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On the Job with Tommy McDowell

Photo by Laura Williams

Photo by Laura Williams

"On the Job with...." is a weekly Sunday Inc. series, spotlighting area business owners and executives. Today's interview is with Tommy McDowell, owner of Tommy Mc's Produce.

ALBANY -- Not many people feel they are exactly where they need to be professionally, but Tommy McDowell thinks he definitely in the right spot.

McDowell and his wife, Wendy, have 13 years invested in Tommy Mc's Produce Market at Lancaster Village, and they couldn't imagine doing anything differently.

The Albany native loves his job and it shows.

Q. If you were fresh out of school, what would you first do in searching for a job?

A. Definitely go into something you like to do. The worst thing in the world would be having a job you really didn't want to do.

Q. What was your first job?

A. I grew up in the cattle business. My father and I were brokers. We worked on a farm and bought and sold cattle.

Q. What was the first thing you bought after you got your first paycheck?

A. Don't remember. I probably saved the money. But if I did buy something it was for hunting or fishing, I'm certain of that.

Q. Who was your role model or mentor in your current job?

A. I kinda fell into this business. I called my friend, Larry Walden, and asked him to look for someplace I could sell fresh fruits and vegetables. He showed me Lancaster Village and I said I'll do it.

Q. How has the recession affected your business?

A. My wife, Wendy, and I were offered, but we chose not to participate.

Q. If you could turn back the clock on one aspect of technology (email, internet, cell phones, etc.) what would it be?

A. It seems like I don't know what I would turn back.

Q. I am up and going by ...?

A. I get up at 5:30 a.m., and I open my eyes and say, "Thank you, Lord, for giving me one more day." I get up early because I don't like to be rushed.

Q. Favorite hobby or activity outside of work?

A. Fishing, any kind. Bass, saltwater, crappie, I just like to go fishing.

Q. If you could take back one business decision in your career, what would it be?

A. I can't think of just one, but all of the mistakes got me where I am today. Maybe the biggest one was just being stupid and thinking that I was bullet-proof.

Q. What's the best thing about your job?

A. I don't have a boss.

Q. What's the worst thing about your job?

A. Not having enough time to go fishing as often as I'd like to.

Q. The most beneficial course you took in school?

A. FFA and ag-type courses.

Q. What would be your dream job?

A. I'm doing it now. I would not change a thing.

Q. Finish this: "On the first anniversary of my retirement" I see myself ...

A. Fishing and relaxing more. I don't feel like I work hard here, but I do work a lot.

Q. What is the one trait a business leader cannot be without.

A. People skills. You've got to be able to treat people how you'd like to be treated. Novel concept.

Q. What do you see as Albany's biggest economic challenge?

A. Keeping big businesses here. Also not trying hard enough to introduce more businesses and create new jobs.

Q. Do you see a trend toward organically grown produce?

A. There is definitely a market for it, but the city of Albany couldn't care less. If a person here sees tomatoes for $1 and organically grown tomatoes for $3, they are going to by the $1 tomato. Like I said before, there is a market for it, but it's been a hard nut for me to crack in Albany.

Q. What are the biggest changes you've seen in your business over the past several years?

A. The increases on prices of everything. Produce is always up and down. But overall, even produce at its cheapest is still not like it was three or five years ago.

Q. What was the best vacation you ever took?

A. Cozumel and St. Lucia were very nice and was a laid-back trip. We saw the rain forest and talked to some normal people.

Q. Any parting words of wisdom?

A. Yeah, there is no shortage of good and bad in the world and what you get depends on what you want.