Harvey Vengroff, the founder of Vengroff, Williams & Associates, passed away yesterday at the age of 77.
Vengroff started the business in the early 1960s while still in law school, according to a published report. Some customers of a janitorial supply company — another business Vengroff started — had not paid their bills, which led Vengroff to launch the collection agency. It has grown to be one of the nation’s largest collection agencies. The company had as many as 1,000 employees at one point, according to reports.
Back before the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, Vengroff said his dog, a Great Dane, played a major role in collecting on those early accounts.
I put my dog (the Great Dane) in the truck and went to collect my money. I went into the businesses with my dog and told everyone to pay or my dog would bite them. The dog growled and everyone paid”‘ he said, as if it were a matter of fact. “So, I was in the collection business” he said, with a proud grin.
Vengroff retired from the agency a decade ago, but still remained active in the company, while also devoting his remaining years to helping people find affordable housing. His One Stop Housing provides close to 7,000 affordable apartments in Florida’s Sarasota and Manatee Counties. He was named one of the 25 most influential people in Sarasota by Sarasota Magazine in 2016.
Vengroff leaves behind his wife, Carol, his children, Joel, Mark, Brett, Kristy and Travis, and six grandchildren.