Jerry Gagliarducci could show off a fleet of John Deere or Caterpillar equipment, drive you around Springfield and show you his crushing operation or the new industrial park road or supermarket his company is building.
But the congenial man with the sky blue eyes is just as proud of a tiny, brown, cracked leather ledger from 1919 he pulls from his office shelf. Within it, his grandfather, Antonio Gagliarducci, during the presidency of Woodrow Wilson, would mark down original business expenditures in clear, decisive, cursive pen.
“Look at this, dated April 22, 1920,” said his grandson, smiling. “He marked this down — $16.40 for my insurance for the year from Wilson & Welch. It’s a wonderful ledger. That’s the history.”
The business Jerry’s grandfather started in 1900 as a small landscaping firm, Tony Gagliarducci & Sons, was the foundation for Gagliarducci Construction, which is now merely 107 years old and counting.
Gagliarducci Construction is one of the few companies still in operation from the days when much of Springfield was a cow pasture.
“My grandfather came here in 1900. He lived in Springfield and he had a little wheelbarrow, a rake and a broom that he pushed every morning to take care of houses,” said Gagliarducci whose holdings and machines are now spread throughout this city of 160,000. “He built a three-family house and the whole family lived there.”
One thing led to another, said Gagliarducci. “You do a little bit more, a little bit more. They were landscapers. Then my father, Anthony, went to UMass. [Mass. Aggie at the time] and graduated as a landscape architect,” he added.
The small company evolved from landscaping, to laying down asphalt driveways.
“During World War II, we worked for a lot of utility companies,” added Gagliarducci.
The company started at 227 Mill Street in 1944 and continued there until a devastating blow.
“My father died when I was 16, and my mother didn’t know what to do,” said Gagliarducci. “But, my mother, LaSalle, and I were still landscape contractors. When my father died, I had a younger brother, 13. There were three boys. My other brother was at UMass. But my mother kept the business going. I joined her. She’s 93 now, but she still comes in every once in a while.”
From Seven Workers
What started as a small landscaping firm with six or seven employees has grown to be a leader in site construction and development in western Massachusetts with some 75 employees (during peak seasonal months).
In the 1970s, the company officially changed its named to Gagliarducci Construction. The company left its Mill Street location after 40 years and has been at its 275 Pasco Road location, a 17-acre site, since 1984.
The firm occupies a 5,000 to 6,000-sq.-ft. office, with an 8,000-sq.-ft. mechanic/repair facility and a 30,000-sq.-ft. set of garages.
On a drive from site to site around the city he loves, Gagliarducci, president of his firm for several decades, will often speak to his work crews.
“How long have you worked here?” he asks. Again and again, the answers come back the same. “Twenty-three years.” “Twenty-one years.” “Nineteen years.”
“I’d say the average employee has been here 10 to 12 years,” said Gagliarducci. “A lot of employees retire here. I just had a guy retire. This was the only job he ever had. I’ve got a foreman who’s been here 25, 30 years. I like to keep employees. I like to think we’re a big family.”
He points proudly to Domingo Gomes, a leader of his work crew.
“I watched his son grow up. I watched his daughter grow up. His cousin’s son is 21 and training with us to become a foreman. It comes back to customers. They like to see the same faces and that helps with the continuity. You don’t have to restart things.”
His son, Jerome Jr., called “Jay,” has a degree in engineering. Jay Gagliarducci is the fourth generation of family management. “This is his passion,” said the proud father. “He loves to be outside at the sites. He’s the future.”
Working Close to Home
Most of its past, present and future has been directly or indirectly centered around Springfield.
“We do a lot of work for MassHighway,” said Gagliarducci. ’We don’t go more than 40 or 50 miles from our location. We have three project sites within 10 minutes of us right now.”
One of them is laying down a new industrial park roadway; another is the last phase of a three-year project to cap the last 25 acres of the Cottage Street Landfill (and seeding it so there will eventually be youth soccer fields on top); and a third is the new site development of a Big Y Supermarket at the site of a former bowling alley, which the company demolished and has grounded into stones to cover the new parking lot there.
One of its biggest projects was rebuilding the entire grounds of nearby Big E over the past 10 years. The Big E (Eastern States Exposition) is a not-for-profit corporation that provides year-round opportunities for the development and promotion of agriculture, education, industry and family entertainment while preserving the New England heritage.
Big E events draw more than one million to its grounds every year with exhibits and 17-day agricultural fairs.
“There are many challenges today,” said Gagliarducci on how the industry has changed over too many decades to remember. “More competition than ever and a change in the way everybody does business. A big challenge is to maintain where you are. Once you get status, the challenge is to maintain the workload. About 75 percent of our work is private work and 50 percent of that is repeat customers, which is a rarity in the industry and is the result of loyalty, dedication and trying to do the right thing.”
Solving Customer Problems
Gagliarducci Construction is affiliated with the Massachusetts Laborers’ District Council and the International Union of Operating Engineers. Its clients range from small corporations and private individuals to large public agencies. The heavy construction division operates throughout Massachusetts and Connecticut while the crushing divisions serve all of New England.
In 1992, Gagliarducci recognized a need for a portable crushing operation that could serve clients in the New England area. Today, the company is a full service operation, crushing more than 2,000 tons (1,814 t) per day and is available to provide all areas of construction expertise.
The company’s portable aggregate plants are moved to a road or building construction site, with the capability of receiving raw material at one end and producing a sized, ready to use material at the other. The plants can crush stone and ledge but also are used to recycle asphalt, concrete and demolition debris. Any of these materials can be reduced from their largest state to a sized aggregate as small as 3/8-inch in diameter, which meets all public bid specifications.
Because Gagliarducci Construction began as a site development contractor, it has an understanding of the client’s goals and a strong commitment to performing the work in the most time efficient and cost effective way possible.
“We try to work for the customer and do what’s best for the customer, even though it’s not always what’s best for us,” said Gagliarducci. “We work through problems. That’s what we like to do.”
Its crushing units have primary jaw crushers used for stone, gravel, ledge, concrete and other aggregate materials. It also has secondary cone crushers, which are closed circuit systems used to produce materials sized to guaranteed specifications.
These secondary crushers have on-board magnets for separation of rebar, steel or other iron materials found in most construction debris. These mobile facilities, combined with conveyors, hydraulic hammers, excavators and loaders, allow Gagliarducci to design a custom plan to meet each client’s budget and time frame.
“We evolved from one crusher to three crushing crews,” he said. “We travel the New England states and do contract crushing for other contractors, quarries and asphalt plants, as well as for ourselves.”
Much of the crushing work goes on through Gagliarducci’s subsidiary company, Stony Hill Sand & Gravel, also in Springfield.
For more information, visit www.gagliarducci.com. CEG