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Home | AUSTIN | Spotlight | Spotlight - Ted Breihan, Ted Breihan Electric Company

Spotlight - Ted Breihan, Ted Breihan Electric Company

image Ted Breihan, Owner, Ted Breihan Electric Company, San Marcos, TX

AUSTIN - Ted Breihan has seen a lot in his 92 years, especially in the electrical industry. As a business owner of Ted Breihan Electric for the past 65 years, he is a treasure trove of stories about how the field has evolved and how he was a part of it all.




    Share how you got your start in the electrical industry.
    When I was in high school, I started out working for an electrician, Roy Builta, in Kerrville. I went into the Navy during World War II and when I got out, I went back to work for him. I learned the trade pretty much from him. We worked all over central Texas doing commercial stores, houses, and filling stations. I got a little bit of everything in the way of knowledge about the industry.

What path did your life take after you worked for Mr. Builta?

    I got married to my wife Frances in 1951 and moved to San Marcos. I went to school at Texas State and decided I wanted to teach school but, as things progressed, I decided to make a little extra money working for electrician, Mr. McGhee at McGhee Electric in San Marcos. Houses were going pretty fast in the 1950s in San Marcos so I started wiring houses and then commercial buildings for him. He didn’t want to do the larger commercial work, but wanted to sell the actual appliances, so he sold them and I put them in.

How did you start your business?
    Because Mr. McGhee didn’t want to take on the larger scale work, I just took that market over and started my own company, Ted Breihan Electric, in 1953. I graduated from Texas State at about the same time and there was quite a bit of work going on here in town. Nash Motor Company had a new building and I gave Mr. Nash a price for my electrical work and he accepted my bid. One thing after another followed that way.
    I worked for different companies around the area like Cummings, the grain business that moved up here, bought some land and put in a grain elevator and a cooking machine. It was one thing after another like that. Mr. Price, who bought the telephone company, converted it over to automatic dial telephones, which involved a whole lot of equipment in his new building. He was gracious enough to keep me on doing his electrical work for a good while, and I learned a great deal about automatic things from that. I also got into the electrical end of the freshwater/wastewater business, which we still do. It kept going into the different phases of electrical since then, and now we work all of the way from Highway 71, west of Austin down to New Braunfels

How did you build the staff you have today?
    I started out with just one helper and myself. I slowly employed people who were doing other things. I could see mechanical ability in their work and I would encourage them to be an electrician rather than what they were doing.
    There were different ways of bumping into different people. One man was pumping gas at a filling station and was washing my trucks all weekend. When he said he wanted to do something else other than pump gas. I told him to go to work for me. I ran into another man in San Antonio who was building more control centers for the new computer-generated operations. He and I got to-gether and I started using his equipment. I now have several employees that are adept to the computerization and the automatic world of operation of things that we’re getting into.
    We’ve been up at times 40-60 employees but we don’t want to do that anymore. We want to leave that size of staff to the larger companies.

What lessons have you learned?
    I’ve lost a lot of money and I’ve made a lot of money! We got caught in some capriciousness that took place in the United States. Construction work and everything slid downhill, work stopped and people went broke. It’s been an up-and down situation. You can’t go too fast; you’d better slow down and just take your time.

How do you keep going throughout the hard times?

    It’s mostly the desire to do something different. That’s why the electrical business is so fascinating to me; almost every job is a little bit different. I like to do things that have a little variation to them and have the challenge. Thank goodness I have a lot of good friends who support this business.
    I also subcontract different phases of the work to people who I know can do it. We’ve done several larger commercial projects here in town, and if I can’t do it, I will find someone who can do it.

What do you enjoy about your work?
    I enjoy watching things come to completion and the challenge to get started. I also enjoy the program of whether it’s a school, commercial build-ing, a water plant or whatever.

What is your current involvement in your company?
    I own the company, but it’s a family affair. My oldest son Stacy is about to take it all over and he’s pretty much running it right now. I broke my right leg in February, so he has to take it over a little faster than he thought. Stacy’s wife Michele runs the office and handles the bookkeeping. I am involved in a bunch of utility work and am just about out of it now. I’m 92 and I want to slow it down!

How long has Stacy worked with you, and do you have other family members working with you in the business?
    Stacy was just a kid in high school when he started working for me. He started out with me on jobs. My youngest son, Jaimy, was the same way. Jaimy led the projects like the baseball field for Texas State University; he was general superintendent and manager of that project and several office buildings on campus. Stacy was backing him up in the office to make sure everything went right and that Jaimy had the help he needed. Jaimy was beginning to be a very good manager of business but he died in an automobile accident about four years ago. I also have a daughter, Erin, who owns her own advertising business in town.

How do you spend your free time?
    Most of my free time is spent with various organizations in town, especially the Methodist church. My mother died when I was a small boy so I grew up in the church and my brother Bob, who died last year, was a Methodist preacher.
    Even though I’m a Republican by nature, I have some good friends who got involved in the LBJ Museum; I helped them get that museum building completed and in operation.
    I served on my city council two different times and I’ve been involved in a lot of activities such as the Kiwanis Club for 50 years, which takes a lot of time. I’ve also belonged to the Independent Electrical Contractors Association for the past 27 years.

Your company celebrated 65 years in the industry this year. As you look back on your time in the industry and your success, what are your thoughts?
    Being that I am 92 years old, I believe the biggest thing is the advancement in technology and the upheaval in social and political environments. Our company had one of the first car-mounted phones and look where we are today. I still believe that new sources in energy are about to see a final stage of development, so to see and witness these changes over the decades has been a blessing.
    San Marcos was a small town when I first moved here, and having a successful business enabled me to be a part of its growth and development. I feel strongly that my faith and my company opened so many doors for me to make a difference, from my church to the university and all the projects that we have been a part of through San Marcos growing. It is a satisfying feeling I have that hopefully was a big part of the whole growth business-wise and social-wise.
    In closing, if I may add the old cliché, “Behind every great man is a great woman,” Frances has been with me from the start and has been my support and strength through the good times and the bad times. Having Ted Breihan Electric enabled Frances to also be a huge part in the growth of San Marcos. Being able to raise our four children and have some of them be a part of the business is also a rare gift. We both feel very fortunate to have been a part of the growth of San Marcos.
Subcontractor Ted Briehan Electrical is located in San Marcos. –mjm

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Melissa Jones-Meyer dfweditor@constructionnews.net