On a hill high above Richmond, there's an ordinary garage with an unusual business.
"We have customers from all over the United States," Jim Beams said.
JB Aero & Son's business is soaring. They rebuild and refurbish classic and antique aircraft.
"The engine is getting what is called a top overhaul," Steve Beams explained. "So, it's going to be very nice when it's done."
It's a father and son combo-- both with strong opinions on how to run the place.
"He thinks he has all the answers and so do I," son Steve said.
"I have to teach him something new every day!" dad Jim said.
It's mostly good-natured ribbing; they do agree on something. They're most proud of refurbishing a plane that is now in the Tuskegee National Airman Museum in Alabama. The men were an all-black squadron in World War II.
Their most recent project is a Piper Tri-Pacer. It will cost about $15,000 and take three months to complete.
Jim lived all over the county and in Germany, the son of an Army officer. They ended up coming to Vermont when Jim was in his teens, where his father finished his career. After high school, Jim went to the New England Conservatory in Boston to study music, but couldn't afford the tuition. He did a stint in the Navy, and then graduated from UVM with a degree in music education. Jim taught music at various schools in the area for years.
Reporter Joe Carroll: How are the acoustics in here?
Jim Beams: Terrible!
It's all classical music all the time in the garage. And not just from the radio. Not only does Jim fix airplanes, but he has hit the high notes as a professional opera singer. He's been singing for decades.
Joe Carroll: You're 77 years old?
Jim Beams: You had to say, that didn't you!? Yes.
While he was at the New England Conservatory, Jim sang at the Met. Now, the tenor performs at various productions in Vermont.
Joe Carroll: Has your voiced changed through the years?
Jim Beams: Oh, sure, surely. It's more mature as you get older; you lose your high register.
From a high note to a low one. His wife, Katherine, was only 45 when she died of a heart attack. For days, Jim was stunned; she was 20 years younger than him. Both of his children were in college at the time.
"So, it was very difficult for all of us," Jim said. "I miss her greatly."
With all he's done, Jim's greatest accomplishment is his kids. His daughter, Robynn, is a longtime news photographer here at WCAX News.
Joe Carroll: How long do you want to do this?
Jim Beams: Forever, I hope. Until I pass away or until my son kicks me out of the shop.
A father who took his son under his wing, teaching him the business with an occasional serenade.
"Don't applaud; throw nickels, dimes, quarters!" Jim joked.
PO Box 4508