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Foster, R.I.’s A. Gervasio Construction Celebrates 45 Years in Business

Fri June 03, 2011 - Northeast Edition
Jay Adams

This year, A. Gervasio Construction celebrates 45 years of service to the community in the field of excavation.

The Foster R.I.-based company started humbly on a farm with a hard-working pair of boys.

Albert (known as “Chic” to most) Gervasio started A. Gervasio Construction Company back in 1966. The life of the new company actually began with a death in 1963, when Gervasio’s dad passed away.

Gervasio and his brother Bobby were left in charge of running the farm where they were raised. Gervasio bought a desperately needed piece of equipment for the farm, a brand new John Deere shovel dozer (model 20-10) for $6,600, which was needed to move corn silage and feed the cows. Now that he had a monthly note to pay on this piece of equipment, he needed to find a way to make it pay for itself.

Gervasio started working the night shift at Pratt & Whitney as an apprentice sheet metal welder from midnight to 7 a.m., five to six days a week. But there was no rest.

During the daylight hours, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., he would work on the farm. He then started doing other side jobs with the shovel dozer. Before he knew it, the earthmover was paid off.

The Start of ’Something Bigger’

Realizing this could be the start of something big, Gervasio bought a six-wheeler International truck and trailer to haul the machine around. With this mobility, he was on his way. For a few years, this was a one-man operation.

In 1970, Gervasio bought a Ford Luievell truck and 500C backhoe and said goodbye to his night job at Pratt & Whitney. Then, Gervasio’s first employee, Mitch Parent came along. To this day, 45 years down these country roads, he is still considered family. Although he left the business back in 1978, Parent still lives next door to A. Gervasio Construction. Many days, he can be found in the garage with the boys, working on a project, or in the barn, still helping out.

That same year, 1978, Gervasio’s oldest son, Peter Gervasio, came on board. He was barely 16 when he started working after school and weekends. Business was good and growing steadily.

Gervasio then decided to buy a brand-new 1979 Mack tri-axle 10-wheeler, the first tri-axle in the state of Rhode Island at the time. It affectionately came to be known as “Smokey.” Gervasio still recalls how his friends and colleagues in the business all laughed at him for buying it. Connecticut had just passed new weight regulation laws on commercial vehicles requiring tri-axles, but Rhode Island hadn’t done so yet, and would not pass such regulations until the early 1980s.

By those 1980s, A. Gervasio Construction would grow again, adding another Mack truck (three in all), two excavators, one backhoe and a bulldozer. It also grew as a full family business, as, with this growth spurt came Mark Gervasio, Gervasio’s second son, and Jim Griffen, Gervasio’s nephew.

“We made money in the 80s, got everything just about paid off, in spite of the rising interest rates,” Gervasio recalled. “People were building, and, as a matter of fact, one year, we dug almost 100 swimming pools.”

Credit to His Family

Gervasio credits all of his family employees for the company’s ongoing success. He further believes that being conservative in spending greatly contributed to longevity in the field of construction. He also said that versatility in the field helped mightily.

“We do anything, from digging pools to building small roads, to rock walls and commercial endeavors,” he said.

Being in the business for nearly a half-century brings excellence in your trade. For example, to watch Peter manipulate an excavator is like seeing the machine as an extension of his very arms. Many times, Mark can be seen in a hole, shoveling, while Peter and machine are lurking over his head. Mark has complete faith in his brother’s ability to expedite the job without a glitch.

A. Gervasio Construction is based in bucolic Foster, the most countrified corner of northwest Rhode Island, an excavated stone’s throw from Connecticut. If you ask Gervasio, “Why Foster?” he says, “Why not? I’ve been here since 1945, the end of World War II.”

Foster is a rural town with many back roads. The company is located on Jencks Road, along the Connecticut border. Many a time, the company has had to fix or repair the local roads, so they are passable, especially in winter when snow often prevents buses from picking up and/or delivering the local children to school.

Gervasio laughed out loud as he recalled memorable moments over the past 45 years, like the time Parent wired the Mack trucks brakes accidentally to the horn.

“All the way back to the garage from a job, every time Chic hit the brakes, the horn blew,” Parent said.

Or, not as humorous, how hard they would work some days; like spending a whole day in 100-degree weather shoveling pea stone in a driveway.

Ever-Changing Projects

Over the decades, the projects have changed from simple leach field repairs to the present, installing the most advanced alternative wastewater systems, now that Peter has become a licensed Class 1 OWTS designer.

Another sign of the changing times is a first-of-its-kind for the company — the installation of the base for the 100-kilowatt windmill at the New England Institute of Technology’s campus, next to I-95 in Warwick, R.I.

What’s ahead for A. Gervasio Construction? Maybe it will be the next generation of family. Founder Gervasio looked back on the last 45 years of hard work and long days, and looks forward to a more relaxed pace for himself.

“Maybe it’s time for a ’changing of the guard,’” he said with a smile.

In these current, challenging economic times, it appears A. Gervasio Construction will survive, due largely to the fact that the business demonstrates the highest level of excellence to every project it undertakes.

A large part of its success has been due to Gervasio’s reputation for professionalism, honesty and skill level in this field, along with a diversified background of excavation services, including new home site work, site utility work, road work, waste water treatment, land clearing and retaining walls.

“With each client, our objective is to fulfill all the responsibilities we committed to our clients in a timely, organized manner,” said Peter Gervasio. “This continues with the next generation.”

For more information, visit CEG

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