When Wilfred P. Large started his local land survey business 50 years ago, his cramped Monticello Arcade office – then opportunely located across from Norfolk City Hall – was a hole in the wall, he says. His sister-in-law was his secretary.
For the first few years, Large’s staff included only one other employee, William “Buddy” Pritchard. The two had been doing land surveys together for a few years just before Large decided to start his own survey company, Wilfred P. Large, CLS.
Over the years, they put in long hours – often starting about 6 a.m. and continuing to go from one field appointment to another until 6 p.m.
“I just knew I had to work hard,” said Large, 85, who has since retired from the family business. His son, Brian C. Large, is now president of the company now known as WPL Site Design.
All the hard work paid off. Although Large and Pritchard started the business by doing physical surveys for mortgage companies, and construction layout – in time the company gained a good local reputation and took on bigger projects.
After about five years, the company moved into a larger office at Monticello Arcade.
“I just kept growing and growing and growing,” said Large, a Shore Drive resident. “I had gotten to know a lot of real estate companies and mortgage companies and lawyers, and through them I picked up a lot of work.”
In 1975, Large relocated his company to Virginia Beach and has remained there ever since. Since then, the company evolved into a multidiscipline design firm that now also includes landscape architecture and civil engineering divisions.
Some of the firm’s recent assignments include work on several Virginia Beach Town Center projects, like The Westin and The Funny Bone comedy club. The firm also handled the landscape design plans for Hilltop Marketplace and helped with the construction engineering for MacArthur Center mall. Pritchard recalled also working with Large on surveying the building that preceded MacArthur Center, the Maritime Tower office building.
Although much has changed at the firm over the years, there is still one constant. Pritchard, now 70, still works there and will be celebrating his 50th year with the company this fall.
Now, Pritchard is vice-president of WPL’s survey division and owns 25 percent of the company he helped establish.
And he has no plans to slow down anytime soon. Retirement, he said, is still several years away. Maybe more.
“It’s been a long haul,” Pritchard said. “It’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.”
Pritchard said seeing how the business has grown has been rewarding. He has enjoyed the work and recounts with pride many projects he’s worked on – noting his work on the Hampton University Convocation Center and the Norfolk Waterside Marriott, in particular.
“We built a great reputation on turning our work around,” Pritchard said. “That’s what you have to do in surveying. That’s how you build a business and stay in business for 50 years. You have to have a passion for what you do.”
By Rita Frankenberry
Rita Frankenberry, 222-5102, firstname.lastname@example.org