The Daily Tar Heel

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Monday June 5th

Chamber of Commerce honors Jean Holcomb, owner of Viking Travel

Jean Holcomb, owner of Viking Travel in Chapel Hill, is being inducted into the Chapel Hill/Carrboro Business Hall of Fame.
Buy Photos Jean Holcomb, owner of Viking Travel in Chapel Hill, is being inducted into the Chapel Hill/Carrboro Business Hall of Fame.

When Jean Holcomb first sought to create Viking Travel, she ran into plenty of problems around Chapel Hill.

“People told her there couldn’t be a woman in business,” said Avery Harris, director of marketing at Viking Travel and Holcomb’s grandson.

But this didn’t stop Holcomb from building her company from the ground up — she just started working harder.

Notable businesses such as Mama Dip’s, Julian’s and Kenan Oil and Kenan Transport have all been inducted into the Business Hall of Fame, and soon Viking Travel will join them.

“The Chapel Hill-Carrboro Business Hall of Fame recognizes and permanently enshrines the business leaders who have, over the decades, built our community and whose enterprises served the people, paid the wages and invested in our citizens and its service organizations to ensure that our region would thrive,” said Robert Saunders, chairperson of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, in a statement.

Viking Travel, founded in Chapel Hill, provides traveling counsel to personal vacations and business trips alike.

Even before going into business, Holcomb graduated from UNC in 1950 and attended the University of Wisconsin for two years to earn her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business.

She moved to Orange County in 1957.

“Originally, (Holcomb) wanted to start a baking business in Chapel Hill,” Harris said.

“But she saw a need within the town for a travel agency and she’s always loved visiting places.”

Since becoming a permanent resident, Holcomb has held leadership positions in the Chapel Hill Preservation Society, YMCA and Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce.

Holcomb has also received many accolades, such as being named mother of the year by the Chamber, receiving the Town Treasurer Award in 2010 from the Chapel Hill Historical Society and being made a lifetime member of Traveling Times in recognition of serving on the Travel Advisory Board.

She’s served on the ASTA Southeast, Sonesta Hotels, Cruise West and Traveling Times advisory boards.

“Service and wanting to help people is the keynote to any local business,” Holcomb said.

“We’ve been here 36 years because of that service.”

Holcomb was told of her upcoming induction through a phone call and a letter sent to her from the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce.

“She really laid a great foundation for me going in,” Harris said.



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