Having grown up around the plumbing and heating business, Billy Corrin naturally took over as the third-generation owner of Corrin’s Plumbing & Heating more than 30 years ago.
Surrounded by a core group of employees, the business flourished in the community, building on existing relationships and creating new ones year-after-year.
But now, after having more than a century-long presence in Borderland, the business once owned by Corrin and his wife, Jeanne, was earlier this month purchased by Alton Shannon of Shannon’s Plumbing and Heating, also a longtime local business.
“Al was one of the first people I called when I decided to retire,” Billy said. “We’ve had a great relationship over the years... Everything went really smooth and he made it very comfortable.”
The transition is bittersweet with emotion for the couple who is looking forward to having more time to visit their children and grandchildren, but sad as it marks the end of an era that started 110 years ago with Billy’s grandfather.
“We’ve made a lot of relationships over the years,” Billy said. “Being around for more than 100 years will do that.”
From the beginning
Billy’s grandfather, Charles E. Corrin, is the man behind it all.
In 1909, he arrived in Borderland through Fort Frances from Liverpool, England, with the skills and knowledge to start the small plumbing company. Toting tools in a sleigh, Charles would travel the community on foot, meeting the needs of his customers. He eventually developed the business’ first storefront on Third Street where the Falls License Bureau is now located.
“My dad and his brothers were in the service and then they took over after World War II,” Billy said.
Billy’s father, Bill, was one of eight children – five of them boys: Bill, Chuck, Harry, John and Art. After Charles died in 1945, the brothers became involved with the business, with the exception of Harry who worked for Coca-Cola Bottling. The group moved the business to its current Fourth Street location in 1948.
“They built a lot of different things around town,” Billy said of his father and uncles. “They built the Holiday Inn, they built the old clinic building (on Fourth Street) and a lot of houses in Riverview... They had a lot of irons in the fire.”
At the young age of 15, Billy worked summers for his father and uncles, eventually planning to turn the seasonal paycheck into a full-time gig. He attended Dunwoody College of Technology from 1979-1980 to study refrigeration and air conditioning.
“My dad went to Dunwoody from 1939-1940,” Billy said. “After I graduated is when (the company) started doing air conditioning.”
Billy said the brothers, or “The Ladds” as their mother called them, always worked well together. They would close up the shop at night and head next door to their mother’s house for beer and popcorn after work.
“They’d sit and talk about what happened that day,” Billy said. “When I was around, I’d go with to my grandmother’s sometimes, too.”
Billy married Jeanne Blais in 1981 and the couple eventually purchased the business in October of 1987.
“Growing up, I knew it was something I wanted to do,” Billy said of owning the company.
From the beginning, the Corrins employed a core group of workers, many who stayed on until the recent retirement, and others for several years.
In fact, when asked what stands out as a career highlight, Billy credits the employees.
“You don’t find a group like them,” he said, naming Jody Hart, Dean Tveit, Jerry Kostiuk and Craig Thome.
In fact, when Hart approached Billy about wanting to retire, that eventually had a domino effect on Billy and Jeanne’s decision to sell the business.
“I didn’t want to... I couldn’t go through the training of another person,” Billy said. “It takes about four or five years to create a person to go out on the job. All those guys couldn’t be replaced.”
Billy also said the employees who were not ready for retirement or didn’t secure employment elsewhere were hired on to work at Shannon’s, which gave the Corrin’s much-needed comfort.
“I know they’ll be taken care of there,” Billy said. “I was really glad to know that.”
The couple said the announcement to retire carried some mixed emotions from customers who have trusted the family with their plumbing, heating and air conditioning needs throughout the years.
The trust was so strong that one of the projects the Corrins recently took on was sorting through the hundreds of household keys they had acquired.
“People knew us and just let us have keys to their homes,” Billy said. “That alone shows the trust we developed over 100 years.”
Looking back over their careers, the Corrins said they were very satisfied to be able to raise three children and work together – mostly peacefully – as husband and wife.
“It was stressful at times,” Jeanne admitted. “We’d have our little arguments... Bill was always more forgiving than I was.”
“Still am,” Billy said without missing a beat.
The couple laughed and Jeanne said they were often questioned how they made working together work.
“We just did it,” she said.
Billy nodded in agreement. “It’s not easy to leave work at work, but we did it.”
The Corrins said they are incredibly thankful for the community that allowed them to have such a fulfilling career, and are looking forward to the next chapter in their life.
“I’m glad we still have this building for a year and will be going through things,” Billy said looking around the shop. “A lot of good memories in here... A lot of them. I look around and I see my dad and I see my uncles... Everybody’s here, everywhere in here. We solved a lot of the world’s problems in this shop.”