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A good time for business. And a bad time for bugs.
World War I was over, the roaring twenties were beginning, and young Swedish emigrant Carl Strom was just starting Western Exterminator Company. A few years earlier, Strom had arrived at Ellis Island and accepted an offer to fight for the U.S. in exchange for citizenship. Now with the war over, he had returned, moved west, and was gaining experience in the pest control industry along the way. In 1921, he started Western Exterminator Company with nothing but a desk, a phone, $25 in chemicals, and a vision based on quality customer service at a fair price.
Under Carl's leadership, Western prospered. With his personal touch and care for customers, the new business thrived and he soon added a partner— his brother-in-law, Ray Lovejoy. The two made a perfect team, complementing each other's strengths, while both were committed to Carl's original vision.
This commitment enabled them to successfully shoulder the initial pangs of a new start-up business, as well as the Great Depression, and continue to grow. Shortly after the close of World War II, Western expanded to Northern California with a second service center in Oakland. During the 1960's, as the second generation took the helm, Western continued to grow throughout all of California. Western's team moved into Arizona in 1971 and took the same winning formula to Nevada in 1995, continually focused on Carl's mantra of quality service at a fair price.
The Little Man first joined the Western family in 1931 when a Yellow Pages advertising representative came to Carl and Ray trying to sell a small ad, and promised the creation of a unique logo if a contract was signed. Carl and Ray agreed. And The Little Man was born.
In the decades that followed, he's gone from pest control man to icon. A frequent exterminator to the stars and to sitting U.S. Presidents, he's appeared in movies, been seen by millions of commuters along the Hollywood, Bayshore and I-405 freeways, and even toured with the 80's rock band Van Halen. Through it all, he's maintained a pristine sense of decorum that harkens back to the customer-oriented, service-friendly, bygone era in which he was created, and well represents Western's current service philosophy, too.
Today, he presides over our yellow fleet as well as our flagship Hollywood building, where his image is even embedded in the concrete. Like a favorite uncle, he takes care of life's little details. Dapperly dressed in his top hat, tails, bow tie and spit-shined shoes, he does it with a sense of effortless style-offering a warning finger of caution to ward off any pests, but carrying a large hammer representing the strong service that's at his fingertips.
Service personnel originally drove their own personal cars and kept all their equipment hidden away in the trunk. In the early days of pest control, people were embarrassed if their neighbors saw a pest control truck parked in front of their house and thought they had bugs. That sentiment changed, and by the early 60's, the yellow trucks had become a sign of prestige and brand excellence.
Carl attributed the company's growth and success to the people who comprise our "Western Family". Never known as Mr. Strom, most employees either called him Carl or "Pop". Needless to say, it was a crushing blow to all when he perished in a private plane crash in January 1961. Devastated by the loss, employees came together and commissioned an oil painting of Carl, which now resides at the entrance to the Boardroom at our Home Office.
Western has always been committed to our people. That's why our Western family members remain so dedicated and loyal. In a day when most folks spend an average of five years at a job, it's not uncommon to hear of Western employees celebrating 10, 20, or 30 year anniversaries and more at Western.
Today, Western Exterminator Company is one of the largest pest control companies in the country and is ranked as one of the top companies within this industry nationwide. We recently joined the Rentokil family of pest control and pest management countries located all over the world. Over 1,000 employees serve customers in California, Nevada, and Arizona. Second, third and fourth generations of Carl's family are now at the helm. And while much has changed, Carl's pledge to quality customer service at a fair price remains, along with a culture committed to exceeding customer expectations.
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