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Bristol Man Turns Passion for Iron Into R.I.’s Successful ZFC Construction

Tue February 12, 2013 - Northeast Edition
Jay Adams

Site work at the 1900s barn project in Barrington, R.I., ZFC’s current project.
Site work at the 1900s barn project in Barrington, R.I., ZFC’s current project.
Site work at the 1900s barn project in Barrington, R.I., ZFC’s current project. ZFC Construction’s Kobelco mini-excavator hard at work.

Todd Clarke digs his work. He is every construction worker with a dream; one that came true.

As a boy, Clarke, now in his 30s, would watch the largest, oldest Fourth of July Parade in the United States march through the streets of his native downtown Bristol, R.I. Every summer, the large trucks and marchers would strut over the red-white-and-blue stripes painted down Americana’s most visible Main Street.

Machines Under the Floats

Clarke never focused on the floats and the fluff, the marching bands or the colorful pomp of 200 marching units. Raised in a construction family by his hard-working father William, the boy centered his eyes on the vehicles that carried them and the large trucks pulling them, the heavy iron.

“I started my business in Bristol in 2003,” said Clarke, owner of ZFC Construction that covers work throughout Bristol County. “I just wanted to run my own business because I had an extreme interest in running heavy equipment — the trucks, the excavators, all the machines always fascinated me.”

His company will celebrate 10 successful years in 2013.

These stories have been told many times before. A boy helps his father on his job sites. He gets to run the machines. The kid realizes he never wants to do anything else. It becomes a dream and, eventually, through experience and hard work, a way of life for him and his new family.

And so it has been for Clarke, whose family now includes his wife Jaclyn, son, Zachary, 8, and daughter, Samantha, 5. In fact, ZFC Construction is named with Zachary’s initials. That is how much ’Family’ is part of the family business.

Father on the Job 50 Years

Todd Clarke’s father, William, owned a tree and landscaping company for more than 50 years. Todd still works occasionally with the man who has never contemplated retirement, even in his 70s.

“Growing up, I was able to run some of my Dad’s equipment and turned that business around to something a little different,” said Clarke. Even at this writing, father and son supervise site excavation for a house expansion on Waseca Avenue in Barrington.

“I had my company for a long time and Todd was there all the way,” said William Clarke. “He’s worked hard. We try to work together now, too, but it’s his business.”

Todd Clarke added, “With the help of my father and friends, I was digging out driveways and grading new construction sites, digging footings and then expanded the heavy iron work to some foundations and the demolition of small houses and buildings,”

Another important mentor was former Barrington Police Chief John Lazzaro, who had his own landscaping business for years, when he was an officer and not Chief. Chief Lazzaro, well known and respected throughout Bristol County was able to procure jobs for Todd, show him the right way and lead him to many community contacts.

John Lazzaro was extremely ill at the time of this writing and the Clarkes were emotional when speaking about how important he had been in their personal and professional lives.

Last to First

ZFC Construction may be last in the alphabet under construction company listings in Rhode Island, but it is among the first called for site work and small jobs because the Clarkes are known to do things well.

Clarke’s company has grown a bit as his brother William Clarke Jr. has joined his crew. ZFC offers excavation; demolition; utility work; site work; foundation building; installation of sewer and septic lines; tree and stump removal, grinding and chipping; snow plowing; asphalt patches and maintenance and more. Clarke’s team members also are licensed Rhode Island arborists.

Headquartered in Bristol, ZFC also maintains a site in nearby Barrington, R.I.

The Clarkes don’t often work on multi-million dollar jobs, but they have had a hand in homes and commercial property that are well known in this area — the smallest county in terms of geographical size (Bristol, Warren and Barrington) in the entire United States.

Strictly speaking, everyone knows everyone and shoddy work will be exposed. Families like the Clarkes get rewarded with 50 years of calls to get to work on their neighbors’ homes.

ZFC was involved in putting up the new Triple AAA Building on County Road in Barrington (with friend John DeAngelis of DeAngelis Construction of Barrington), as well as a new low income housing development in the state and the local skating rink renovations.

Currently, ZFC is “gutting out” an old 1900s barn and house with a Bobcat grapple, while digging the floor down.

“That started about two weeks ago,” said Clarke. “Safety is very important. My crew must always have hard hats when digging. I always have a trench box for deeper trenches, maintenance and keeping up with all the heavy iron things we have to do on each job.”

Reputation and Giving Back

In this tight-knit area, Clarke said most of his business comes through word-of-mouth.

“My reputation is very important, so I do my best. Good work pays off,” he added.

While his crews have dug in places as romantic and as far off as Cape Cod, Mass., Clarke and family said he has yet to find anything unexpected or interesting at his digging sites to brag of.

“I have never found anything, except some old horse bones,” he said.

With a small operation, to keep going in a challenging economy, he listed three keys: Hard work, balancing money and determination.

“I have been in a lot of tight spots. We have had to remove lots of boulders and ledge,” said Clarke. “It’s basic work, hard work, but that’s what we are paid to do. It’s all about making the customer happy.”

He also makes wife Jaclyn happy, who said of her humble, hands-on husband, “I have been battling MS now for several years and he still always manages, despite his work, to help me, and to take me to appointments when needed.

“Todd has always been hands-on. He loves to work outdoors and is extremely good at fixing machines, as well as running them. He actually fixes all of his machines himself. Todd loves what he does. It’s great work because it allows him the flexibility to help out with all his family,” she added. “Thank you so much for telling Todd’s story.”

Clarke also gives back to this small community in Bristol County, but he brushed that selfless work aside, too.

“I do donate my time and machines to the local towns for playgrounds, the Boy Scouts and the Bristol Elks,” he said. “I enjoy what I do and it makes me proud.”

For more information, call 401/688-9930 or 401/996-1940 or e-mail

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