 to 80 people and does work throughout Cuyahoga, Lorain and Erie counties.
“If we say we’re going to do something, we do everything in our power to get it done and for what we agreed to do it for,” he says. “Hopefully at the end of the day we go home and everybody’s happy. If someone’s not happy we try to fix it. When you put your head down to go to sleep at night, you know you tried to do it right.”
The Reidy Family
The Reidy family has called Lorain home for at least four generations. It has run successful funeral homes, furniture stores and one of the county’s only family-owned and -operated skilled nursing facilities.
Joan Reidy, president of Avon Oaks, says her father, Richard Reidy, grew up in the funeral home and furniture businesses but split from his brother and the family business in 1964.
“He helped build Reidy Scanlan Funeral Home to be a very busy and successful funeral home,” she says. “He renovated an old AP supermarket and built a beautiful funeral home. It was a good business.”
Two years later, he and his wife, Elizabeth “Betty”, left that business and bought Avon Oaks, then a 96-resident home.
“My father started exploring other businesses and found that back in the ’60s, long-term care nursing facilities were just entering the modern age where they were actual medical institutions as opposed to rest homes,” she says. Avon Oaks was about a year old when they bought the facility. “He was good with people, and my mother was a nurse — they learned the business together. It was shortly after Medicare came into being so everybody was learning it together.”
Joan Reidy and her siblings, Richard Reidy and Judy Flynn, all worked at the family business at some point. Judy Flynn is the director of assisted living at Avon Oaks after joining the business full time in 2003 after a career in advertising. In the early ’70s, their father bought Richard Reidy Funeral Home, and her brother is now the funeral director at the Lorain facility.
“I started at Avon Oaks when I was 14 and I mowed the lawn. I got promoted to the basement where I did laundry, then I worked in the kitchen and cooked and served meals while I was in college,” she says, adding that she went to Boston College and earned a degree in economics and sociology. “I, at one point, thought that I would never come back to Lorain and I would never work at a nursing home. But I always loved it and I was always drawn to it, even during college, so I’m glad I did.”
In fact, Joan Reidy returned and took over the facility in the mid-1980s, becoming a licensed practical nurse and earning her administrator’s license. She took the helm of the facility in 1982. In 1985, Avon Oaks became the first senior care facility in the state of Ohio to establish child-care services.
“We have a day care center that has infants through school-age children. It’s an important part of our program with intergenerational activities with the elders. We have grandmas and grandpas who read to the kids or go and do arts-and-crafts with the kids,” she says. “I just thought it was a
natural fit because I loved my grandmother and her sisters so much, and I enjoyed being with them. They had great stories about my great-grandpa, who was a captain of a Great Lakes schooner that would ship grain or coal.”
Now Avon Oaks cares for 150 people, a third of them in short-term rehab for things such as joint replacement surgeries. The facility has a special wing, the Porter Pavilion, to care for those suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
“My mother was a Hungarian immigrant, and she came to the United States when she 12 years old, and then she was an orphan. She grew up in foster care and family became so important to her. It had a big effect on how Avon Oaks developed and grew philosophically,” Reidy says. “We’re family. We’re going to take good care of family, and we’re going to be welcoming to everybody.”
She said many of the people who work at Avon Oaks have had family at the facility.
“Most of my leadership team has had family at our facility; we know how it feels,” she says. “It has to be a special person to work in health care, particularly in long-term care. You have to have the heart. If you can’t cry with someone who is hurting, then you’re just not feeling it. That’s pretty important to us when we choose employees, and the people who stay with us are the people who have that heart because otherwise it’s just a really hard job.”