A year after developer George Ablah’s death, his son, Jeff, has purchased his Ablah Enterprises.
“I’m very proud and kind of humbled,” Ablah says. “It’s hard to even say: I own it.”
Ablah was 18 when he started working for his father, and he says he learned a lot from him through the years.
“He taught me to get to work early,” Ablah says. “He was a guy that went into work at 5:30 in the morning … and he expected you to be there.”
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He says he still does it, even though he’s now free to sleep in.
“I don’t even use an alarm clock. I just wake up.”
Ablah says his father didn’t believe in having a board of directors because he wanted to make all the decisions.
“That is what made him be able to jump,” Ablah says. “He was able to react faster than anyone. He didn’t take a vote.”
He says his father “was the big bull in the pasture, so to speak.”
Jeff Ablah’s mother, Virginia, was an equal partner in the business.
“She worked alongside him for almost 60 years,” Ablah says.
Ablah says he and his father discussed him taking over the company many times.
“He was in favor of it, but he wasn’t willing to give up the reins.”
The company’s North Rock Road office closed while George Ablah was still alive.
“We had to shut that down against his will,” Jeff Ablah says.
For now, Ablah is working out of his house, but he says he plans on moving to an office soon.
Ablah says he plans to continue what his family has always done, which is investing in and developing real estate within about a 150-mile radius of Wichita.
“We always look at things in Wichita, but we don’t like to compete with friends,” he says.
Ablah still says “we” when discussing work.
“I just always think of it as ‘we.’”
With the purchase of the business, Ablah says he now has a 50 percent interest in a 210,000-square-foot distribution center in Omaha, “which is very exciting.”
He says there are 4 1/2 acres next door that are ready for expansion.
“It’s a prime piece of real estate.”
Ablah says one of the most important things his father preached was to be a value buyer.
“It’s rough right now for a value buyer in this interest rate market.”
Ablah faces a number of other challenges that his father didn’t always have.
“I definitely don’t have all the relations that he had,” Ablah says.
Nor does he have the same financial ability, he says.
“I’ll probably never be able to achieve what my dad did,” Ablah says.
Still, he says, “I’m proud to carry on the tradition.”