In May, Testori Bros Excavation LLC will celebrate its 20th anniversary.
And yet, the foundation of Jay Testori's business was set in stone more than a century ago. Testori named his company not after himself or a sibling, but as homage to his great-grandfather Giuseppe Testori and his brother Isidoro, who were two of four boys from Olda, Italy. These boys had enough courage to come to the United States to start a new life more than a century ago.
In 1905, Giuseppe and Isidoro worked as stone masons all over the Guilford and Madison, Conn. shoreline, building house foundations out of stone and stone walls. The brothers even had their own quarry.
“It is hard to imagine what it must have been like to make that transition. Their hard work and determination trickled down through the generations and is a big part of who I am; my work ethic and determination to succeed,” said fourth generation stone mason, Jay Testori. “I tell my kids every day to, 'Make a difference in everything you do.' ”
Following the men in his family he began as a stone mason.
“I started building stone walls by hand until I ran into a job that had large boulders to set for a wall,” said Testori. “We set the boulders with the backhoe and, with bars, we inched them into their final resting place. After that, I really moved away from mason work, although we still do a lot of large stone wall work.”
Fuel and Grease at 4 a.m.
Testori's own ambitions grew when he and his wife Susan had their first child, Gina, who is now a junior at the University of Connecticut.
In early 1994, Jay purchased a Case 580D backhoe and started doing side jobs after working a day job for another construction company.
“I had nothing else except a pick-up truck. I would drive the backhoe on the streets early in the morning or late at night from job to job because I did not have a trailer to transport it. I would fuel it up and grease it at 4 or 5 a.m. then go to my day job,” he said. “At 4:30 p.m., I would head over to my own job with my backhoe and work into the night. I would do this daily.
“I had a great boss who gave me Fridays off so that I would have the Friday and the weekend to get my bigger jobs done. Eventually, my good friend and mechanic, Frank Kokai and I found a 1988 GMC 7000 cab and chassis that we shortened [because it was an old oil truck] and put a dump body on it. After that, I purchased a tagalong 20-ton trailer and a D3 dozer. Now, I had what I needed to dig, grade and haul materials and now moving machines was a lot easier.”
Shortly after, Testori Bros was founded and soon, fully operational.
Though Testori supervises and handles all the site work with just a few other employees, his machinery has grown significantly.
“We now own four excavators of various sizes, two bull dozers, a backhoe, a loader, a screening plant, three dump trucks, three pickups with snow plows and a compact track loader. I also purchased the Clinton property where my shop and yard is in Clinton, which was a big investment,” said Testori.
Another vital Testori took over the firm's inner workings.
“As my company grew, I needed help with the office work, so my wife, Susan, has taken over most office duties — accounts receivable, accounts payable, typing up proposals, all bookkeeping, accounting and tax issues. She is also maintaining our web site, Facebook page, and handling our advertising needs.”
The family has added a new service, too.
“We now recycle old concrete and asphalt. We crush it down to two-inch minus and use it for sub-grading roads, driveways and even to fill inside new foundations.”
Many Projects Completed
Testori Bros has worked on a variety of municipal, community, private, commercial and charitable causes even through these recent frozen, counterproductive New England winters.
“We are presently working on two new home sites, one in Guilford and one in Old Lyme. Both jobs require blasting and lots of it,” said Testori. “In the coming weeks, we will be digging for cellars and really getting the projects underway — septic systems, utilities, filling, grading, etc.”
One of their most memorable projects was installing a new road at the Strong Field Facility leading to the surf club building for pick-ups and drop-offs. The road work was complete with concrete curbing, center island with a flag pole, brick walkways and drainage.
“Also, for the town of Madison, we rebuilt a road intersection next to the town garage. We changed a 'Y'-shaped intersection to a conventional 90-degree intersection. There was some utility relocation, asphalt removal, elevation changes, gravel sub-grading, two courses of re-paving and curbing. This job took approximately four weeks. I work with really great sub-contractors to keep me on schedule,” said Testori. “I have a fantastic working relationship with my subs and they are phenomenal. I have a great paving contractor, stone mason, carpenters, concrete contractors and pumping contractor. They are hardworking, reliable and professional; a great bunch of guys.”
Other outstanding projects were due to Hurricanes Sandy and Irene and a blizzard in 2013, which cut off electricity to hundreds of thousands of people along the Atlantic seaboard and New England.
“Due to the hurricanes, we spent many days removing fallen trees from the streets, securing areas where power lines had fallen, shoveling sand off the shore roads, basically to make it possible for emergency vehicles to get through,” said Testori. “We also worked on a major road construction job on the Madison Shore due to the damage caused by Hurricane Irene. The 2013 blizzard caused its own set of problems, making virtually every road impassable in our town. I had to take out my pay loader for five days to dig out roads for the town.”
Sometimes Testori builds, and sometimes the company demolishes homes.
“We recently had a job tearing down a house in a local shoreline town. The general contractor got all of the paperwork secured and we moved our 160 excavator to the job and we collapsed the house into itself and loaded it into dump trucks,” said Testori. “We hauled it to our local transfer station. We located the septic system, pumped it, and collapsed it, then graded off the whole site. We will follow up in early spring to topsoil and seed the disturbed area. All this, so the neighboring lot has a bigger yard.”
Occasionally, the company will tap a water main on a state road where, according to Testori, the paperwork and permit approvals are much harder than the physical labor.
“Once the paperwork and approvals are done, we start the job,” said Testori. “The work includes: Saw cutting the road and removing the asphalt and concrete; excavate to find the water main, clean it off for the tapping crew and trench to the road edge for the curb box. Once it is done, we install processed stone back in the hole and compact it up in lifts with a jumping jack. Then, we will pack it in lifts as per DOT specs.”
1,200 Tons of Hidden Garbage
When digging, contractors will tell customers, they can expect the unexpected and Testori Bros is no exception.
“I had a customer who had a beautiful new house and landscaped yard, but she kept having drainage problems and noticed little sinkhole spots in the yard. I was called to dig some test holes and found that her whole backyard was filled with garbage under the beautiful landscaped lawn,” said Testori. “I got the job remediating the huge area, hauling out over 1,200 tons of garbage, everything from old kitchen appliances to pool liners, TVs and just about everything else you could think of.
“After the clean-up we hauled in about 5,000 yards of clean gravel. We then installed a new, much larger drainage system in the same area. To culminate the project, we had to install a new drainage system above the project, also,” Testori said. “The entire project took about eight weeks or so.”
Success, Testori said, stems from keeping your contracted word.
“The best advice is to do what you say you are going to do. Itemize your contracts so it is spelled out for the customer. Keep them informed every step of the way. Help educate the customer, for instance, explain how a septic system works. This will help them feel comfortable throughout the entire job,” said Testori.
Donations and T-shirts
Community is very important to the Testori family whose children include Gina, Julia, 18, a senior at Daniel Hand High School and Scott, 11, a 5th-grader at Brown Middle School.
“In 2012, one of my biggest accomplishments was being a part of reconstruction of Strong Field at the Surf Club in Madison, Conn., home of Madison Tigers High School football team. We donated our time and equipment to demolish the field house, fencing and old bleachers to pave the way for an all new Strong Field, complete with a new turf field, new bleachers and a new press box,” said Testori. The demolition would have put the project $30,000 to $40,000 over budget but Testori Bros, along with a couple other local contractors, rose to the occasion to help their town.
In 2013, the company donated its time to reconstruct two baseball fields adjacent to the Strong Field athletic facility.
“We removed all of the fencing and clay infields and re-aligned the fields, top soiled and re-graded. Again, with the help of other local contractors,” said Testori of the group effort.
Susan Testori has brought the company with its 1905 roots into the modern age.
“Word of mouth is my biggest form of advertising. We have a Yellow Pages ad, our web site, designed by Sue, a Facebook page and I have a few signs to put in front of project sites. We have decals on our trucks and I give away T-shirts and sweatshirts to customers.
“Especially the kids,” said Susan Testori. “They love the big backhoe on the shirts!”
Though they officially celebrate their 20th business anniversary in May, the working couple hasn't planned anything special.
“Anniversaries are not holidays. We will just work through it. It's a tough business, but if you surround yourself with great, responsible and honest people in the business, it makes it a lot easier,” said Testori. “I have lasted because I am also a very responsible and honest contractor who creates trusting relationships with my customers so they always come back and they recommend my services to others.”
Testori Bros Excavation's main office is located in Madison, Conn., and the shop and materials yard is located in Clinton, Conn., 1.8 miles away.
For more information call 203/245-8402 or visit www.testoribros.com.