In 1980 David Chaves decided that the old bulldozer from his father’s farm should be used as more than a lawn ornament. The machine had been sitting idle since Dave’s father, Manuel, opted out of the dairy farm business he owned for 10 years.
Declining profits had made it impossible to continue in the dairy business, so the Stratton Mountain Ski Area became the new employer of both father and son. However, all that changed in 1980 when Dave, along with his wife Patrice’s support, decided to take a chance by venturing into the excavation business.
“I saw a need and an opportunity in and around the Londonderry [Vt.] area,” said Chaves who at the time had the old dozer and not much else.
By 1984 the business had taken off and Chaves was able to purchase his first new piece of equipment.
“It was a brand new Mack dump truck, and I was very proud.”
That milestone was only the first of many to come. In 1986 David Chaves Excavation Inc. with eight to 10 people on the payroll, the business had established itself as a major player in southern Vermont. And at this time, Chaves was still purchasing various stone, sand and topsoil products from miscellaneous pits in the area.
“It was becoming very expensive relying on other people for my material,” said Chaves. “I knew I would need to make a move to become more self-reliant.”
Early in 1990 Chaves purchased land in Londonderry and began making topsoil and sand for his own use. He had no real desire to sell to the general public.
“The idea at the time was to control the cost of doing business. All I had was a small box screen that could barely keep up with my needs. We were putting product on the ground at a reasonable cost, which at the time sufficed.”
In the late 90s, Chaves purchased a jaw crusher that was pieced together from several homemade parts and various manufactured parts.
“It wasn’t pretty to look at, but it did open my eyes to the possibilities that were present in the Londonderry pit.”
However, Chaves decided he needed to form a relationship with a company that had the necessary experience in the crushing and screening business to take him to the next level.
“My experience was in excavation, I was out of my element in the pit business.”
Lacking knowledge that would make his company competitive in the crushing and screening industry, Chaves made a call to Emerald Equipment Systems Inc.
“They had a good reputation and were known in the industry as the ’go to’ guys,” he explained.
In early 2000, the new relationship led Chaves to purchase a Pegson 26 by 44 Premier track jaw crusher, and a Powerscreen Chieftain screening plant.
“At this time, I was no longer supplying myself. Several towns were purchasing sand and other excavators in the area were buying material as well. Quality and quantity were the issue now and Emerald Equipment Systems Inc. provided my company with the knowledge and equipment to become a competitive player in that industry.”
The need for more material was becoming apparent and Chaves purchased more land in Andover, Vt. The Andover pit became primarily the sand and gravel operation while the Londonderry pit was crushing ledge for gravel and stone products. Another Powerscreen Chieftain was purchased for the Andover operation.
“We had very good results with the Chieftain in Londonderry and it seemed like a natural choice for the Andover pit.”
A Pegson 1000 cone crusher also was purchased from Emerald Equipment Systems for the Londonderry operation. The Pegson jaw/cone combination provided David Chaves Excavation with even more sellable products. As the needs of the industry were changing, Chaves saw the opportunity to expand his operation, and began doing custom crushing and screening for various ski areas and independent companies.
Now, business had become a real family affair when his son, Andy, who had been around the equipment since the age of eight, joined the company.
“Andy was just a kid and it was pretty funny that no one else at the time could run this stump grinder that I had purchased. But there was Andy, all 10 years of him, running the hell out of it.”
Eventually Andy attended the Wyoming Tech School for Diesel Mechanics. Eighteen years later he oversees the trucking end of the business.
Chaves’ other son, Nathan, became involved much later.
“Nate wasn’t too keen on being involved with the business at first.”
Nate attended college for two years as a business major. As fate would have it, he ended up working in the family business.
“The situation with Nate was quite interesting,” said Chaves. “He had no interest at all and seven years later he runs the entire excavation end of the business.”
The women in the Chaves’ family aren’t strangers to the business either. His daughter, Serena, has been involved in all aspects of field work.
“Serena wasn’t intimidated at all. She has done everything from labor work, to running equipment, to operating the screening machines,” explained Chaves.
However, Serena now occupies her time with the training and showing of Morgan horses.
Dave’s wife was “the glue that kept it all together.’’ Patrice did all of the behind the scenes work.
“She answered phones, took care of all of the paperwork, payroll, taxes, everything that goes unnoticed but is vitally important to the successful operation of a business.”
Patrice passed away recently but “her presence is missed every day. We were married for 29 years and we were best friends. There are not enough words or pages available to describe what she meant to the family personally and to the business,” said Chaves.
Fortunately Samantha “Sam” Chaves, Andy’s wife, stepped up and is now handling the inside chores.
“Thank God for Sam, none of us were prepared to take over that roll. She does a wonderful job,” said Chaves.
Nowadays Chaves is primarily involved in the crushing and screening end of the business, working alongside Steve Torrey and Ace.
“Steve and Ace handle all the dirty work while I do most of the directing,” Chaves said.
What does the future hold for David Chaves Excavation Inc.? Well, Chaves continues to look forward.
“We just upgraded our cone crusher to the more versatile Pegson 4242 SR cone crusher. The unit has built-in screening capabilities, which allows me to eliminate moving one extra piece of equipment to my custom crushing jobs. I also have just upgraded my old Pegson jaw to the new Pegson Premier track 26 by 44 XA jaw crusher.
“I was ready to purchase a newer jaw last year but Mike Tormey, the owner of Emerald Equipment Systems Inc. and Dave Ponte, the sales representative of Vermont convinced me to wait for the arrival of the XA line,” Chaves explained.
“The new improvements on the jaw proved to be worth the wait. I’m very happy with its ease of use, and the production capabilities are second to none. The need for a new screening plant at the Londonderry operation is inevitable. I can see turning to the powerscreen line as my solution once again.” Chaves said.
“The key to this business is honesty, service, quality and diversity. These are the ingredients which have made me successful both as a business man and personally. It’s nice to see that Emerald Equipment Systems Inc., Pegson and Powerscreen think as I do.”