CHACE BUILDING SUPPLY OF CT
BUILDING ON FOUNDATIONS FOR SUCCESS
(Based on an article from the SE Connecticut/SW Rhode Island Edition of Builder/Architect Magazine by Claudia Moose)
Over five generations ago, in 1885, President Grover Cleveland was in the White House and Mark Twain had just published Huckleberry Finn, when Peleg Durfree Humphrey first opened the doors of his lumber company on the riverfront wharf in Tiverton, Rhode Island. For many years the P.D. Humphrey dock was the hub of community activity. Crowds gathered whenever the Alice Wentworth, a 72 foot schooner, arrived with a shipment of lumber from locations in Maine and Florida. As the main suppliers for local business and residential construction, the company grew with the area and became the largest employer in Tiverton. Several generations later, P.D. Humphrey was instrumental in rebuilding the coastline areas of southern Rhode Island and eastern Connecticut after the devastating hurricane of 1938. A subsequent hurricane in 1954 finally resulted in a move to higher ground after company employees watched most of their inventory float away down the Sakonnet River.
Chace Building Supply of CT is the successful offspring of this 120 year family business legacy. President Scott Chace reflects that “this business is in my blood.” From age thirteen on, he spent Saturdays, school vacations, and summer vacations working at the P.D. Humphrey family lumberyard. His responsibilities were as diverse as the business itself. By the time he graduated from college, Scott had done “a little bit of everything” at the warehouse. He attests that learning the demands of every employee position gave him valuable insights into managing a growing company.
In 1986, because the family business had become so large, Scott’s father made the difficult decision to sell his half of the company and start out on his own. He maintained ownership of Killingly Building Products, and purchased a lumber yard in Foxboro, Massachusetts. This was the beginning of Chace Building Supply. After years of working with family members, Scott’s father wanted his sons to be independent. He gave each of them seed money to acquire their own companies and this counsel: “Boys, you’re on your own now and your success or failure is up to you.” Scott’s brother, Don, took over the Foxboro location, and his brother, Garrett, carried on in the Killingly location. In 1992 Scott purchased a struggling lumber company, Lumbertown, in Putnam, CT and started on a course to expand the business. This expansion included the purchase of the Willington location in 1997, bringing with it a custom millwork shop. And in 2002, he opened a newly constructed 30,000 square foot facility on 32 acres in Woodstock, CT with a 4,000 square foot addition for the millwork facility.
Chace Building Supply is a resource for both the professional builder and for area homeowners. Scott estimates that contractors account for 80% of their business, while individual consumers make up 20%.
Over the years, kitchen and bath renovations have consistently provided the best return on remodeling dollars spent by homeowners. These key areas of the home are showcased at both Chace locations. Using three-dimensional software technology, Chace Design Consultants can help customers dream, plan and visualize their new kitchen or bath. Their software program also generates a true color depiction of cabinetry and countertops, thereby making it easier for customers to navigate through the extensive array of colors, styles, finishes and custom options available.
In its Window/Door Showrooms, Chace Andersen and Marvin windows for replacement or new construction. Both locations also feature a Benjamin Moore Paint Store, offering premium interior and exterior paint, as well as protective deck and siding stains. Additionally, highest quality lumber and materials for decking, roofing, exterior siding and trims, as well as interior-finishing trims are available in a wide variety of options.
Lastly, the new Woodstock location houses the creative millwork shop and a custom sign shop. Skilled millwork craftsmen will build any order to specification and the sign shop will produce any residential or commercial sign a customer desires.
Chace’s business philosophy is based on the golden rule of “doing unto others as you would have them do unto you.” This, Scott believes, inevitably leads to a lasting and trusting relationship with employees, vendors and customers.
Scott describes Chace Building Supply of CT as a “young company with long-term employees.” And he recalls what he considers to be highly valuable advice from his father: “If you ever have to fire an employee, look within yourself to find out what went wrong.” Focusing on long-term relationships with his employees, Scott makes sure that they are all thoroughly trained on every product line sold at Chace. As a result, they are all prepared to answer questions, consult or design, verify measurements, determine materials needed for any project and even deliver any shipment. When working with both professional builders and individual homeowners with home-improvement projects, Chace employees are prepared to offer ideas and solutions. As Scott points out, “There are no problems in this business, just challenges.” He also highly values the creativity and skill of his Chace team, and he gives them freedom to act on their ideas, telling them: “If the hole is not below the water line, it’s worth trying. It won’t sink us. So make a decision and go for it!”
Ron Tetrault –Vice President of Sales, Marketing & New Business Development, works closely with Scott in leading the Chace team. Ron also grew up in a family involved in the building industry. ‘I now appreciate the value of the hard-core work-ethic my grandfather and father instilled in me”, he reflects.
Scott and Ron strive to make Chace employees stay connected to one another. They accomplish this through daily e-mails and on-going projects that employees participate in together. “Every single person who works here is as valuable as the next”, Scott affirms. “And it’s everybody’s job to see that all jobs get done”, he adds. This spirit of pulling together in the workplace also extends into private life. “If any employee here is in need,” Scott notes, “all the employees rally to assist that family.” Ron insists that such a supportive network can only enhance and benefit a business. “If companies take care of their employees,” he reasons, “the employees will take care of the customers.”
Chace’s approach to customer service is personal and positive. “We’re never idle. Our attitude is: we want to do more, we want to do better,” Scott explains. As such, they are pro-active in establishing long-term relationships with their existing customers. In addition to expert advice available to any customer visiting the warehouses, Chace offers professional training. Chace Contractor College provides industry teaching seminars and field trips to building supply manufacturing facilities. Chace also hosts a Contractor Appreciation Dinner every other autumn, featuring steak, lobster, and the opportunity to talk with dozens of industry vendors. “We want our contractors to have confidence in us as their suppliers, “Ron explains. “And we want them to know that we offer quality and service.” Scott elaborates further on this idea, explaining that when a company competes within the three levels of this business – price, quality and service - it can really only achieve two out of the three. “We offer the best in quality and service,” he points out. “We have to be competitive, but we will never be the cheapest.”
Contractors know that they can find whatever they need at Chace, whenever they need it. Dave Copeland, a custom home builder in the northeastern Connecticut area, has relied on Chace since 1992. “My needs are very often one time needs,” he explains. “I frequently order an out of the ordinary item, and they go out of their way to make sure I get what I need.” Dave is also a member of Chace’s Contractor Board of Direction – a group of contractors who meet monthly with Scott and Ron for dinner and a discussion of issues and concerns. “Specifically,” Dave notes, “Scott asks us how Chace could be doing a better job for us as contractors.” Throughout the years, Dave has always considered his association with Chace building Supply to be a huge asset in his business. “If we have questions,” he says, “Scott and Ron are always there with answers – as is their knowledgeable staff.”
The team at Chace Building Supply has had a consistently strong commitment to the community of northeastern Connecticut. Chace is a member of numerous professional organizations in the area. Among those he is most active in are: the Northeast Retail Lumber Association, the Northeastern Connecticut Chamber of Commerce, and Habitat for Humanity. Chace has also built a permanent exhibit for the Brooklyn, Connecticut Annual Agricultural Fair. Held on the last weekend in August, this is the oldest and longest consecutively running country fair in the United States. Amidst lawn –mower races and skillet throwing contests, fair-goers can view Chace designs featuring kitchen themes, hardwood flooring selection and custom millwork mantels… A strong priority within the company is giving back to the community. Chace repeatedly reaches out to local families in need and reserves a large portion of its charity budget for local organizations that benefit children. Not surprisingly, Scott Chace recently received the Northeastern Connecticut Chamber of Commerce Business Leader of the Year Award.
Experience has taught Scott Chace that “a positive attitude and a positive environment lead to positive results.” Chace Building Supply has progressed from four employees in 1992, to a “closely knit group of 87” in 2007! Both Scott and Ron foresee tremendous growth in the home remodeling business, and continued strength in the new home sector. Therefore, this rural, “quiet corner” of Connecticut will be hearing the reverberations of Chace remodeling and building projects for years to come.