Amidst changes, Mace stays constant

Feb. 15, 2013 @ 05:00 AM

Lindy Mace loves his work so much, he still doesn't see an end in sight after 50 years with the same company.

Mace, whose 50th anniversary with Lee-Moore Capital Company is this Saturday, was honored with a surprise party earlier this week. In that half century, Mace has seen the company's name, leadership and field change. And since he plans to keep on working until he can't work anymore, the 78-year-old may yet see a few more changes.

When he began working for the company, it was called Lee-Moore Oil Company and, under the leadership of Truby Proctor, it was a petroleum distributor that eventually led to the foundation of The Pantry, which operates Kangaroo Express stores. The company sold its convenience stores in 2006 and changed its name in 2008 and, under the leadership of Proctor's grandson, Kirk Bradley, it has become a leading real estate firm in the area.

Mace was actually his boss's first boss, taking the 5-year old Bradley around in a suit to measure the levels of gas tanks at local stations.

"He'd come all dressed up just like his grandfather, wearing a little suit," he said, chuckling about Bradley, who donned a shirt and sweater Thursday. Bradley said he's the second-longest-tenured current employee, with 28 years. He apparently doesn't count that first job, but he does say that Mace has got him lapped.

Mace doesn't have an exact job description with the company, simply because he does a little bit of everything. He was around in the '60s when local gas stations became some of the first to switch to self-service; he was around in the '80s when much of the company's gas distribution network was sold in exchange for convenience stores and real estate, and he's around now as the company builds on a real estate reputation solidified by high-end developments like Carolina Trace and Chapel Hill's Governors Club.

Mace's main duties since joining the company in 1963 have included the role of salesman, which he said he was drawn to because he got to travel — which he came to love during a short stint in the Army. But despite his vast institutional knowledge, experience, and the fact that he was Bradley's first boss, Mace said he doesn't think of himself as the boss now.

"I just know things to do to help," he said, deflecting credit for helping the company expand its reach down into South Carolina and as far west as Kentucky in the early days.

"We stayed busy, just tried to stay ahead of everyone else."

The job seemingly comes easy to him, as he refers to those business trips — in which he had to make deals that would establish them in the market and offer prices that would beat out competitors while still being lucrative — as errands, a word other people use to describe trips to the grocery store or the post office.

Bradley said he can attribute Mace's long record of successes to one simple factor: his work ethic.

"He's always ready to do what's needed," Bradley said, "literally morning, noon and night, seven days a week."

It doesn't hurt that he's also a fighter, coming to work while beating a recent bout of cancer.

"He might miss one day while he was getting chemo, but then be right back at work," Bradley said. "He would be gone the day he got the treatment, but that was it. Obviously we didn't require that at all, but I think he just wanted something to do, something to focus on."

Mace declined to discuss his medical issues, saying he didn't want it to come across as looking for sympathy. He got all the love he needed from his own family and from his co-workers, whom he said he doesn't see as mere colleagues.

"It's really more like a family, to tell you the truth," he said.

Case in point: Mace didn't figure out about his surprise party beforehand, even when he saw Bradley's mother in the office that day. Her appearances, as well of other employees' family members, were too commonplace for him to suspect anything out of the ordinary. And just like when they'd have a big grand opening party for a service station back in the day, Mace said, he had a blast.

"We work hard; we play hard," he said.

An avid golfer before his health issues, plus the founder of the tennis team at Campbell University, Mace knows about playing hard. But when asked if he sees himself retiring anytime soon in order to get less work and more play, he said he likes how things are now and has no intention of stopping.

"I'll just keep going until I can't go anymore," he said.