Can you imagine working for your father at a company where your father worked for his father, and his father worked for his father? Well, that’s the story of one of the pillars of our local business community, the Wilshire Escrow Company.
Co-founded by Roy Shewfelt and Dorothy Green back in 1944, Wilshire Escrow has never left the hands of the Shewfelt family. The original business opened at 3900 Wilshire Blvd., then moved to Wilshire and Norton in the 1950s, and finally landed at its current spot at 4270 Wilshire Blvd. on Jan. 1, 1983.
“I thought this place was a nuthouse!” jokes Don Shewfelt, the now-retired son of co-founder Roy. “After I finished college and returned from the service, I thought I was going to be a baseball player. I wanted to have nothing to do with escrows!”
Thankfully for the community, Don and his brothers Richard and Larry ended up planting their flags at their father’s company. As the years passed, Don’s own sons Eric and Craig came on board, and eventually Eric’s sons Matthew and Brian joined the company as well.
“Craig and I are just placeholders for Matthew and Brian,” Eric likes to joke with his family.
“I originally didn’t want to do this,” he explains. “Back when I started in the 1960s, it was a summer job and it involved filing and making about $1.25 per hour. My sisters would work the switchboard, and we would make good summer money. I broke my leg when I was about 20 years old and spent a lot of time here while dad showed me the business. I joined the Peace Corps for a few years, but then came back when I was 26 and started working here full-time.”
Eric points out that the world of escrow is a very consuming business. “It’s a wonderful living,” he says, “and I enjoy meeting lots of interesting people and solving their problems.”
Wilshire Escrow Company mainly deals with multi-family escrows and exchanges, although the firm takes on anything that comes their way. Matthew, Eric’s son, graduated from UC Santa Cruz and started working with the company in 2010.
“I was lucky to get here when I did,” says Matthew. “It was during a lull, and I was able to ask as many questions as I needed and to really take my time and learn about the business.”
Times have really changed since Don, Eric, Craig, Richard and Larry (the current president) started in the business. Computers and e-mail have altered the nature of the business dramatically, creating a fast-paced “I-need-it-now” attitude. It’s the person-to-person contact, though, that keeps the business strong.
Though some people may find working with family members tedious, the Shewfelts hold the opposite opinion.
“It’s very rewarding,” says Craig. “I can pretty much say anything to Eric, and I know it won’t shock him, whereas it may shock someone else. It makes for a more relaxed work environment.”
“Day to day, you are your own boss,” interjects Eric. “We always get along well because we are so busy that we never see each other! Everybody gets to be the king of their own castle.”
“There is an element of trust,” continues Craig. “One of the secrets to making it compatible is that it’s so busy, I don’t even have time to look at what Eric’s doing. He’s doing what he needs to do, Larry’s doing what he needs to do… the fact that you are so swamped with answering calls and emails… you don’t have time to bother with other’s affairs.”
By Sondi Sepenuk