The one-man, one-truck operation Konowitz started became Miles of Excavating in 1996.
By Jay Adams
When Timothy Konowitz was a kid, his hands were attached to Tonka trucks. The sandbox was his oasis to shift, dig through, pile up and haul away.
Not much has changed. Konowitz, owner of Miles of Excavating in Wrentham, Mass., is living his childhood dream. The world, and his business, is moving other people’s dirt.
“As a kid, I was always playing with Tonka Trucks. I always shoveled people’s walkways to get extra money. In sixth grade, I bought a 1969 Cub Cadet Lawn Tractor. It was used and I used it more. I cut neighbors’ lawns, cut everyone’s grass. I bought a little trailer for it and started fixing lawns.”
By high school, Konowitz recognized his life’s ambition and laid plans to achieve it.
“Back when I was just out of high school, I knew what I wanted to do. I worked for a couple of [local contracting] companies. In 1990, I started by splitting wood and selling firewood, until I could afford to buy my first dump truck in 1996,” said Konowitz.
“I had a full-time job, and would run the truck on the weekends and do deliveries. Soon, my boss said, ’You’re ready to be on your own.’ I kept saving and saving and saving, and took a loan in 1995 and bought a rubber-tired backhoe from Caterpillar, a John Deere 410. It was used,” he added. “Used,” as in built a few years before, and “used” as in worked out heavily.
The dump truck also was very expensive for a young man just starting out.
“It took every bit of money that I possessed to buy that thing. I had a note on it for $12,000 and I went on my own to pay it,” said Konowitz.
From a Few Feet to “Miles”
The one-man, one-truck operation became Miles of Excavating in 1996. Two years later, in 1998, his brother Corey came aboard, along with a good friend. Several laborers for bigger jobs were added, but never more than a five-man crew.
Konowitz’s popular company just celebrated 15 years of continual growth and many additional services.
He started with just one hole. “The first job I ever did was digging around a building in Plainville [Mass.], so they could move the building down the street about two miles. I dug the foundation, so they could put the beams under it.”
Within weeks, he added, Miles of Excavating “just took off. I started doing septic systems and I haven’t looked back since. I just keep going forward.”
Headquartered at 242 Park St., Wrentham, Mass., Miles of Excavating is a year-round service company. Alongside Tim, brother Corey Konowitz is superintendent and Robert Shufelt is director of transportation.
900 Septic Systems, 200 Water Lines
The company has installed more than 900 septic systems, installed and/or repaired more than 200 water lines and performed excavation site work on more than 1,000 residential and business properties in 15 years.
Additional services include septic system inspections, septic maintenance, Title 5 inspections, sewer connections, water lines, road construction, grading, additions, demolition, foundations, tree stump removal — and a New England winter staple — snow removal.
Miles of Excavating also offers screener rental, loam and gravel sales, one-ton dump and 10-wheeler truck rental and machine rental with expert operator.
Konowitz and his crew always offer free estimates, 100 percent customer satisfaction and same-day emergency service. They also invite custom jobs and will do those jobs as requested, specifically to meet the client’s needs.
“We just started doing commercial work two years ago. We are [doing] one right now. It’s huge. We are digging the parking lot, and demolished the building for Hollingsworth and Vose [a well-known engineered paper and interwoven materials company founded in 1843], on their site,” said Konowitz. The job is under general contractor Majestic Construction, out of North Attleboro, Mass.
The crew also is starting a new project at the Dedham Plaza, providing lot excavation and site work for a new bank going up in Dedham, Mass.
“You should see the amount of work we have done this week [Oct. 17]. Just today, we demolished that building and hauled out 155 cubic yards of asphalt and 100 cubic yards of concrete in one day with two trucks,” said the tired owner, who, if lucky, will get to shower after 8 p.m.
Twelve-to-16-hour days are typical for him and his crew.
“We do a lot of emergency water work. That’s just broken pipes. Last week, we did eight leaks and the average day ended at 9:30 at night, from 6 in the morning,” added the working owner, who is now 38.
The popular name of his company is a play on words, beyond mere “mileage.”
“My brother-in-law came up with it. ’Miles’ is my middle name,” said Tim Konowitz. “I remember I had been in business just two or three weeks, and he said, ’You need a bank account. You need a company name. What do you think about ’Miles of Excavating?’ I said, ’Wow, that’s catchy. That’s got a nice ring to it.’ And off we went.”
Konowitz said it is his tireless service and word-of-mouth that keeps his small business hopping, summer through winter, with very few, if any, breaks.
“What sets us apart is our service and the quality of work we do. My brother Corey, Robert Shufelt, we all treat every job like it’s our own property,” he said.
Sometimes, the work involves extraordinary care and precise touch, using all of their skill and experience, in difficult circumstances.
“We did a septic system once that was 30 feet down over an embankment. We had to rent a long-reach excavator to do the digging and the machine stayed on a two-lane highway, Route 140 in Wrentham, traffic going by, while we did the work. No other contractor would even look at the job.”
If, on the surface, his team doesn’t know how to approach a problem, they disassemble it, examine the various parts, and put a plan together, like the pieces.
“I’ll book a job, and my guys will say, ’I don’t know how we are going to get it done.’ When we don’t know something, we take it like a puzzle, one piece at a time, until it’s done. I tell them, ’It’s a jigsaw and we do it, piece by piece.’ ”
Digging for Gold
Speaking of missing pieces, when you dig for 15 years, you are bound to find something you hadn’t expected in the dirt.
“We were working at the Dwight Derby House in Medfield, [Mass.], which is the oldest house in Medfield. There were archaeologists sifting through the dirt we were digging, sorting through every ounce we dug out of the hole, and they found a gold coin that was worth $180,000. That had to be 10 years ago, now.”
Did they share any of that with their “Miles?”
“Um, no, they didn’t,” Konowitz laughed. “You’d think I’d find something,” he laughed again. “Heck, all the digging we’ve done. I was digging once in the Cemetery in Norfolk and I didn’t even find any bones.”
Konowitz is grateful for his customers and for plowing through tough times like these. He credits his team.
“They are the best guys. I cannot ask for anyone better. I have the best guys for the work that we do. Without them, we’d be nothing,” he said.
Like adjusting for site depth and volume, you also have to shift gears with economics, when people cannot pay as much for jobs they desperately need, especially septic work or water emergencies.
“You have to adjust prices in tough times, and, basically, you don’t make nearly the same money you used to make during them,” said Konowitz. “Fuel costs are up, materials are up. It’s tough. We keep working because of reputation, not necessarily [because of] repeat loyal customers. I mean, if I do a septic system, I may not see them again for 20, 25 years.”
For more information, visit www.milesofexcavating.com or call at 508-384-9590. CEG