Nancy Stout caught the eye of Duron truck driver Richard Hammond at the company softball game; now they've been married seven years. When Duron receptionist Philippa McLaurin dropped her lunch, Patrick Stanton, who took down paint orders, was there to pick it up for her; next week, they'll have been married for three years.

Not only is Duron Inc. a family business, it's a business where lots of families--even the company president's--got their start. According to one unofficial count, there were 100 couples who'd met and married in the company, which employs 2,000 nationally and 495 at Duron's Beltsville headquarters.

Ernie and Barbara White (nee Cooke) started the trend 26 years ago, when he was in charge of the stores and she was an assistant to the president. A mutual friend at Duron urged them to go on a date, and they tied the knot five months later, becoming the first Duron couple to meet and marry at the company. The Whites, now retired, worked a combined total of 73 years at the company, and over the years, all six of their children worked summers at Duron, Barbara White said. At least half the guests at the wedding were Duron employees, she said, so "it was a Duron wedding for sure."

Nancy Hammond, who now coordinates order shipments, met Richard Hammond because they were both out with knee injuries at a Duron softball game. She offered him muscle relaxants, telling him "later on you'll wish you had some," and he took her up on her offer. Several months later, Richard asked her to a Don Henley concert, but she spurned him because she had a boyfriend of 13 years. Then she dumped the boyfriend and took Richard up on his offer.

Two weeks after their first date, Richard Hammond moved in with Nancy, and now at their home in Elkridge, they're raising his three daughters from a previous marriage and a 5-year-old daughter of their own. Nancy, whose older sister used to work at Duron, is a 21-year employee of the company. Kenny Hammond, Richard's brother, also works there.

Philippa McLaurin was a college student when she arrived, flustered, at her first day of work. But Patrick Stanton--a real gentleman--picked up the lunch she dropped, started talking about food and told her there was a nice place across the way where they could get a better meal. "We started off strictly as friends, but then we were basically just eating together three times a week," and noon became his favorite hour, Patrick Stanton said.

Six years later, they are married but don't do lunch together as often. Patrick Stanton is an assistant manager at a Duron store in Laurel, while Philippa works in Beltsville as a human resources manager. "We've had a few debates, because I'm on the staff side and she's on the management-resources side, but we try not to take business home," he said.

Yanira Montano, who has worked at Duron for 10 years, used to clean the floors of the manufacturing plant where now-husband William Smith works the night shift making paint. "We just talked a lot and found out we shared a lot of interests," she said. At their wedding last year, they invited 75 people from work. She knows at least four other couples with stories like hers, she said.

Thomas K. Schwartzbeck, Duron's president, met his wife, Brenda, at work. "She worked in production, and I worked in the warehouse" until they worked for the same boss setting up stores and inventory, he said. "We don't go home and talk about paint," he said. But the Bethesda home they are building will bear, of course, paint from Duron.