Top 500 Profile: Diverse Offering

by Kyle Clapham

Throughout high school and college, Brendon Dolan performed carpentry work to help pay his bills. Along the way he picked up additional skills and, after receiving a degree, he jumped into construction full time. While saving up for graduate school, Dolan rented a place on Pine Street in Philadelphia with friends and eventually partnered with others to start a remodeling company.

“It was one of those things where I enjoyed the trade, and I was doing it as a practical matter to pay the bills,” says Dolan, who founded Pine Street Carpenters in 1993. “Once I started getting together with some friends and other skilled, quality individuals, I saw something building. The challenge of it was intriguing; it was something new we were learning, researching and developing.”

In the beginning they would pursue anything they could get their hands on, whether interior or exterior work. The jobs started out small but once they “tested the waters,” the projects became bigger for the company, Dolan notes. Eventually they filled a need for small- and medium-size remodeling jobs that required design ability but did not already involve an architect or designer.

“There was a big void in remodeling—projects that were too small for architects to be interested in but still needed some drafting and design work,” Dolan explains. “We kind of learned through necessity. As the projects got larger and more complex and more complicated, we just continued to develop and hone and map out our design capabilities.”

Over time Pine Street Carpenters embraced a design-build model and opened a showroom—The Kitchen Studio at Pine Street. The company has kitchen designers on staff and represents cabinet vendors such as Plain & Fancy Cabinetry and Dura Supreme Cabinetry. Clients can see products and select their countertops, tile and cabinets, which might not be the case with other contractors.

As the business evolved, Dolan brought in other family members who developed complementary skills while pursuing different careers. All six of his brothers, for example, work for the company in various capacities like production, design and marketing. Pine Street Carpenters employs more than 30 people and operates a warehouse in addition to its office and showroom in West Chester.

“It’s a combination of focusing on quality work, a quality experience in peoples’ homes, and just building a reputation of quality work—as well as treating your employees as part of the team and respecting [them],” Dolan says. “When you can retain that team, you can really continue to build on the foundation and grow.”

The company had an opportunity to bid on some tenant fit-out work about 20 years ago, he adds, and found the processes and skillsets similar to interior residential remodeling. A complement to its typical business, Pine Street Construction pursued organizations with stores in many locations. This commercial and institutional division works with individual store owners as well.

“We found it to be a nice growth niche to diversify our business,” Dolan explains. “It just kind of evolved over the years, relationship building and systems building for efficiency, so we could be competitive and perform for these commercial clients. It’s been a similar growth process for us.”

While the company receives leads for its commercial and institutional work through networking, Pine Street Carpenters benefits more from website traffic and Houzz, he says. “A lot of folks will find us through our website and just doing Google searches. But people [also] use Houzz to find professionals, and we have a good presence there. It allows you to put up photos of your projects.

“We’re looking to make sure it’s a fit for both parties,” he continues. “Not every client and every job is a fit for every contractor and every company. We do a high-caliber, high-detailed level of work, and we service it all the way through—it’s very turnkey. If they’re looking for the lowest price point in a multiple bid environment, we may not be a fit if they’re not focusing on quality.”

Situated in a “strong county” in the Philadelphia region, the company makes the most of population density, Dolan notes. “There was a lot of new construction development that started in the 1980s into the ’90s in our region on the outskirts of the cities and towns. That housing stock is starting to show its age and is in need of kitchen and bath remodels. We’ve got a good mix of projects.” QR

Company: Pine Street Carpenters
Description: Full-service remodeler
Location: West Chester, Pa.
Top 500 rank: No. 123
Remodeling sales: $12.1 million

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