by Angie Kay Dilmore
Robert “Bobby” John, Sr. and his older brother Harry John, a decorated WWII fighter pilot, started J&J Exterminating in 1959. Named for their last names, the business has remained in the family for over 60 years. Bobby John’s son and grandson – Robert John, Jr. and Robert John, III – are carrying on the family legacy, both in name and business. Over the decades, the John family has expanded the organization to 15 locations across Louisiana and Eastern Texas (Tyler, Beaumont). They employ a team of approximately 300.
Bobby John, now age 85, and Harry were born and raised in the town of Crowley. Their family was well-respected and so when Bobby and Harry, who was a LSU graduate with a degree in Entomology, decided to start their pest control company, they went door-to-door throughout Crowley. Some of their very first customers were family and friends. “We had no trouble convincing people of our integrity and honesty,” says Mr. John. Their full-service pest control company grew quickly and stands on those same founding principles today. “Our reputation is what has contributed to our success,” Mr. John adds. He currently lives in Lafayette and continues to work in an advisory role from his home.
Bobby John wrote and published his family business history in a book called From the Heart. “We’re very proud of the legacy,” he says. “And we want to keep the family business culture alive.” Robert, Jr., acting CEO, is a USL Graduate in Business, and Robert Lewis John III, a LSU Graduate in Business with a Tulane master’s degree, recently married.
Robert John III says it’s been a pleasure and a privilege to work in the family business. “I credit much of our success thus far to our laser focus on customer service and ensuring we incorporate it into our decision-making process. Our goal is to go above and beyond our customers’ expectations. Our family business is much more than me, Dad, and my grandfather. We have a great team at J&J that executes our vision, and we have an awesome customer base that allows us to go to work every day to serve them.”
Lake Charles native Phillip Tarver started his career as a certified public accountant, but quickly realized his dream job – car sales. Beginning in 1984, he learned the ropes through several positions at Lake Charles Nissan. In 1997, Tarver bought Lake Charles Toyota and built their current location in 2006.
In 1983, Tarver and his wife DeWanna brought twin sons, Corey and Eric, into the world. After college, both boys found their way to joining their father at the dealership, learning the business through starting in lower-paying positions and working their way up. DeWanna also worked at the business in the gift shop and around the office. It became a true family endeavor. Currently, Corey and Eric function as co-general managers – Corey as General Sales Manager and Eric as Fixed Operations Director/CFO.
In January 2018, the family expanded when Corey and his wife, Lori, had their first son, and Eric and his wife, Katie, had boy/girl twins. As Phillip and DeWanna were suddenly thrust into grandparenthood, they embraced the opportunity to take a step back from the dealership and get a taste of retirement. In 2019, Phillip was elected LA State Representative for District 36, prompting him to further pass the reins to Corey and Eric.
“By that time, Eric and I were mostly in charge of the dealership, giving Dad the confidence, comfort, and flexibility for his new role,” says Corey. “But he still comes in to work when he’s in town, probably 10-15 hours a week, and serves in an advisory role. We still lean on him a lot for big picture direction.”
Corey says that the dealership exists not only as a source of financial means for their families, but also as a conduit to serve the community. “We grew up watching our parents not just run a business but also make a positive impact on their employees and the community. Community service has always been a priority for them and now for us. In 2016, Mom started DeWanna’s Closet to help the children of Southwest Louisiana, and this continues to be her passion. Through Lake Charles Toyota, we sponsor or contribute to numerous community events such as Chuck Fest and Downtown at Sundown. Currently, we’re sponsoring this month’s This is Home Festival. The four of us are all McNeese State University alumni, so we support many McNeese activities. Currently, we are the official car dealership of men’s and women’s basketball, softball, and baseball. We have a mobile food trailer, and we love taking it all around town to feed people. And we have a big presence in e-sports, aka competitive video gaming, and put on events for both kids and adults.”
Will Corey and Eric’s children someday follow in their father’s footsteps? “We would love that, but growing up, Mom and Dad never placed expectations on us to get into the car business,” adds Corey. “Whatever Eric and I wanted to do was fine with them. I majored in Mass Communications and Eric has an engineering degree. But once we got involved in the family business, it got into our blood and we can’t imagine doing anything else. But yeah, we’d love for our kids to carry the torch; but if they choose to go a different direction, that’s great, too.”