Richard Holly is the current owner of Brea Electric. In the background outside the company offices are his brother Don, Jr., and dad Don Holly, Sr.
ROD VEAL, THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
BREA – With ownership of Brea Electric spanning three generations of the same family, listening to members of the Holly family reminisce about the 70-year-old business years is like taking a local history lesson.
Frank Holly became an owner of Brea Electric in the late 1920s. His son Don took over in the late 1970s. Don’s son Richard, 43, Brea Electric’s current owner, bought this business from his father in 1996.
The business, which began on Pomona Avenue – now Brea Boulevard, is believed to be the oldest family-owned business in Brea.
F.E. Hurtz and J.A. Leuzinger started Brea Electric in 1919, eight years after the city was founded, wrote historian Esther Cramer in her 1992 book, “Brea: The City of Oil, Oranges and Opportunities.”
Frank Holly, a ham radio operator, then purchased the business with two partners before becoming Brea Electric’s sole owner in 1932.
During the Great Depression, Holly and wife Lenore survived by collecting electric bills for Southern California Edison and peddling washing machines up and down Brea Boulevard.
Holly wired equipment used in Brea’s oil fields in the 1930s, wired city buildings, and installed the first lighting system at the old Brea Olinda High School field.
In the early ’50s, Brea Electric relocated to its current location on Imperial Highway.
Frank’s son Don recalls helping his father wire homes and businesses during the construction boom through the late ’50s into the ’60s.
Don Holly, now 69, remembers wiring the first televisions in north county homes, and then doing the same with color TVs.
“What was really fun was when we started selling color TVs,” said Don, who bought Brea Electric from his father in the late ’70s and had as many as 25 employees. “The kids would be sitting there and they could hardly wait until you got the antenna hooked up so they could watch cartoons.”
Don’s son Richard then got involved, going on service calls with his dad at age 14 and absorbing what he could from his father’s workers.
“Before you know it, I was running my own work and reading blueprints,” said Richard, who was 29 when he bought the business from his father in 1996.
Richard, who runs Brea Electric with wife, Terri, remembers innovations such as merchandise scanners and installed the devices in markets throughout the county.
Under Richard’s ownership, Brea Electrics’ workload has included wiring of home computers, home theaters and sound systems, as well as energy-efficient lighting.
The company’s list of large commercial accounts has also grown to include the Coyote Hills and Yorba Linda Country Clubs, churches and apartment complexes.
As his grandfather did during the Depression, Richard has had to find ways to keep the business afloat during the recent economic downturn.
He saw the importance of the personal touch.
“I’d get calls from ladies saying my grandfather wired their house,” he said. “I saw how important it was to be a third-generation owner.”
Richard created a company logo and designed uniforms to be worn by workers. He stressed customer service.
And when customers call the company, Richard will probably be the one answering the phone.
As a father of three, Richard and wife Terri hope Brea Electric will be owned someday by a fourth generation of the Holly family who will remember how it all started.
“We are still that mom-and-pop shop where the owner will come out and meet you, give you a bid and shake your hand,” Richard said. “I want to be the same guy my dad and grandpa were.”
Brea Electric is at 524 E. Imperial Hwy, Suite B, in Brea. Call 714-529-3030 or see breaelectric.com.