How does one become a household name in a community? If you listen carefully to Jim Hanks, you will learn that it takes time, dedication to your customers, a positive attitude on life, and adaptability. Just about everyone in the Clermont area can tell you where Hanks Electric is located but how many can tell you the background story of how that came to be? The friends and members of the South Lake County Historical Society can do that after listening to his talk at the Society’s December meeting.
It all started over 50 years ago when his father moved the Hanks family to Groveland from the Chicago area. A trained engineer, Mr. Hanks senior came here to operate a 4,000 chicken farm and orange groves but his natural instincts kicked in. Before long he had automated the coops so that the birds were fed and watered by machine and the eggs they produced were washed and graded mechanically also. Not one to waste, the guano from the hens was used to fertilize the groves. The engineer in Mr. Hanks was looking for expression. He even volunteered to wire the First Baptist Church of Groveland for free. And then with a $5,000 loan from his wife’s employer, he started Hanks Electric out of the family home in the 1950’s. His first shop was in Groveland, and then in 1974, the now familiar store on West Montrose opened. Three years later, when Mr. Hanks senior passed away, his two sons took over the business, got their electrical licenses and closed the Groveland location. Today Jim Hanks, three of his five children and one grandson operate the store which is known for the beautiful music it pipes onto the sidewalk in addition to its appliances and service.
When asked how he could explain the company’s success, Mr. Hanks credited their philosophy. He believes there is more to business than mere monetary profit. Hanks Electric is out to serve its customers and develop a good relationship with them. That customer relationship is an essential element in a company’s “profit.” Obviously, when it comes to his store, he is so right.
Once again, a speaker at the Historical Society meeting has shown how a personal story can bring history to life. Mr. Hanks not only spoke about his family business but also the history of the building they occupy, of the downtown shopping district, local schools and much more.
If you are interested in history in general or the history of Lake County in particular, contact the South Lake County Historical Society by going to our website, ClermontVillage.org; by calling Roxanne Brown, Village Manager, at 352-593-8496; or by attending our membership meetings which are held on the second Monday of the month at 7 pm in the Train Depot in the Historic Village.