Back in the 1960s, Larry Flick's grandfather was a small custom-builder on the Main Line.

Flick was interested in taking over the company, but his grandfather suggested that, for experience, he get a job first with his friends Bob and Charlie Roach, who had a two-office real estate firm - one in Devon, the other in Gladwyne.

"I went through four interviews, and they didn't want to hire me," said Flick, chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Fox & Roach Realtors. "They said I was too young, and too young to buy a house."

But the Roach brothers relented, and Flick, who joined the firm in 1965, has been the driving force behind its transformation from a small Main Line operation to a brokerage that covers Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland.

The real estate firm celebrated its 130th anniversary Nov. 14. The date being observed had nothing to do with Berkshire Hathaway, or with Roach.

It started out with Fox.

It was in 1886 that Fox Real Estate was launched by Fred Fox Sr., who opened an office at 1306 S. 18th St. in the home he shared with his mother.

A year later, Fox opened his first official office in the 1300 block of South 16th Street, at the corner of Wharton Street.

Charles and Robert Roach started building houses in Ridley Park, Wallingford, and Bryn Mawr in 1939. Their brokerage was started in 1943. Roach Bros., with a building department, came along in 1950.

In 1958, William Lazo joined Fred Fox Jr. to create Fox & Lazo in Haddonfield.

Back in 1922, George Emlen had founded Emlen & Co. In 1952, Art Wheeler and Matt Williams started Wheeler Williams. They merged to form Emlen Wheeler in 1986.

By the time the 1990s arrived, all the pieces that became the present-day brokerage had fallen into place.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, when interest rates had climbed to 20 percent, "we concluded that we needed more than one profit source to withstand such a difficult market, and to create capital to grow the business," Flick said of Roach Bros.

At the same time, he said, Merrill Lynch, Sears, and Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. were getting into the real estate business, offering "one-stop shopping."

The result: A title company was started in 1982 and a mortgage company in 1983 that were wrapped up into Trident Financial Group in 1985. It includes an insurance company now and has 40 consultants and hundreds of support staff.

"The diversification has been both positive and successful," Flick said, "offering both a seamless and a much better experience for the consumer."

It was in April 1995 at Valley Forge Convention Center that Roach Bros. and Emlen Wheeler formally announced their merger as Roach Wheeler to their agents - a joining of what Flick described as "compatible cultures."

Roach and Emlen Wheeler had been expanding beyond their traditional bases for years. The merger created a sales force of more than 750 agents in 17 strategic locations.

Meanwhile, Fox & Lazo had been doing the same throughout South Jersey and Delaware, and had opened an office in Paoli in 1976 to return to the Pennsylvania market.

"Bill [Fox] and I talked about merging Fox & Lazo with Roach Wheeler for four years, but he wasn't willing to sell," Flick said. Then Fox was diagnosed in 1996 with Huntington's disease.

"We negotiated from July to December 1997," Flick said. "Bill was concerned that I take care of his people, and I assured him I would."

That merger created the 12th-largest real estate firm in the country, with 1,800 sales associates, 425 employees, and 45 offices.

The firm became part of the Prudential network, which was acquired by Berkshire Hathaway Home Services in 2013.

Though technological advances led to predictions that real estate agents would become superfluous, Flick believes that they have become "trusted advisers, guiding consumers through a complicated transaction, and creating a better experience."

215-854-2472@alheavens