Multigenerational businesses in Lakeville provide a sense of continuity

  • Updated: November 10, 2013 - 9:48 PM
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Dr. John Harrison with his family and dental team: daughter Molly Isham, left, head office manager; his wife Rose, center, the receptionist; and daughter Jennifer, a dentist. Lakeville Dental is among three businesses on County Road 50 that have been family-owned and operated for generations.

Photo: ELIZABETH FLORES • eflores@startribune.com,

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Three multigenerational family businesses are operating side-by-side on County Road 50 in Lakeville, offering a sense of continuity that is rare in business today.

At Lakeville Dental, the dental charts go back to 1975 and patients remember visiting the Harrisons as long as they’ve had teeth.

Next door, at White Funeral Homes, funerals have been a family affair since 1895, with four siblings and their father on staff to ensure every client gets a personal meeting with one of them.

At McDonald Eye Care Associates, two optometrist daughters will soon be working alongside their dad and mom, helping kids choose their first pair of glasses or deal with sore eyes.

The three businesses, which sit in a row on County Road 50 in Lakeville, are all multigenerational, family-owned businesses. At each, more than one child has gone off to college and returned to the area to do exactly what they saw their parents do growing up. In an age when suburban strip malls are often full of chain businesses that come and go, these three neighbors stand out as an enclave that seems more like something from Main Street circa 1950.

The Whites

For the three White sons — Jim Jr., Mike and John — watching their dad, Jim Sr., help people was enough to make them all decide, by the age of 17, to study mortuary science and become funeral directors, said Jim White Jr.

Their sister, Meg White Heintze, joined them in planning funerals three years ago.

The business, which includes five locations in the south metro, is now a fourth-generation funeral home.

“We were raised like my kids are raised,” around a funeral home, he said. “We lived in a funeral home in Farmington. We were that entrenched and involved in the business.”

“I never encouraged it, either,” said Jim White Sr. “They just watched to see what I did.”

The Harrisons

Lakeville Dental is owned by Dr. Jennifer Harrison, who returned to Lakeville and bought the family business three years ago.

She works alongside her dentist dad, Dr. John Harrison, and her mom, Rose Harrison, a receptionist who helps run the office. Another daughter, Molly Isham, is the head office manager.

“It’s always been our family business,” said Isham. “I can’t tell you how many conversations around the dinner table growing up were about teeth.”

Jennifer “knew for sure” she’d come back to Lakeville once she went away to dental school.

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  • Dr. Tony McDonald stood with his assistants, his wife Patti, the business manager, left, and his daughter Molly McDonald, who is also an eye doctor at McDonald Eye Care. McDonald Eye Care is one of three Lakeville businesses on County Road 50 that are all family-owned.

  • From left:  Mike White, John White, Jim White Jr., Meg White Heintze and Jim White of White Funeral Home in Lakeville.

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