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Friday, August 21, 2015

Modern Exterminating and Termite Control Company since 1947

  Mat Bihi       Friday, August 21, 2015
Nothing has ever bugged four generations of the Kerr family.

The Delaware County clan has owned and operated Modern Exterminating and Termite Control Company since 1947.

The business is definitely a family affair, with grandparents, parents, children and cousins working side- by- side, along with a dedicated staff, most of whom have worked there “like family” for decades.

Unlike TV’s “Modern Family” on ABC that has only been around since 2009, the seeds of Delco’s own “Modern family” were planted over 75 years ago, when James Kerr Sr. and his future wife Mima arrived in America from Scotland by separate boats.

Destiny came into play, when the pair later met and married here in the States. James came home from World War I and worked for a few years, until eventually forming a pest control company with two partners.

The senior Kerrs, now with two children of their own, eventually bought out the partners and soon their son James Jr. began following in his parents tracks.

The younger James quit school in 1952 at 16, went to work for another company, and in about two weeks, his dad decided to hire him.

The following year, he entered the Air Force where he was on active duty for four years before returning to the family business.

James Jr. (“Jim”) married his wife, Betsy and the couple had four children, continuing to work together at Modern as they raised their young family.

After James Sr. passed away, Jim inherited his Dad’s half of the business. Mima remarried and Jim and Betsy continued to work with his mother and stepfather.

When Mima passed away over a decade ago, the couple was able to buy out the other half of the business and become sole owners. It wasn’t long before the couple’s children were brought into the fold.

Daughter Debbie came on board, along with her husband Dave Earwood (their son David works during the summer there).

Son Scott, in charge of the termites/carpentry division has four children “in the biz,” Adam, Scotty, Nicky and Alicia. Son James III worked there until he was tragically murdered in a robbery about eleven years ago, leaving a hole in the heartbroken, close-knit Kerr family.

Daughter Joanne doesn’t work at the business full-time because she is a schoolteacher, but she helps out in the store on weekends. 

Modern sets itself apart from other exterminators with its “do-it-yourself” (DIY) store.

No matter what kind of pest one wants to eradicate- from squirrels, raccoons and mice to Japanese Beetles, Carpenter Bees and spiders- customers can come in to Modern to buy the chemicals or traps for the DIY project or have it done by Modern’s professional team.

With the exception of termites, the choice is up to the customer. In addition to reasonable prices, Modern prides itself on customer satisfaction and friendly efficient service.

“When it comes to pest control, we are better than big home improvement stores because they are not pest experts, but we are,” James explained.

“When we do a job, we are going to do it right. We are never done the job, until the customer is satisfied—even if it means going back several times.

I never felt badly about getting a complaint because I would just take care of it. I want every customer to be happy and if I do a job, I want it to be right. A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches.”

It wouldn’t come as a surprise to many that Kerr quoted Proverb 22 when referencing how he does business.

Kerr tells almost everyone he encounters that he is a “Born Again” Christian. Since he was “born again” in 1978, Kerr has kept a mostly Christian staff, many of whom are also Born Again Christians.

Today his employees number 33. Jim says he hires good family men, who make loyal employees and are there for years.

“I don’t allow drug addicts, riff-raff and people that my customers wouldn’t trust,” he said matter-of-factly.

“There is no foul talk that goes on at Modern,” Kerr confides.

“We have a relaxing, Christian-like environment. We care about people and we have integrity. We are honest. We also will not hesitate to tell people how to get to heaven.”

Out on the front counters alongside mice traps, insecticides and wasp powders are little prayer books and prayer cards free for the taking.

Chuck Frick of Wallingford, a 45 year employee whom Jim calls “an asset to the company” said, “I enjoy working at a Christian company where I am encouraged to share my faith with others and have good ethics.”

Another employee said the feelings are mutual and go both ways. He talked about the time a few years ago when medical insurance premiums skyrocketed and it was a hardship for some employees to meet the new price.

Jim absorbed that rise in cost until prices calmed down a bit, so his employees would not be strapped. Jim Madden of Philadelphia has been working at Modern since 1992. The former principal of Southside Baptist Academy in Glenolden, likes that money is not the ultimate goal at Modern.

“It’s a blessing to work here, a breath of fresh air,” Madden said. “It’s nice to work at a place that has its priorities in order and to be in an environment that honors God, first and foremost.”

“It’s one big team effort here,” Kerr remarked sincerely.

He said it’s the PMP (Pest Management Professionals) who keep customers coming back again and again.

In addition to their regular commercial customers (Neumann and Swarthmore College to name a few), and countless local residences, Modern prides itself on its huge walk-in business.

Currently, the area has somewhat of a flea epidemic, Kerr stated, so the company is selling a large amount of Precor, and bedbugs are still a major epidemic in the area.

“Kids at camp are spreading bedbugs and most congregate settings are playing down the prevalence of bedbugs,” Kerr said.

“We get calls to eradicate them every day.”

Modern gets inquiries about all kinds of pests, from bats and rats to crickets and roaches. The company even has a separate Termites Carpentry division that deals with the eradication of the pests and the damage they cause.

“Chemicals are improving all of the time, becoming safer and better at eradicating pests. Methods are getting more humane and the over-the-counter products are often very effective,” Kerr explained. 

Kerr, a resident of Newtown Square, said he likes having his business in Ridley Township because Ridley “cares about their businesses” and has always been good to Modern.

“Ridley has an excellent police force,” Kerr said. “I feel safe here. Ridley has been very good to us.” At the current location at 2200 MacDade Blvd. in Holmes for about 40 years, Kerr said the business was previously located in Ridley too, right down MacDade near Pathmark.

He is proud that Modern was recently named a Top Vendor at Home Advisor and was given an Angie’s List award.

Nearing 79 years old, Kerr said he and wife Betsy, who works in the office every day too, will most likely never retire.

“We just enjoy coming to work every day. We enjoy our family and our customers. We have excellent employees who are like family to us and we like helping people. We are really and truly blessed.”

(To contact Modern Exterminating and Termite Control Company, Inc. call 610-586-5525 or 800-564-0046 or visit wwwmodernexterminatingco.com/.Hours are 8 am to 5 pm, Monday-Friday and 9 am- 1 pm Saturday)

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