Celebrating 70 Years: The Dumbwaiter

Celebrating 70 Years: The Dumbwaiter

by Kevin Witriol (Principal, Greensboro Office

I am not a native of North Carolina.  I moved to Greensboro from Columbus, Ohio in 2000.  Yes, I am a Buckeye, so I avoid all of the Duke/State/UNC banter that continually emanates from my coworkers’ offices.  The only team that ever mattered to me was Ohio State, or THE Ohio State University as it is commonly referred to. The accounting firm I left behind was a local firm that occupied a small space on a single floor of a commercial building.  So when I started working at BRC, I was unprepared for the larger-than-life company perk that awaited me on the second floor of our former space on Muirs Chapel Road: the dumbwaiter.

A dumbwaiter is defined as a small freight elevator or lift intended to carry objects rather than people. Dumbwaiters found within modern structures, including both commercial, public and private buildings, are often connected between multiple floors.

This may seem unimportant to most people, but to me, it was enticing.  You see, a few years earlier I had injured my foot at the office while playing a friendly game of dodgeball with a hacky-sack.  This activity was a common and totally acceptable stress reliever during Busy Season, at least according to the staff.   And if you don’t know what a hacky-sack is, Google it.  But I can tell you that it hurts to get hit by it.  Anyway, while trying to avoid being hit by this beanbag projectile, I rolled my ankle and ended up with a Jones fracture, which meant I was on crutches for several weeks during Busy Season.  This was extremely inconvenient because back in the day, a paperless office was nothing but a pipe dream.  We kept all of our client files on paper in large binders (or redwelds, as they were called).  Once a project was finished, you physically carried this bulky redweld to the next person in line to review the file.  Trying to do this while on crutches was tricky, so I purchased a satchel, or as some call it, a man purse.  And because of this, I came to be known as “the Mailboy”, delivering redwelds all across the office with my satchel.  Even the Partner-in-Charge’s eleven-year-old daughter called me “Mailboy” when she was in the office.

Back to BRC.  The thought of having this wonderful contraption to hoist redwelds up and down between the first and second floors seemed too good to be true.  At five-foot-seven inches, I even entertained the possibility of squeezing inside it and delivering myself like a gift to my colleagues below.   But my dreams were soon shattered.  Although the dumbwaiter was beautiful in appearance, it operated manually, and the effort required to use it was such that you might as well run full speed up and down the stairs instead because you wouldn’t perspire as much.

I cannot begin to tell you what a letdown this was.  Almost every day of every month of every year from 2000 – 2005, I walked past this tease of a dumbwaiter wondering what could have been.  Did it need a new pulley?  A new rope?  Less weight? We never did find out what the issue was, but in 2005, we moved to our current location on Highwoods Boulevard, and the dumbwaiter became a distant memory.  To this day, I always wonder if the new tenants of that building ever got it to work correctly.

When I was asked to write an article for Bernard Robinson & Company’s 70th anniversary, I thought of many good memories over the years.  I could have written about the great clients, the camaraderie among staff, the challenging and satisfying work, or the free birthday cake that we enjoy every month.  But the dumbwaiter represented something different.  I doubt that any other public accounting firm had one.  And that was totally unique – just like BRC.

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Kevin Witriol Principal, CPA

Kevin has over 25 years of experience as a CPA and is a tax and consulting principal in our Greensboro office.  He works primarily with small businesses and high net worth individuals. Over the past 11 years, Kevin has focused his expertise within the real estate industry, helping clients address the challenges they face with […]