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Northern Vt., N.H. Get the ’Real’ Deal

A company is formed when a choice is made between a boat and a crane.

Tue November 19, 2013 - Northeast Edition
Jay Adams

Real is an appropriate and uplifting first name for a contractor and excavator who keeps his promises, does his work well and has earned a stellar reputation for heavy iron and crane work in northern Vermont and New Hampshire.

In 2014, Real Desrochers and his wife Denise will celebrate the 40th anniversary of Desrochers Excavating Inc. and its family of companies, Desrochers Crane Service Inc., Desrochers Bulk Service Inc. and Desrochers Barn Supply & Equipment Inc.

With headquarters in Derby, Vt., Desrochers specializes in heavy moving and lifting.

The company was founded in 1974 when the man that Real Desrochers was working for was going out of business.

“He offered dad one of two things: a boat or a 6-ton Scott Midland crane,” said Robert Desrochers, the oldest son of Real and Denise, who along with brothers Rene and Randy help run the company.

“Dad, being the person he is, took the crane. Later on, he bought a small excavation company from Robert Taplin,” said Robert. “Mr. Taplin stuck by my Dad until his death, giving him advice and being someone who Dad could bounce ideas off of who would not go running around spreading it all over town.”

Real Desrochers first learned the trade from Taplin with his brother Joe and Denise’s brother Mark.

“Luckily, my father made some good choices in the beginning, as far as employees. These first guys stuck by my dad for years,” said Robert. “They were the type of guys who took pride in what they did — whatever it was — cellar holes, preparing grades for slabs or landscaping. From what I can remember, the bread and butter, at first were residential: Sewer systems, water lines and driveways. My uncles Mark and Joe ran the small crane.”

Three Sons, Three Cranes

Robert, Rene and Randy joined the company in the 1980s along with three, new, larger cranes, with lifting capacities of 15, 23 and 30-tons (13.6, 23.6, 27.2 t). The Desrochers have added a steady line of new equipment with up to five working cranes of various capacities to handle a wide variety of lifting jobs.

As the prefab building business boomed, two larger cranes were added in 2003 and 2005 — a 90-ton (81.6 t) and a Link-Belt 50-ton (45.4 t) model.

The Desrochers family has moved houses, barns, diners, buildings, bridges and raised rafters, steel buildings and expectations in the woods of northern Vermont.

Back in the 1980s the Desrochers tore down the area’s drive-in theater to usher in three new businesses.

Projects, Past and Present

Numerous projects in the last decade have included:

• The Adelphia project: The new television building for Adelphia at its tower site consisted of eight 8-ft. (2.4 m) wide concrete structures each weighing 56,000 lbs. (25,401 kg). The sections arrived on tractor-trailers and were flipped due to lying on their side for transport. Each one was lifted, moved and installed onto a new foundation.

• Setting steel for a new building addition at Presby Environmental facility in Whitehill, N.H.

• A historic barn moved from Irasburg, Vt., to Derby.

• On a Taylor Made home in Troy, Vt.: Desrochers hoisted building materials used in a project built down into a gully, where the job site was located. The home was built on a ledge along a river, with a set of stairs from the elevated garage down to the home site.

• Miss Newport Diner relocation: “The historic Miss Newport Diner was part of many locals’ daily routine since the 1950s,” said Robert. “We moved it off its foundation with our 90-ton Grove crane and moved it to its first stop in New Hampshire with our drop deck trailer.”

• At a new Groveton, N.H. sporting goods store, the 90-ton crane was used to lift into place an entire 50 x 38-ft. (15.2 x 11.6 m) timber frame facade, costing $54,000 for wood and weighing 13,000 lbs. (5,896.7 kg).

• The Island Pond project: Desrochers used the 90-ton Grove crane, (teaming with a Bedford, N.H. crane company), to lift both ends of a new 114-ft.-long (34.7m) pedestrian bridge. They set it in place over a set of railroad tracks that had separated the villages of Upper and Lower Island Pond since 1974 (their founding year), when the original pedestrian bridge had been torn down due to age.

• A 100-year anniversary remodeling project at St. Mary’s Church in Newport, N.H., lifting an aerial basket used during the washing and re-grouting of large granite blocks.

• Jay Peak Ski Resort: Desrochers have participated in numerous projects, including lifting and removing 60-person capacity cars from the old tramway and replacing them with new, larger, more modern cars.

“Currently, we are part of the Jay Peak expansion, setting wall panels and rafters on the newest hotel. We are also setting the numerous modular homes that have been fabricated in the last three years by another Vermont company, Huntington Homes, in East Montpelier and set at Jay Peak,” said Robert. “Our 90-ton crane is now lifting steel beams for the construction of a new school at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. We are setting steel at the expansion at Norwich University and the new Augusta, Maine Courthouse.”

In addition, Desrochers is hard at work excavating new substations in Jay and Derby, Vt.; excavating and farm sales and installation in Chelsea, Vt.; and excavating and crane service regarding cell tower work in Plainfield and St. Albans, Vt.; along with working with general contractors and sub-contractors.

Yard Expansion

At the start of the business, crane and excavating equipment included: 920 Cat loader; D5 Cat dozer; John Deere 350 crawler; Case 580 backhoe; and three International 7-cy. yd. (5.4 cu m) dump trucks.

Over the years the fleet has expanded to include: a John Deere 450; a 315 Cat excavator; a ASV skid steer; a EC35 mini-excavator; a Cat 430 backhoe; two 14-cu. yd. (10.7 cu m) dump trucks; two tractor trailers that can haul either a detach trailer or flatbed; and five cranes: 1996 23.5 ton (21.3 t) Terex; 2004 26-ton (23.6 t) National; 2012 30-ton (27.2 t) National; 2005 50-ton (45.3 t) LinkBelt; and 2010 90-ton (81.6 t) LinkBelt.

“We have grown our crane business from one crane to five cranes with the 90-ton being the largest,” said Robert. “In 1987, we added a farm supply business, with liquid manure tanks, spreaders and all around farm equipment. We also added trucking services for large and/or oversized loads.”

They handle trusses, pre-cast concrete culverts, steel buildings, modular homes, post and beam and other structural moves. Desrochers also moves transformers for power and utility companies.

Everything is in Derby

For 22 years, until 1996, Desrochers headquarters was located in Real and Denise’s home.

“We moved the office to our new renovated shop. We had just added onto it, almost doubling the square footage, adding office space and a show room. Now, everything [the four separate affiliated operations/companies] is on Route 5 in Derby, Vt.,” said Robert.

The company’s web site is replete with kind words and testimonials.

“In my 20 years in the broadcast and communications industry, Desrochers Crane Service is one of the finest companies I have dealt with. At the heart of this are good people who perform outstanding work with a desire to please the customer like no other. Their willingness to work with you and rearrange their schedule at the last minute when possible to accommodate last-minute needs is second to none,” said Eli Pitts, vice president of Prescott Tower Services LTD.

“Word of mouth is greatly important. We pride ourselves on repeat customers,” said Robert. “Our company was part of the 100-year anniversary renovation of St. Mary’s Church in Newport. The greatest obstacle at the time was the reach and ability to get to the rear of the two towers. So, we came up with a solution. We, along with others, developed a basket we could mount to one of our cranes that would pivot 150 degrees and pivot up and down 60 degrees.”

The Desrochers family are true neighbors, vital community members and, clearly, Vermonters. Real, Rene and Robert are members of the Elks. Real does much for his local church. Robert has been part of local Rotary functions and participates as an annual volunteer in the area’s Winterfest.

“For several years, my brother Rene has set the ducks into the river with a crane for the Rotary Duck Regatta,” said Robert.

On the eve of its 40th anniversary, brother Randy’s two children are of age to help set the ducks with their Dad, rather than run the crane. But is a third generation of Desrochers in the wings?

“My brother Randy has two children, both boys, but they are too young to call,” said Robert.

For more information, call 802/766-4732, 800/287-4732 or visit

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