Magnolia's History

  • 1934 – 1942

    JJ Magnolia

    J.J. Magnolia

    Joseph John Magnolia (J.J.) entered Abbott Vocational School at 7th Street, NW Washington DC in 1934 at the age of 14 and completed a 2 year course in the plumbing trade.
    Prior to this, J.J.’s formal education ended after completing the 6th grade. Between 1934 – 1939 he remained consistently employed by working for local plumbers James Vito, John Neeb, and Henry Conrad whenever they had work for him to do. While working with James Vito Plumbing, J.J. had formed a relationship with a man named James C. Brincefield, Sr. (Jim). Jim was born in 1919 in Hampton, VA and came to Washington DC in 1925. He was a graduate of McKinley High School and had attended the University of Maryland.

    Jim Brincefield

    Jim Brincefield

  • 1943 – 1954

    J.J. participated in World War II serving as a Navy "SEABEE" in the South Pacific Campaign from 1943 - 1945. J.J. was officially categorized as a Shipfitter (Ship Repair Pipefitter & Plumber) second class. Jim served in the US Coast Guard also participating in World War II in the Pacific campaign.
    J.J. spent 1946 – 1949 at the U.S. Navy Sea Yard working as a welder. He once received a letter from the Vice President of the United States thanking him for welding the hull of a Navy ship that no other Navy welder could fix. It was also in 1946 that he and his wife, Virginia Volpe Magnolia, gave birth to their first child, Joseph M. Magnolia, Sr. Their second child, John Magnolia would follow soon after in 1948. After the war, Jim worked briefly as a Texas oil wildcatter before returning to Washington DC where he began renovating properties in Georgetown and Foggy Bottom. J.J. spent 1949 – 1952 working as a plumber at the U.S. Pentagon including 6 months being assigned to the Walter Reed Army Hospital. Jim decided to open up his own plumbing supply company, Heritage Supply, which was located at 52 Canal Street, NW. Jim’s customer’s often found themselves in need of a good tradesman to help them complete their plumbing and heating projects, so he began to refer them to J.J. who was often looking for supplemental income. J.J. was then transferred to the U.S. Naval Ordnance Laboratory in White Oak, MD where he worked as a top grade plumber. He became very bored and unappreciated working in the Federal Government system because his superiors were always telling him to get lost and try to find work when there actually was not any to be found. Many times during summer breaks while young Joseph Magnolia, Sr. was in grade school, he would help his grandfather, Michael (Pop) Volpe, deliver supplies to residential and commercial contractors while subconsciously learning little bits about the plumbing trade and business. Jim soon realized the exceptional dependency and talents that J.J. possessed so he convinced J.J. to get his Master Plumbers license, enabling them to forge a partnership and go into business together as plumbing and heating contractors. With the help of his wife, Virginia, he eventually passed the DC master plumbing exam. Subsequently the other jurisdictions of Maryland and Virginia would follow. Joseph J. Magnolia, Inc. was formed in 1954 with Jim owning 88% of the corporation and J.J. owning the remaining 12%. Jim’s connections and personality allowed the company to earn a good bit of new construction apartment and residential work while J.J. carried the licenses for the company and was a magnificent operations man. Some would say that he was "God Gifted" with his hands.
  • 1955 – 1960

    JJ Magnolia at Lipski Wedding J.J. Magnolia at Lipski Wedding

    Work continued to flow into the business and the company slowly expanded. The business was operating out of a rented space at 325 Cedar Street, NW Washington DC. It was during this time period that J.J. initiated his sons, Joe & John, into the trade by making them work with him on several projects throughout the metro area.

    He would pay them $.50 cents per tub to cover newly installed bath tubs to keep them from being damaged by the drywall and tile workers who followed their work during the construction process.  He would also make them come to the shop during their grade school years to restock fittings after one of his large construction projects had completed. Joe & John often worked the Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving restocking fittings at the shop. He was always looking for cheap labor, and he knew where to find it. This proved to prepare them for future summers of working in the family business throughout their high school years where enjoying fun in the sun was not an option. It was thought that J.J. wanted them to appreciate the $400.00 per year tuition he was paying for them to attend St. John’s College High School in Washington DC.

  • 1960 – 1964

    This period saw persistent growth characterized by the hiring of additional staff and the continued summer apprenticeship’s of Joe & John Magnolia. The company had grown to include a field staff of approximately 30 employees. Joe graduated from St. John’s in 1964 and within a year decided that he wanted to pursue working in the business with J.J. full time.

  • 1965 – 1966

    The company moved its office from its rented space at 325 Cedar Street to 301-303 Cedar Street. This new space previously was the Post Office building serving Takoma Park, MD.
    Jim and J.J. rented this space with an option to buy it which turned out to be a good idea. The company has hired three superintendents to oversee jobs in DC, in Northern Virginia, and in Maryland.  Joe was fortunate enough to be working on a 300 unit apartment project in Prince Georges County called Belle Haven East Apartments on George Palmer Highway. The owner, George Kline, was a contact of Jim Brincefield.  At that time this was the largest plumbing and mechanical project that Joseph J. Magnolia, Inc. had ever performed. For a young apprentice who was interested in learning the trade, there was no better project to be assigned to. He worked on plumbing, hydronic heating, and air conditioning systems used in that era. He installed the building sewer, drain, waste, and vent system, natural gas, hydronic piping, and condensate systems. He installed commercial boilers, Arkla air conditioning systems, cooling towers, large hydronic pumps, fan coil units, and plumbing fixtures. This project solidified Joe’s decision to pursue this trade as his chosen profession because learning, designing and installing these systems was interesting and challenging.
  • 1967 – 1968

    Jim Brincefield, Rosalynn Carter Jim Brincefield, Rosalynn Carter

    This period was characterized by the departure of Jim Brincefield and the birth of the service department. Jim was a partner & owner of property in Richmond, VA. His wife’s family had owned a large plantation in VA and his interests shifted toward developing and oil fields.
    Both he and J.J. respected one another very much and it should be noted that Jim was extremely instrumental in the success of Joseph J. Magnolia, Inc. up to the point of his departure. Jim owed the company accountant, Leonard Lipski money for the services he had been providing so he traded 50% of his stock in return for the balance owed, making Leonard a 50% owner of the company. J.J. obtained the remaining 38% of stock in the company making him 50/50 partners with Leonard. A service department was formed to run all of the warranty calls for the new construction department. A man named Al Taylor was hired to oversee this department and a gentleman named Kenny Garrison, Jim’s stepson was hired as the 1st service plumber. Because no other new construction plumber wanted to begin performing the service work, Joe is transferred into that department. Joseph Magnolia, Sr. has an argument with his father, J.J., because Joe felt that he was underpaid and underappreciated. He decided to leave Joseph J. Magnolia, Inc. and go to work for a company named Remlov, which had been formed by a former employee of Joseph J. Magnolia, Inc. In 1967, Joe, Sr. married Barbara Gallagher and they saw the birth of their son, J.J.’s first grandchild, Joseph Magnolia, Jr. in December of 1968. After Joe, Sr. helped Bill Vollmer complete his 8 month project he reconciles with J.J. and returns to take the lead project manager role on a 43 unit apartment project in the Wheaton/Aspen Hill area. Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) offers to buy the property at 301 - 303 Cedar Street, NW Washington, DC. J.J. and Leonard exert their right to buy the property from their landlord and in turn then sell it to WMATA. Leonard and J.J. buy a smaller property at 6218 North Capitol Street, NW Washington D.C.
  • 1969 – 1971

    Joe Magnolia Sr Joe Magnolia Sr.

    Joe Magnolia, Sr. and another top crew leader, Frank Bryant, after receiving tutoring from J.J., take and pass the DC Master Plumber Exam, receiving their Master’s License. Joe Magnolia, Sr. was 22 years old.
    Frank Bryant shows his appreciation by immediately deciding to leave the company, but not before soliciting 70% of the field staff to go with him. This was especially upsetting because the recent departure of Jim Brincefield had also resulted in the departure of those field staff that had a closer relationship with him than they did J.J. The staff was shrinking and the level of business was on the decline. After having his request to fill the void left by Frank Bryant denied several times by his father, J.J. finally relents and allows Joe Magnolia, Sr. to take over the lead role in the construction side of the business. Joe , Sr. successfully begins to re-build the construction side of the business, acquiring such work with General Contractors at the University of Maryland, Gino’s Restaurant Corporation, St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, Rustler’s Steak House, and many other’s.
  • 1972

    John Magnolia graduated from the University of Tampa and decides to enter the business and work in the construction department with Joe.

    J. Magnolia falls ill while replacing a transmission in one of the company vehicles one evening and drives himself to Washington Adventist Hospital where he has a massive heart attack, essentially destroying 90% of his heart muscle. He is told he should not ever return to work and will need to stay home for a minimum of 6 months.

  • 1974

    Joseph Magnolia, Sr. & John Magnolia purchase all but 5% of the shares owned by Leonard and become equal partner’s with J.J.

  • 1975

    Joe Magnolia, Sr. is called into work on New Year’s Day 1975 by Al Taylor, manager of the service department. Al proceeds to tell Joe that he is ill and was told by his doctor that he must stop working immediately. He tells him that his doctor has told him he is on the verge of having a stroke. He then informs Joe that he has no more than 3 service calls on the schedule for the following day, and nothing for most of the service plumbers to do. He also refuses to stay on for a few weeks to allow John to transition out of the field and into the office to run the construction business and Joe to transition into the service department. It was later discovered that Al had been purchasing appliances, kitchen cabinets, and other items in high volume, and hiding them in job costs, in effect embezzling from the company.
    It was also later discovered that this individual had opened his own company and had solicited Joseph J. Magnolia, Inc.’s clients by deceiving them and telling them mistruths. Fortunately, he was arrested and held accountable for his indiscretions but major damage was done. All in all this episode cost the company $25,000.00 in supplier invoices, an incalculable value in lost business, and the loss of several service plumbers. It also resulted in Joe Magnolia, Sr. running the service side of the business and John Magnolia running the construction side of the business setting a new foundation for many years to come.
  • 1976 – 1982

    September 3 1982 - Last picture of J.J.

    This time period was characterized by the birth of new streams of revenue, and unfortunately the death of the company’s founder Joseph J. Magnolia. Several of the employees and clients who left and went to work with Al Taylor and his new company soon came back. J.J. also returned to the company but only under the condition that he would not work beyond a normal shift so as not to tax his now fragile heart. He agreed and split his time between the warehouse and the field where he trained the company plumber’s and apprentices. His contribution proved to be invaluable, passing on knowledge to the employees that could not be attained anywhere else.

    J.M. & Sons Service Corporation is formed in 1978 as a separate entity to process the service work being performed.

    Additional business also brought about unforeseen challenges. Because it was customary to advertise the words “Plumbing & Heating” among competitors in the industry the company would often be asked to troubleshoot heating issues, however, we did not have qualified people to do this. Joe Magnolia, Sr. decided to enroll in a 12-week Saturday electrical class at Crossland High School in Prince Georges County & upon completion of this course, he was able to now troubleshoot and offer solutions to our clients who were experiencing heating issues.

    In 1981 Joe Magnolia, Sr. receives a call from the Regional Manager of the Red Lobster Corporation requesting him to take over all of the plumbing and grease pumping needs for the local Red Lobster stores. The company did not own a pump truck, however, the Red Lobster Regional Manager asked that he sub-contract the pumping work. He wanted J.J.M. & Sons to handle the whole account. Joe Magnolia, Sr. contacts a local plumbing company who did have a pump truck and sub-contracts them to handle the grease pumping needs. After a short time, he saw that all of the plumbing calls disappeared and realized that the local company he was using to sub-contract the pumping work had stolen the account. This incident served as the catalyst for J.J.M. & Son’s to purchase their first grease pumping truck which proved the beginning to another stream of revenue for the company.

    Sunday September 5th, 1982, while working in his yard with his grandson, Joseph Magnolia, Jr., J.J. collapsed and died of a heart attack – one day before his 62nd birthday.

  • 1983 – 1990

    Joseph Magnolia, Jr. Joseph Magnolia, Jr. after "working" on his first boiler

    The company was getting involved in a fair amount of renovation work as well at this time and even started a department to focus on this type of work. A lot of the hydronic heating systems were being replaced with warm air furnaces so that central air conditioning could be installed at the same time. The new dilemma was that we needed qualified technicians to understand air conditioning systems and controls.

    Joe Magnolia, Sr. then enrolled himself in a 7 year course at Crossland High School through the Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES) to learn the principals of air conditioning and yet another stream of revenue was born and the company could now offer another service to the community.

    In 1984 the company moved its headquarters to 600 Gallatin Street, NE Washington DC 20017. This new site allowed for a much larger area to store tools and inventory, additional office space and a two bay auto facility to service the company’s vehicles.

    This time period also saw the addition of a second pump truck to service the grease removal needs of the many food service establishments we were servicing. The company also purchased its first eductor truck, which is a vacuum truck that has the ability to vacuum solids as well as liquids and is equipped with a high pressure jetting system to flush large sewers.

    1990 brought about the formal exit of Leonard Lipski as an owner. Joseph Magnolia, Sr. & John Magnolia purchased the shares of stock that were owned by Leonard.

  • 1991 – 1999

    (Left to right) Joseph Magnolia Sr., Joseph Magnolia Jr., John Magnolia, Christian Magnolia, Dominic Magnolia

    Joseph Magnolia, Jr., J.J.’s grandson and Joseph Magnolia, Sr.’s son entered the business in 1991 after graduating from Salisbury State University.  This was significant because it signaled the entrance of the first 3rd generation family member. Joseph Sr.’s other two children, Christian Magnolia & Dominic Magnolia entered the business in 1992 and 1995 after graduating from Salisbury State University and Towson University.
    This time period brought about major growth in the sewer and drain component of the business. The company purchased multiple high pressure water jets to flush sewer lines full of FOG (Fat’s, Oil, and Grease) and added sewer video inspection equipment as well. The company also added stormwater management to its menu of services when the local environmental authorities started enforcing regulations to protect our waterways from pollutants that are transported to lakes and streams during periods of heavy rain. In 1999 the company was forced to renovate the existing offices at 600 Gallatin Street, NE and build a separate building on the property to accommodate the growth in the organization. The employees of Magnolia Plumbing, Inc. continued to occupy the original building, while the employees of Joseph J. Magnolia, Inc. occupy the new space that was built. This new building also consisted of a 10,000 square foot warehouse for inventory and tool storage.
  • 2000 – Present

    magnolia family (Left to right) Tony, Chris, Taylor, John, Barbara, Matthew, and Dominic Magnolia

    The first Chief Financial Officer, Tom Gambriel, was hired in 2002 to oversee all of the organizations financial responsibilities. John Magnolia’s two children, J.D. Magnolia and Tony Magnolia came on board in the early part of this period and work within Joseph J. Magnolia, Inc. estimating and completing many of the organizations construction projects.
    In 2011 Joseph J. Magnolia, Inc. added a pre-fabrication shop to its operation. The pre-fabrication shop works in conjunction with a CAD (Computer Aided Design) Department so that materials can be more efficiently put together in a controlled environment and shipped out to a job site where they are installed. In 2015 Joseph Magnolia, Sr. officially retired from the business. The companies are currently owned by John Magnolia, Chris Magnolia, Dominic Magnolia, & Tony Magnolia. Today the Magnolia Companies consists of Joseph J. Magnolia, Inc. and Magnolia Plumbing, Inc. and operate out of (4) locations, dispatching approximately 200 service and construction vehicles throughout the Washington and Baltimore Metropolitan Region. Joseph J. Magnolia, Inc. is a thriving plumbing and mechanical company performing large scale plumbing, mechanical and site utility installation work all throughout the region. Magnolia Plumbing, Inc. provides plumbing, heating, air conditioning, drain cleaning, pumping, site utility and stormwater management services to residential and commercial clients. In 2019, the company welcomed Taylor Magnolia and Matthew Magnolia to the team, making us a 4th generation company.