The Thanksgiving shift: Plumber

The Head siblings are used to the demands of running a plumbing company. Their parents, Shelia Beckum Head and Phenus Head Jr., founded Head’s Plumbing in 1981. CEO Khadija believes it’s one of the oldest Black-owned plumbing companies in Georgia.

As a child, Odari would accompany his father and grandfather on plumbing jobs, so working during the holidays is just a fact of life for him.

“You really don’t have an understanding of what the holiday represents until you start working and you realize you’re supposed to be off this day,” he said.

On most Thanksgivings, the siblings gather with 20 to 30 friends and family members at their aunt’s or mother’s house. Odari will fry a turkey, and they’ll watch football. But when they receive a call about a plumbing emergency, Khadija said the family understands.

“Our grandmother, who hosted the Thanksgiving dinner, she understood the call volume,” she said. “Our grandfather, who was in the field, he understood.”

When cold weather hits the South, the call volume naturally grows. According to Khadija, one year they tracked 195 calls between Dec. 25 and Dec. 26. On Christmas night, they asked if any of their plumbers would be able to come in the next day, and all six technicians responded to the request.

“I don’t even think our customers understand that when you call us, you’re calling us away from our family to serve your family, because all they know is, ‘I have a plumbing problem and you are here to fix it,’” Khadija said.

Despite the necessary demands of the job, the family still finds time to come together. Her favorite Thanksgiving memory was in 2020 during the peak of the pandemic when they spent the holiday in their parents’ garage.

“We knew the phone wasn’t going to ring because everyone was having their isolated Thanksgivings,” Khadija said. “It was the first time in a long time where we weren’t Head’s Plumbing Service, we were just the Heads.”