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Family Business: Debacker's Inc.

Family Business: Debacker's Inc.

By Melissa Brunner

"If you're born, they will find stuff for you to do!" he said.


Greg says his father, John "Jack" DeBacker, started in the heating business while in high school. Jack needed a part-time job, so he would help his uncle working on the old coal furnaces. In 1949, Jack founded DeBacker's, Inc. Today, the company does heating and cooling work for both new construction and replacement systems.

Greg's corporate training ground was at home, where his mother, Flora, handled much of the bookwork.

"We would help–staple this, file that—basic book work," Greg said.

He would go on to enter the company full time out of high school, starting in new construction, then working into the service and repair aspects. It was a route that serves him well today.

"I'm fairly well-rounded in all aspects of the company," he said.


Greg says that, on the one hand, he felt it was expected he would join the family business but, on the other, he wouldn't have stayed if he didn't enjoy it.

"We have good people down here. That's why I continue the tradition," he said.

He also says he cherishes the time spent working with his father, who passed away in 2012. Two of Greg's own four children work with him now and he hopes they feel the same way.

"It's enjoyable to work with them," Greg said, then adds, "Sometimes they might not think it's enjoyable to work around me!”

The Next Generation

Greg's daughter, Kelsey, insists that's not the case.

"My father and I have always been close, so working beside him every day feels normal to me," she said.

Kelsey helped out around the office during the summer while in high school then worked in the child care field before returning to the company full time three years ago as an office assistant. Her brother Dan also works for the company as an installation technician. They are joined by Kelsey's fiancé, who is a service technician and, while they do not have a daily role with the company, Greg's other two sons, Chris and A.J., serve on the board of directors.

Greg says his mother Flora continues to keep an eye on things from afar.

Kelsey says the company holds many memories for all of them.

"I have known all the workers here since I was a little girl. I have memories of painting my fingernails with the secretary here at the time and making artwork for the employees," she said. "It was always an adventure coming down to the shop."

Dan agrees, sharing his own sweet memory.

“I remember our grandpa always letting us into his secret candy stash!” he said.

Leaving a Legacy

Greg says he tries not to put any pressure on his children, but from experience, knows it is probably there.

"You feel like you have to prove yourself more. I felt that way," he said.

As the bridge between the first generation and the next, he understands.

"Dad put in a lot of time. It was his baby. It was his life," Greg said. And now he hopes to carry on that legacy by leaving the company in a good situation for Kelsey and Dan.

"I'd like to turn it over to them and say, 'Have at it!'" Greg said.

Dan says that pressure, real or perceived, is the only downside he has seen in working for the family business.

“The only concerns I have are trying to live up to the name and expectations that go with it,” he said.

Dan says being younger allows him to bring a fresh perspective on the marketplace and a better understanding of new technology to the table. He’d like to expand the business someday—a goal his sister shares.

Kelsey says her father continues to do an excellent job, but she admits she feels a certain responsibility as the youngest of the upcoming generation.

"I know how important this business was to my grandpa and how important it is to my father," Kelsey said. "With that in mind, I will do whatever I can to help our family business. I'm constantly thinking of the future so I try and learn as much as I can."

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