James Mello has come a long way from the days of drag racing as a teen out of the parking lot of Supreme’s Ice Cream.
The founder of Candigit Excavating Corp. and Candigit Materials has a bulldog mascot on all of his trucks. It speaks to the doggedness, strength, tenacity and decades of hard work. Mello, his wife Claire, his sons and his crew are celebrating 20 years. The company’s success did not happen overnight.
“We started with one excavator, one dozer, one trailer and no truck to pull the trailer. We parked the trailer in my mom’s driveway and hired a truck to move the equipment from one job site to another,” said Mello. “The first excavator was purchased at an equipment auction in Florida.”
Mello ran into trouble with the second piece of equipment he purchased. The International Harvester TD15 dozer was purchased from a local equipment dealer. Within two days of running the machine, its engine failed, according to Mello. The seller would not warranty the machine, so Mello and his brother replaced the engine in the field at Pepperwood Farms. They used headlights from a pick-up truck at night so they could continue working on the dozer
Fixing engines by truck headlights was nothing new to the Mello family. It was what you did for your father’s tractors.
"My brother and I were born and raised on a farm. We were taught to run equipment from an early age. I worked for a couple of different contractors as an operator and acquired additional dozer and equipment experience," said Mello.
"My brother Richie worked as an equipment operator locally as well as in Texas and Florida. Yes, it was very hard in the beginning. There were plans to decipher, materials to purchase, machines to move, schedules to keep and figuring it out was, at times, difficult."
The rewards continue to build and include acreage of land along a major commercial Mass. highway that skirts the Rhode Island state line, and a strong local reputation, complete with a full array of services. These services include land clearing, sewer connections, water lines, fuel tank removal and installation, electrical trenches, road construction, foundation excavations, backfill projects and septic systems.
"We are licensed [septic system] installers in Swansea, Seekonk, Rehoboth, Dighton, Dartmouth, Fall River, Mass. and Rhode Island. We offer a package plan for folks who need it," said Mello. "It includes the perc test, engineering plans, town fees and installation of the system. We also offer payment deferral until closing for properties which have purchase and sale agreements."
Candigit material yards provide screened loam, fill and screened fill, wash stone, cobblestones, clam shells, septic sand, stone dust, stones in a variety of colors, salt and dozens of masonry supplies, including Type II cement, mortar mix, construction adhesive, landscape timbers, polymeric sand and more.
In addition, a full line of Techo-Bloc pavers and walls, granite, flagstone, bluestone pavers, stair treads and other materials for landscape design is available.
Candigit Excavating Corp. has used the materials at its disposal to accomplish large and small projects. The coffee-driven people of Swansea were glad to see their trucks along Route 103 this summer as Candigit dug the foundation for a newly expanded Dunkin’ Donuts Shop.
"I was so glad to see those trucks," said James Dolan of Fall River. "That drive-through was a beast, traffic was always snarled. They’ve dug it up; they [contractors] are building a new building. Candigit were in and out in two days. I see them all over Swansea. They do good work."
"Word of mouth is our main source of work. We have an excellent reputation. That goes a long way these days," said Mello.
In addition to the Dunkin’ Donuts sub-contracted site work and installation of its septic system in July, Candigit installed septic systems in Dighton last month. Other large projects, include site work for Wilbur Woods - Regent Court, Reservoir Avenue and Purchase Street in Swansea. These projects included land clearing, road development and installation of underground utilities and drainage as well as all phases of individual house lots and septic systems.
Commercial Projects include a spetic system for the Eye Surgery Center, Bay State Veterinary Clinic and the Swansea Motor Inn, and site work at a 90-acre Solar Farm in Swansea.
Municipality work includes underground tank removal for the town of Dartmouth, site work for the Melrose Cemetery in Brockton and work on the Cove Street draining project for the town of Swansea and a 20,000 gallon underground fuel storage tank replacement for Diman Regional Vocational High School in Fall River.
"Within the next few weeks, we’ll be doing the site work at a soccer field and concession stand in Westport, Mass., replacing the septic and site work at the Swansea Health Care Facility on Swansea Mall Drive and replacing the septic for another Dunkin’ Donuts in Seekonk, Mass.," said Mello.
Candigit is a family operation and has expanded generationally.
"We started out as me and my brother Richie. My wife Claire did the bookkeeping using Dome Books on a part-time basis," said Mello. "We have grown into a multi-faceted business. My wife and son Jimmy work in the office and son Josh is an equipment operator. We have a fully stocked materials yard, numerous pieces of heavy equipment and a fleet of trucks."
Mello gives all of the credit for his success to his crew. A few of those crew members happen to be his family.
"My son Josh runs machines and does site layouts for the excavation portion of the company and is currently being groomed for bigger things. Our staff is like family. They all give 110 percent. We would never have reached this level of success without them," Mello said.
"Safety assurance is also credited. All our site workers hold OSHA 10 cards. We take all precautions and we have a great safety record to this date," said Mello.
Diversification has become necessary. Since the new home and building industry crashed in 2008, Candigit has suffered the same challenges as many other contractors.
“The past five years have been incredibly difficult. We strive on providing great customer service to our prospective customers and do our best to service homeowners. We’ve tried to diversify,” said Mello.
His wife Claire has a wall dedicated for thank-you cards for jobs well done as Candigit passes its 20th anniversary.
Mello offered this advice to those just starting out in the industry.
“Start small. Don’t overwhelm yourself. Choose your clients carefully. Make sure you have a good cash flow,” Mello said. “Work within your means. Be prepared to work seven days a week. No more than 40-hour work weeks if you are going to work for yourself.”
Additionally Mello stresses the importance of giving back to the community.
“We have donated machine time and re-graded the field for Swansea Little League. We regularly donate mulch and materials to Swansea schools in preparation for graduation ceremonies and events,” said Mello. “We also sponsored a local hockey team when they went to Lake Placid. They won a gold medal. Then, the Mayor of Fall River gave me a gold medal. It was great!”