D. Patrick Welsh Celebrates 60 Years as Swarthmore’s Family Real Estate Business
D. Patrick Welsh Real Estate invites neighbors from Swarthmore and beyond to celebrate the firm’s 60th anniversary with a bash this Friday from 5 to 7 p.m. Drinks, hors d’oeuvres catered by Occasionally Yours, baklava made by Gassia Melkissetian, and cookies baked by Dave Welsh himself make the real estate office one of the highlight of the June 7 First Friday in Swarthmore.
It’s also a chance to share a significant milestone event with the staff of one of Swarthmore’s oldest and most successful businesses, and its owner, Dave Welsh (not Junior, please,) who spent a few minutes talking with the Swarthmorean this week.
The Swarthmorean: What has made D. Patrick Welsh such a durable business?
Dave Welsh: The logo says: ‘Quietly successful.’ We’re not someone who puts out balloons and beats our own drum. The reputation my dad had gotten over the years just served us so well that the brand, as they say, was recognized; our ‘for sale’ signs are distinctive not just in Swarthmore, but throughout this area of Delaware County.
TS: Did you think you’d be taking over for your dad?
DW: No, he never really put it out to anybody because in real estate back then, it was like a one man show. He’d had one or two people with him over the years. But then he got a bunch of good agents, Madge Spencer and Mary Sapp, Judith Cadigan, so he had quite an entourage there and they were fantastic and helped the business grow.
My dad sent my younger brother Jeff down to see me in Florida, telling him ‘Check with Dave, see if he wants to think about getting into business.’ It was 1986, a good time in real estate. So I came up and got my license....and began 33 years in real estate.
TS: What was the transition like?
DW: The last 5 or 7 years of him in the business, he’d come in and do a half day. He was something of a figurehead, it was good to have him there, but yes, he passed most of the work on to me. I remember trying to get him to buy a fax machine. “Why? We don’t need that.” Or a computer or a phone system... He never learned how to use a computer, that was fine; he didn’t have to or want to. My dad was there since 1959, and we worked side by side for just about 20 years. When he turned 70, I said “Sorry Dad, it’s the law, you’re 70 now, and you have to go to Florida.’
TS: What are the advantages that a family firm like Welsh offers in a town like Swarthmore?
DW: More flexibility and more personal service. If somebody has a problem, I’m right there, not like an absentee owner. I’ve been so fortunate that [his father] ended up here in Swarthmore; he came out from Philadelphia after working for a year or so, looking for a more personal career.
The other [advantage] is that we are a part of the town. I’ve lived in Swarthmore since 1986 — my daughters worked at the Ingleneuk, when so many generations of kids worked there. Rotary does a world of work and it makes it important to stay connected. We give back to the community with the Fun Fair, the different school sports … I was so lucky that Dad ended up here. We serve a niche market, and you stay in one place, people tend to come around.
Dave and his wife Becky Hansen Welsh work together at the Welsh office, but among the couple’s five daughters, Dave says none works in the firm: “They all do different things, and we’re extremely proud of them. The business has changed so much. The internet is eroding our job because there’s so much info out there. It used to be that we were fulfilling the American dream, and we helped people do so. Now it’s become so adversarial; there’s so much pressure and competition for listings. There used to be one form to sign, now it’s 14 pages. It used to be caveat emptor now it’s ‘seller and seller agents beware’ because of our litigious society. It’s taken some of the fun out of it.”