Keeping work and life separate can be challenging in a family-owned business but it’s crucial if the owners hope to succeed, keep their sanity, and pass the business on to the next generation, according to panelists at the Maine Family Business Awards.

“When I joined the business, my father sat me down and said ‘I don’t want to talk about work outside of work,’ ” said Derek Volk, president of Volk Packaging. “We made a conscious decision not to talk about work when we’re at home or on the golf course. It helped.”

These and other words of advice came from panelists and family-business owners to about 350 guests at the awards dinner, which was held at the Portland Marriott at Sable Oaks and organized by the Institute for Family-Owned Business.

In Maine, about 80 percent of businesses are family owned, with fewer than 30 percent surviving to the second generation and fewer than 13 percent making it to the third generation, according to the institute.

“Compartmentalizing is key. There were always boundaries. There are a lot of pressures in all of our lives. But we keep definite boundaries between work and home,” said Tim Hussey, president and chief executive of Hussey Seating, a sixth-generation family-owned business started in 1835.

Masey Kaplan, owner of Close Buy Catalog, said her business is still in a start-up phase so she joked that her boundaries were less clear. The business began in 2010.


“My business is still young. It’s very blurry where home ends and work begins. I’m aware there should be boundaries, but I have terrible boundaries,” Kaplan said. “The dinner table, though, is all about the kids and hearing about everyone’s day.”

Will Wedge of Will’s Shop ’n Save in Dover-Foxcroft said he learned a lot from the panelists and hoped to pass on their lessons to his daughter someday.

“I want my daughter to go away and have her come back one day and say ‘Dad, I want to be part of the business.’ That’s my dream. It may not happen, but that’s my dream,” said Wedge, whose business received the Shep Lee Award for Community Service.

“Family business – it’s part of what makes the wheel turn here in Maine,” said Allyson Cavaretta, director of sales and marketing at the Meadowmere Resort.

Seven family-owned businesses were recognized during the event, which celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Institute for Family-Owned Business.

In addition to Will’s Shop ’n Save, other awardees included:


Innovation Award: Meadowmere Resort in Ogunquit. The resort, which first opened in 1983 as a 40-room motel, now has 144 rooms and has become a leader in environmental efforts. Two generations work on site at the resort.

Technology Award: Eco-Kids of Portland. The children’s art supply company was created by parents, Cammie and Kip Weeks, who were inspired to make molding dough using natural ingredients after their oldest son’s toy was recalled for lead paint in 2008.

First Generation Award: Chebeague Island Inn, which was bought by the Prentice family after son Casey Prentice heard the inn was for sale after nine straight seasons of losses. Under the Prentice family, the inn turned a profit in the first year.

Customer Service Award: Chalmers Insurance Group of Bridgton. The agency was founded in 1857 and now boasts nine locations in Maine and New Hampshire and employs 135 people among Chalmers Insurance Agency, the National Accident Health General Agency and Chalmers Realty.

Maddy Corson Award (for a business with fewer than 25 employees): Messer Truck Equipment of Westbrook. The fourth-generation company has been in business for 115 years. The business started as a blacksmithing and shipsmithing shop in Portland and has evolved several times to become one of the largest truck equipment distributors in northern New England.

Large Business Award (for businesses with 25 or more workers): Lamey Wellehan, a family shoe store started in Lewiston on St. Patrick’s Day in 1914. The business now has six stores and 100 workers. The company had about $11.5 million in sales in 2013.

Jessica Hall can be contacted at 791-6316 or at:

Twitter: @JessicaHallPPH

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