A Shared Legacy Between Two of Lakeland’s Most Prominent Families
When brothers Brian and Jimmy Waller, owners of Waller Construction and Waller Insurance, purchased the historical Publix building in Dixieland, they weren’t aware of its history – but considering the family’s history with Publix and the Dixieland area, it seems like fate. In 1950, Brian and Jimmy’s grandmother, Lee Miller, moved from Chicago to Lakeland. She began working in the Publix Accounting Department soon after.
“My mom worked in the Publix office for over 30 years. When she started, there were only eight women in the office,” remembers Bobby Miller, Lee’s son. “The administrative office was just down the hall from ‘Mr. George,’ (Publix founder George Jenkins) and he would often stop by to chat, or participate in a birthday celebration. When I would stop by the office to see my mom, she would always take me in to say hello to Mr. George.”
“My mom worked in the Publix office for over 30 years. When she started, there were only eight women in the office.” – Bobby Miller
In 2006, when the brothers (along with Bob and Tom Waller) purchased the building that is home to the Waller Construction and Design Center, the distinctive art deco features associated with Publix were noticeably missing. The previous owners had removed most of the art deco features associated with Publix, like terrazzo floors and the historical clock sign – but the Waller family worked to restore the building to honor its original design. With the help of architect John Kirk, they were able to restore the flooring, the clock sign, the roof with rounded corners, and a few other art deco features to really make it stand out.
“We know [Lee] would be very proud of how we have operated out of this building and how we have honored her memory and spirit with the amazing restoration of the Publix building history,” says Jimmy Waller, founder of Waller Insurance.
Brian Waller said once the renovations were complete, they actually worked directly with a Publix historian.
“We were given access to many old photographs that we proudly display in our Design Center,” he says. “Our connection with Publix goes back 70 plus years now–and we are very loyal to Publix and so grateful for what they have done for our family and for Lakeland.”
Apart from restoring the Publix building, Waller Construction and Waller Insurance have had a significant influence on the design and aesthetic of the Dixieland area. Waller Construction has renovated many homes and commercial buildings in Dixieland, such as Waller Plaza, Waller Lofts, Lean Spaces (formerly Vito’s Restaurant) and Bomar Trophy.
“We’re very proud of our commercial remodeling projects in Dixieland,” Jimmy says. “We feel the improvement to the building adds to the overall value of the area’s commercial corridor.” The opportunity to do business in Dixieland is very meaningful to both brothers, and beyond business, the Waller family has a long-standing personal connection to the area.
“Our family moved to Dixieland in 1915, and at least one family member has resided there since,” says Brian. “ I still like to visit Drane Park and love working so close to that area.”
It’s clear that family is very important to Publix and Waller Construction. Multiple photographs of Robert “Bob” Waller, the founder of Waller Construction and Brian and Jimmy’s grandfather, are showcased in Waller Construction’s showroom. Since Robert founded the company, three generations of family have played instrumental roles in the businesses.
“I believe our Father, Bobby Waller and our Grandfather Bob Waller, blazed a trail for us to follow,” says Jimmy. “We love being a successful medium sized family-owned business in Lakeland. Our goal is to be a best-in-class family business through the areas of construction, insurance and real estate.”
Today, Waller Construction has completed more than 15,000 jobs, while Waller Insurance serves more than 4,000 clients. Family members have served on numerous City of Lakeland advisory boards, including Historic Preservation, Code Enforcement, zoning adjustments and appeals, and Community Redevelopment. The Waller family has also hosted many community events over the years.
Waller Construction has also completed many notable commercial remodeling projects throughout Lakeland, including work for companies and organizations like the RP Funding Center, MIDFLORIDA Credit Union, Santa Fe Catholic, Powerscreen, Black & Brew, Gordon Foods, and more. In the future, the Waller family hopes to continue to grow and take on even more projects that will better Lakeland’s community.
“We’re very thankful to have the opportunity to be a part of this business community and help add authentic value to so many people’s lives,” says Jimmy. “We sincerely believe Lakeland is a truly great city and that we have a very bright future ahead.”