Cantarella - Not Just A Name, A Standard.
We've heard the story before when meeting a mason: "My father was a mason, I am a mason"—it seems all too familiar to have a family owned business with a long pedigree of hard working masons. Anticipating my next Meet the Mason Spotlight, I wondered how this interview would go. To my delight, meeting this father/son duo, Paul L Cantarella and Paul Junior, was more than just the average meet and greet interview. Their energy was exciting and inviting, and they were reminiscent of how they got where they are today—it felt like we were sitting at the kitchen table swapping stories of the good old days, even though this was my first time there.
Building a family name you can trust isn't just a tag line, it is a way of life for the Cantarellas. It all started in 1934 when John L Cantarella and Bill Santazica came together to form C&S Company. John, a mason, and Bill, a tile setter, set out to perform the masonry details in the Pittsfield Massachusetts area focusing on residential work along with some commercial work. This was just the beginning.
As time went on, John and Bill separated their venture. This forced John to think outside of the box and formulate a plan to earn money and provide for his family, all while giving his employees the same opportunity. He decided to not only have a company perform the masonry details, but to also supply the masonry units. This plan allowed for him to stay in the market in the low months and keep his key employees working year-round. In the 1950s, John L Cantarella and his son John A Cantarella joined the local Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers out of Pittsfield which helped him go on to be a mason contractor company as well as a masonry supplier. Still focused on residential construction at the time, John had a team of about seven employees which remained so until the 1960s when Larry Seddon joined the company. The benefit of having two union masons run a company gave them the ability to grow and really dive into commercial construction, completing projects like Berkshire Community College, Hillcrest Hospital, and Lenox Memorial School, in the 60s.
When the time came for John L Cantarella to hang his trowel and retire, the company had grown from seven people to a thirty man operation, and with business booming, they had expanded their territory to Vermont and New York. Though John's L intention was to hand his hard work and reputation down to his son Paul L. Cantarella, Paul was busy on the line laying block, learning the trade and earning his hours in the field. Luckily John A had a business partner at the time, Larry Seddon, to man the operation while Paul learned the tricks of the trade.
Paul became President of C&S Company in the early 80s—he was now the face and name of a company with a longstanding reputation. Having earned his stripes in the field, Paul had every intention of holding the family name to the same regard his father did, and that he has done, plus some. He has grown the company from one or two big projects a year to almost fifteen with an additional fifty employees.
As history would go, Paul was grooming his son Paul Junior to join the family empire by having him work summers by his side and encouraging further education which Paul Junior completed and obtained a degree in construction management. Paul Junior joined the union in 1994 and was full time in the field in 1998.
C&S Company has maintained business since 1934. With the ebbs and flow of the construction market, the Cantarellas have figured out the formula of what success means to them. Positioning themselves correctly for almost seventy years enabled them to start Cantarella & Son in 2003. Creating a different company under the same family was strategically done to enable more coverage with a larger territory. Paul Junior became President of Cantarella & Son in 2003 focusing his masonry efforts in Western Mass and Vermont. In 2014 when Paul L. Cantarella decided to semi-retire, Paul Junior began to oversee the daily operation of C&S Company, too, whose primary focus is in New York.
To this day, C & S Company and Cantarella & Son are both in full operation. Upstate Masonry Institute was lucky enough to have the opportunity to sit and interview both Paul L. Cantarella and Paul Junior. All questions are answered by Paul L. Cantarella, except the last.
1. Having successfully kept your doors open, what is some advice you would give to a new comer starting their own construction business?
Joining the local Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers provided me knowledge to be the best tradesman I could be, both for my individual self and for a company. If you don't know what you are doing, and pretend you do, it will catch up to you. If I could leave behind one piece of advice it would be to be proud of the work you stand behind — if you instill that into your work ethic and into your crew, the opportunities are endless.
2. What are some struggles you have faced in your career as a mason contractor?
Getting people interested. I know this isn't just a mason's problem, we are seeing this problem across the board in construction and it blows my mind. I would think you would see a surplus of people wanting to get into the construction field because it's an opportunity to meet new people and build properties you can look at and say, 'I built that with my own two hands,' all while earning a decent wage!
3. The masonry trade isn't an easy trade to perform, what is one piece of advice you give a new mason joining the industry?
Become an expert in your trade. If you are a good craftsman you will work hard, but you will always have a job.
4. It is my understanding you put a big spotlight on safety, it's obviously more than just protocol for you. Why did you choose safety as one of the integral pillars to the company?
I am absolutely petrified of heights. They call me the one handed bricklayer — one hand on the scaffold, one hand laying the brick— and that personal fear has turned up our standard. What we do isn't easy work, it is hard on the mind and body. I want the Cantarella crew to understand we are thinking of them— the safer they are in the field, the greater their likelihood of a safe return home. Cantarella isn't just a company, we are a family and we watch out for one another. The safety of our employees is greater than any OSHA protocol.
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