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Kidder Building & Wrecking Success Spans Three Generations

The legacy of Kidder Building & Wrecking Inc. in Plaistow, N.H., spans three generations in four states over the past 43 years.

Wed April 09, 2014 - Northeast Edition
Jay Adams

The legacy of Kidder Building & Wrecking Inc. in Plaistow, N.H., spans three generations in four states over the past 43 years. The company’s cranes and fleet of heavy equipment have worked and are working major projects in Massachusetts, Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire.

Roscoe Kidder founded his original company in Haverhill, Mass., in 1948 with immediate proximity to the tri-state region of Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine. He later passed the firm onto his son and namesake, Roscoe N. Kidder, who still works with his sons, Shawn N. Kidder and Dan Kidder, the future co-owners of the family business.

Roscoe oversees all of the operations and projects that his two boys plan, control and execute.

Originally a construction company three years after the end of World War II, Shawn Kidder said the dismantling of buildings began in order to gain materials at a cheaper cost, versus buying them new. Over the next 20 years, the "wrecking" business dominated while the construction end "slipped away," according to Shawn Kidder. In 1971, Kidder Building & Wrecking Inc. was established.

Old School Muscle

"The beginning only included two one-ton, six-wheeler dump trucks, the owner and his son — my father — and old school muscle," said Kidder. "My grandfather ran the construction and dismantling full time and my father, Roscoe N. Kidder [the current president] would work days with the family business and nights at Western Electric. My grandfather, Roscoe Kidder Sr., passed away due to cancer, and Dad took full reigns of the company."

Having learned all aspects of building, the company evolved surely, based on years of individual job experience.

"Their trade as a dismantler came natural due to being a carpenter and knowing the process of constructing a building," said Kidder. "Dismantling was just reversing the process. Having the carpenter background gave them the upper hand against those who just tried to take a building down not knowing its internal structure."

Simple woodworking has evolved into a full-service company:

• All demolition and dismantling services (interior gut outs and complete takedowns of residential, commercial, industrial and educational buildings)

• Disposal of all debris/masonry/concrete to legal recycling facilities

• Referrals to hygiene firms and asbestos/hazardous waste removal companies

• Trucking

• Crushing

• Heavy equipment rental

Kidder Building & Wrecking Inc.:

• A full-service removal company

• Massachusetts construction supervisor licensed

• Massachusetts home improvement contractor licensed

• OSHA safety trained 10 & 30 and HAZWOPER 40 certified

• Department of Transportation approved

• Licensed bonded and insured

Substantial Growth and Change

The company has grown from the early 1970s from a single excavator, Bobcat, tractor, trailer, dump truck operation. The company now has access to eight excavators ranging from 20 to 50 tons (18 to 45 t), 11 Bobcats and four tractor/trailers. Kidder Building & Wrecking Inc. started off in the early 1970s dismantling just three-decker houses and one-story residential buildings, but now takes on two or three public high schools a year, industrial plant decommissions, smokestacks, shopping malls and everything else in between

"We never turn down a job opportunity, no matter the risk or liability involved because we have the experience and expertise to complete any task, and always ahead of schedule," said Kidder.

"Over the past 43 years, we have been fortunate to employ family that can be trusted and who are loyal to the well-being of the company. It also allowed us to train sons, uncles, cousins, from a young age," said Kidder. "This allowed us to gain more experience in the field at a younger age and gain youth on a vigorous job site. This is an advantage for us because time is money. An expertly-trained crew in their mid-20s to mid-30s who can perform for 10-plus hours gives us the upper hand physically. Also, having the ability to train on equipment from a young age allows us to utilize our employees more fully. We can use our operators as laborers and save on personnel."

Currently, Kidder employs between 20 to 25 people, depending on season, from a full office staff, two full-time mechanics, versatile truck drivers/operators, operators who serve as foremen and skilled laborers.

"Services also include a full concrete-cutting division which goes hand-in-hand with our dismantling and select demolition projects," said Kidder. "We also continue to salvage building materials that can range from 2x4s to fire escapes and granite, all for sale."

Crane work is another major contributor to the company’s scope of work.

"With all the dismantling projects we do, usually at active sites where the business is still running, it takes delicate work to complete the project and not disturb the client," said Kidder. "Cranes help lift large sections of roofs, buildings, roof top units, etc. This usually leads to an open location [parking lot] for breaking and loading. One project that comes to mind was the roof removal at a grocery store in Lynnfield, Mass., that had collapsed due to the weight of the heavy snowfall. The store was closed, but the shelves stayed stocked and all the roof was removed without disturbing the inventory or adding further damage to the store."

Safety is Kidder’s first issue of the day on every project. When any new job starts, as well as during projects already in motion, safety orientations are conducted on a regular basis. Hazards are continuously discussed and reminded and ways of preventing injury and property loss are always set in place before work commences.

"All our employees have at least the OSHA10. All foremen have their OSHA30. We are HAZWOPER 40 trained. Asbestos awareness courses are annually completed. Proper PPE [hard hats, high visibility clothing] is supplied to all employees on site and everyone is trained to each different job situation to perform at highest caution," said Kidder.

A Very Good Winter

Even though, the company does not venture into snow plowing during harsh northern New England winters to augment seasonal work, this very cold, very snowy winter did not slow Kidder Building & Wrecking down. In fact, they increased production.

"This winter snow total has been high compared to previous years; usually it’s one or two storms which we would typically shut down for the day, depending on schedule. But this past winter has, by far, been one of our most productive winters in years," said Kidder. "Even though we were bombarded with snowstorm after snowstorm, our schedule had to remain strict due to project timelines awarded to us by our contractors. We hired more laborers, worked through snowstorms, 10-plus-hour days, 2nd shifts, and we cut holidays short to stay ahead."

Kidder has been part of some of the more memorable projects in the region over the years.

"One of our proudest projects was helping after the great Malden Mills Fire in Lawrence, Mass., on December 11, 1995. It put us on the map, showing how a family-owned-and-operated business can compete [and complete] in industrial plant demolition. This is a field slowly being taken over by union power house demolition companies," said Kidder.

The fire that reduced Malden Mills to rubble on that horrible evening was one of the worst in the state’s history. Seven hundred people were at work in the factory when, at a little after 8 p.m., a boiler exploded in one of the mill buildings. The explosion was so powerful that it ruptured gas mains; fire quickly engulfed the buildings. Employees fled into the streets, 33 were injured, four of them critically.

Fueled by the chemicals and flammable materials used in textile production, according to many newspaper reports, the six-alarm fire gutted the mill complex. More than 200 firefighters, from as far away as New Hampshire and Boston’s South Shore, battled 50-ft. (15.2 m) walls of flame. Gusty winds and temperatures near zero hampered efforts to stop the fire. It raged out of control for much of the night, forcing nearby residents to evacuate. By morning, the once-busy textile complex was completely devastated.

The fire was a disaster in more ways than one. The mills employed most of the immigrant workers in the struggling factory cities of Methuen and Lawrence, Mass. Malden Mills was one of the largest employers in the area.

Kidder Building & Wrecking came in to help authorities pick up all of the many charred pieces and begin the daunting task of rebuilding.

Other Projects

There have been many other Kidder projects over four decades, such as the demolition of dorms and administration buildings at the University of New Hampshire.

"We are responsible for major high school demolitions such as Reading, Needham, Maynard, Bolyston, Dracut and Watertown that cleared the way for multi-million dollar schools," said Kidder. "Another is the 3rd Avenue project in Burlington, Mass., where we have already cleared 16 buildings in the past two years and several more to go in a huge industrial park remodel for Nordbloom’s.

"We have gutted out one building and we have five more takedowns to go. The industrial park remodel will result in the construction of strip malls, bowling alleys, restaurants, movie theaters, corporate offices, residential housing and parking. This project is contracted by Erland Corporation."

A few unusual projects included the partial demolition and remodel of a future Market Basket (food market) in Manchester, N.H.

"After the building was taken down and we were digging out the foundation wall, we had discovered underground walls and chambers that were unknown by the GC. After further digging and uncovering, and with the confirmation of the historical society, we had uncovered an old railroad station turntable from the mid-1800s," said Kidder. "There were multiple tracks leading to the turntable that would, in the right time, rotate to a different direction. Following our discovery, the site crews were digging a new foundation and found two locomotives on their side, buried. They were not removed for reasons unknown. One lay inside the footprint of the building and the other in the foundation path. That train was dragged inside the foundation line and reburied."

Another job successfully completed was the removal of 10,000 sq. ft. (929 sq m) of steel decking roof and its 65-ft. (19.8 m) bar joists at the Hanover, N.H. paper mill.

"What made this job challenging was that a new roof had been constructed 12 feet above it, to allow room for a larger printing press. Also, 30 feet below the roof, we were removing an active $4 million print assembly plant and up to 10 workers that worked full-time," said Kidder. "Also, with the high risk of fire hazards, cutting torches, grinders, and cut-off saws were not allowed during dismantle in case a spark ignited fire. We completed the project in three days with Sawzalls and Porter band saws with zero loss."

Work ahead is constant and challenging.

"Main and Moody in Waltham, Mass., will be one of our biggest projects on one site, consisting of complete takedown of four buildings, three of them at the corners of major intersections, only a sidewalk’s width from busy traffic," said Kidder. "A single-story, a three-story, a four-story and a five-story will begin the end of March with interior gutting. Each building has 20 to 25 days to be taken down and cleaned up.

"Two of the smaller buildings will be very easy with difficulty increasing with the last two, due to sheer size and height, mixed with safety hazard being so close to the Main Street traffic," said Kidder. "This project is also general contracted by Erland Corp. We are very excited about the project, because we beat out some big competitors. This will help us gain exposure, with such a high-risk job. It also excites us because world-ranked demolition contractor NASDI headquarters is just over a mile down the road and they were one of the companies we beat out for the job."

All Out, All the Time

Kidder Building & Wrecking, Inc. is extremely proud of its reputation.

"Word of mouth is very important. Image and reputation is huge in the industry. You can’t read a book and become a professional demolition contractor. It takes experience, years of it," said Kidder. "Sometimes, it takes learning the hard way to be wise and know how to do it the next time with great caution."

These past few years, the firm has caught the eye of general contractors with how quick and efficient they are.

"Now, we are getting calls and instantly awarding us projects, in cases where we may have a higher bidding number. The GC knows what they’re getting and they know their project will get done," said Kidder.

"We have some of the most talented operators, and most experienced. Our estimators have such a wide resume and have been all over the construction field. Their knowledge is a major asset. And with my father being one of the first demolition contractors in Massachusetts, his experience is second to none," said Kidder. "He has passed that down to me since I’ve been in the field at the age of 12. And, my being only 28, and our company being the strongest it’s ever been, Kidder Wrecking is going to be around for a very long time.

"To be in this field for 43 years, through the economy struggles and past recessions, says a lot about Kidder Wrecking. Our name and reputation has such a strong foundation there’s really nothing that will take us down, no pun intended," said Kidder.

Kidder Building & Wrecking headquarters are on a 52-acre yard, with its fleet of equipment, at 247 Main St., Plaistow, N.H.

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