Home Posts tagged 30 Years
Home Improvement

Reflecting on a Legacy

From left, partners Steve Girard, Jennifer Gagnon, and Bob Girard.Photo by Market Mentors

From left, partners Steve Girard, Jennifer Gagnon, and Bob Girard.
Photo by Market Mentors


To build a company and steer it to three decades of growth, one needs to be future-focused. But Steve Girard has been thinking a lot about the past, too.

“When you get to my age, you start thinking about your legacy,” said Steve Girard, president of Girard Heating and Air Conditioning, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2023. “I’m proud of the guys I’ve trained over the years who are doing great things in the industry — they can track their lineage back to me, and that means a lot. The other thing is, we’ve got customers who are grandparents, and we took care of their kids and then their grandchildren. I look at the generations of people we’ve helped, and in some instances, they almost feel like part of the family.”

Since opening his doors in Westfield in 1993, Girard said, the company has become the premier installer of ductless Mitsubishi Electric cooling and heating systems and has consistently provided service that exceeds customer expectations. It’s a legacy — there’s that word again — he says he’s continuing from previous generations.

Indeed, Girard began his career during his middle-school years when he worked for his grandfather, who owned a heating and cooling company. “I didn’t realize I was learning anything,” he said. “I thought I was just hanging out with my grandfather.” 

After enrolling at Westfield State University, Girard continued working during school breaks for the person who bought his grandfather’s shop. Realizing how much he knew about the industry, he took a summer job at Westside Air Conditioning. 

“It’s not like we came up with a recipe 30 years ago and just rode it out. We come up with a plan for three or four years, then we have to scrap it and come up with a new one.”

“I had a great summer and loved what I was doing,” he recalled. “I decided to continue working, and did not go back to college.” 

After being employed as an installation foreman for another company, Girard decided to start his own business. He brought his brother, Bob Girard, and his cousin, Jennifer Gagnon, into the business, and about a decade in, the three became partners in the company. 

“Having been a part of the business since its inception, I am so proud to see Girard thrive over the past 30 years,” Bob Girard said. “I’m excited to see what future successes lie ahead for our business.”

Steve Girard said one of the biggest changes he’s witnessed in the industry has been technology. “There’s just so much going on now with technology, connectivity, smart systems, and everything else. It can be daunting at times.”

He added that, over the past three decades, he’s had to adapt the business many times to meet consumer demands and trends, such as the recent interest in heat pumps (see related story on page 43).

“It’s not like we came up with a recipe 30 years ago and just rode it out,” he concluded. “We come up with a plan for three or four years, then we have to scrap it and come up with a new one.”


Super 60

Recognition Program Marks 30 Years with Oct. 25 Event

Now in its 30th year, the Springfield Regional Chamber’s Super 60 program celebrates the success of the fastest-growing privately-owned businesses in the region. Businesses on the Total Revenue and Revenue Growth categories for 2019 represent all sectors of the economy, including nonprofits, transportation, healthcare, technology, manufacturing, retail, and hospitality. Some have been named to the Super 60 once or many times before, and some are brand-new to the list.

This year’s Super 60 Celebration event will take place on Friday, Oct. 25 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at Chez Josef in Agawam. Sheila Coon, founder of Hot Oven Cookies, will be the keynote speaker at the event, which is presented by Health New England and sponsored by People’s United Bank, Wells Fargo Bank, the Republican, MassHire Hampden County Workforce Board, and Zasco Productions.

Hot Oven Cookies began in 2015, when Coon started baking cookies for her children while she was in culinary school. She started her business as a cookie-delivery service. With business education from Valley Venture Mentors and SPARK EforAll in Holyoke, the delivery business expanded to a food truck, from which Coon began selling cookies from her repertoire of more than 100 recipes, inspired by her children, at farmers’ markets and other events. When her food truck constantly sold out of cookies, Coon knew there was potential for more.

Coon is also a graduate of the first cohort of RiseUp Springfield, a seven-month, intensive, hands-on program for established and small business owners, powered by Interise’s StreetWise ‘MBA’ curriculum in collaboration with the city of Springfield, the Assoc. of Black Business & Professionals, and the Springfield Regional Chamber.

In just four short years, Coon has found sweet success with Hot Oven Cookies. In 2018, she and her husband, David, opened the brand’s first retail location at 1597 Main St. in Springfield. She has plans to open a production facility in Agawam to accommodate her current business as well as plans for a wholesale business and an online store with national shipping of Hot Oven’s uncooked frozen cookie dough.

“Hot Oven Cookies is an example of a true entrepreneurial story about how an idea, a passion, or a hobby can become a thriving business with dedication and taking advantage of the small-business resources available in Western Massachusetts,” said Nancy Creed, president of the Springfield Regional Chamber. “We are thrilled to have a graduate of the first cohort of RiseUp Springfield take the stage at Super 60 to share her success story.”

The event costs $60 for chamber members and $75 for general admission. Reservations may be made for tables of eight or 10. The deadline for reservations is Wednesday, Oct. 16. No cancellations are accepted after that date, and no walk-ins will be allowed. Reservations must be made online at www.springfieldregionalchamber.com or by e-mailing [email protected].

Total Revenue:

1. Whalley Computer Associates Inc.*
2. Marcotte Ford Sales Inc.
3. Tighe & Bond*
Arrow Security Co. Inc.
Baltazar Contractors
Bob Pion Buick GMC Inc.
Center Square Grill (Fun Dining Inc.)
Charter Oak Financial
Commercial Distributing Co. Inc.
Con-Test Analytical Laboratory (Filli, LLC)
Court Square Group Inc.
David R. Northup Electrical Contractors Inc.
The Dowd Agencies, LLC
E.F. Corcoran Plumbing & Heating Co. Inc.*
Freedom Credit Union
Governors America Corp. / GAC Management Co.*
Haluch Water Contracting Inc.
Holyoke Pediatrics Associates, LLP
JET Industries Inc.
Kittredge Equipment Co. Inc.
Lancer Transportation / Sulco Warehousing & Logistics
Louis and Clark Drug Inc.
Maybury Associates Inc.*
Paragus Strategic IT
Rediker Software Inc.
Rock Valley Tool, LLC
Skip’s Outdoor Accents Inc.
Tiger Press (Shafii’s Inc.)
Troy Industries Inc.
United Personnel Services Inc.

Revenue Growth:

1. The Nunes Companies Inc.
2. Brewmasters Brewing Services, LLC
3. Christopher Heights of Northampton
A.G. Miller Co. Inc.
Adam Quenneville Roofing & Siding Inc.*
American Pest Solutions Inc.
Baystate Crushing and Recycling Inc.
Burgess, Schultz & Robb, P.C.
City Enterprise Inc.*
Courier Express Inc.
EOS Approach, LLC / Proshred Security International
Gallagher Real Estate
GMH Fence Company Inc.
Goss & McLain Insurance Agency Inc.
Greenough Packaging & Maintenance Supplies Inc.
Kenney Masonry, LLC
Knight Machine Tool Company Inc.
L & L Property Service, LLC
Ludlow Heating and Cooling Inc.
Michael’s Party Rentals Inc.
Oasis Shower Doors (EG Partners, LLC)*
Pioneer Valley Financial Group, LLC
R.R. Leduc Corp.*
Sanderson MacLeod Inc.
Springfield Thunderbirds (Springfield Hockey, LLC)
Summit Careers Inc.
United Industrial Textile Products Inc.
Villa Rose Restaurant (Tavares and Branco Enterprises Inc.)
Webber & Grinnell Insurance Agency Inc.*
Westside Finishing Co. Inc.*

*Qualified in both categories

Total Revenue​

1. Whalley Computer Associates Inc.*
One Whalley Way, Southwick
(413) 569-4200
John Whalley, President
WCA is a locally owned family business that has evolved from a hardware resale and service group in the ’70s and ’80s into a company that now focuses on lowering the total cost of technology and productivity enhancement for its customers.

2. Marcotte Ford Sales Inc.
1025 Main St., Holyoke
(413) 536-1900
Bryan Marcotte, President
The dealership sells new Ford vehicles as well as pre-owned cars, trucks, and SUVs, and features a full service department. Marcotte has achieved Ford’s President’s Award multiple occasions over the past decade. It also operates the Marcotte Commercial Truck Center.

3. Tighe & Bond*
53 Southampton Road, Westfield
(413) 562-1600
Robert Belitz, President and CEO
Tighe & Bond is a full-service engineering and environmental consulting firm offering myriad services, including building engineering, coastal and waterfront solutions, environmental consulting, GIS and asset management, site planning and design, transportation engineering, and water and wastewater engineering.

Arrow Security Co. Inc
124 Progress Ave., Springfield
(413) 732-6787
John Debarge Jr., President
This company provides security for all types of clients and issues, including industrial plant security, patrol services with security checks for homeowners, free security surveys, and more provided by a management team that consists of a diverse group of professionals with law enforcement, private-sector security, and military backgrounds.

Baltazar Contractors
83 Carmelinas Circle, Ludlow
(413) 583-6160
Frank Baltazar, President
Baltazar Contractors is a family-owned construction firm specializing in roadway construction and reconstruction; all aspects of site-development work; sewer, water, storm, and utilities; and streetscape improvements in Massachusetts and Connecticut.

Bob Pion Buick GMC Inc.
333 Memorial Dr., Chicopee
(413) 206-9251
Rob Pion, General Manager
Bob Pion Buick GMC carries a wide selection of new and pre-owned cars, crossovers, and SUVs, and also offers competitive lease specials and a full service department.

Center Square Grill (Fun Dining Inc.)
84 Center Square, East Longmeadow
(413) 525-0055
Michael Sakey, Bill Collins, Proprietors
Center Square Grill serves traditional American food, with hints of classically prepared French sauces, Latin-inspired fish dishes, and standard Italian repertoire. The facility also has a catering service and hosts events of all kinds.

Charter Oak Financial
330 Whitney Ave., Holyoke
(413) 539-2000
brendan naughton, general agent
Charter Oak’s services include risk management (including life insurance, disability income insurance, and long-term-care insurance), business planning and protection, retirement planning and investments, and fee-based financial planning.

Commercial Distributing Co. Inc.
46 South Broad St., Westfield
(413) 562-9691
Richard Placek, Chairman
Commercial Distributing Co. is a family-owned business servicing more than 1,000 bars, restaurants, and clubs, as well as more than 400 package and liquor stores. Now in its third generation, the company continues to grow by building brands and offering new products as the market changes.

Con-Test Analytical Laboratory (Filli, LLC)
39 Spruce St., East Longmeadow
(413) 525-2332
Tom Veratti, Founder and Consultant
Con-Test Inc. provides industrial-hygiene and analytical services to a broad range of clients. Originally focused on industrial-hygiene analysis, the laboratory-testing division has expanded its capabilities to include numerous techniques in air analysis, classical (wet) chemistry, metals, and organics.

Court Square Group Inc.
1350 Main St., Springfield
(413) 746-0054
Keith Parent, President
Court Square is a leading managed-services company that provides an audit-ready, compliant cloud (ARCC) infrastructure for its clients and partners in the life-sciences industry.

David R. Northup Electrical Contractors Inc.
73 Bowles Road, Agawam
(413) 786-8930
David Northup, President
This is a family-owned, full-service electrical, HVAC, and plumbing contractor that specializes in everything from installation and replacement to preventive maintenance, indoor air-quality work, and sheet-metal fabrication.

The Dowd Agencies, LLC
14 Bobola Road, Holyoke
(413) 538-7444
John Dowd, President and CEO
The Dowd Agencies is the oldest insurance agency under continuous family ownership, and one of the most long-standing, experienced insurance agencies in Massachusetts.

E.F. Corcoran Plumbing & Heating Co. Inc.*
5 Rose Place, Springfield
(413) 732-1462
Charles Edwards and Brian Toomey, Co-owners
E.F. Corcoran is a full-service plumbing and HVAC contractor. Services include 24-hour plumbing service, HVAC system installs, design-build services, energy retrofits, system replacements and modifications, gas piping, boilers, and more.
Freedom Credit Union
1976 Main St., Springfield
(800) 831-0160
Glenn Welch, President and CEO
Freedom is a full-service credit union serving a wide range of business and consumer clients. Freedom has its main office on Main Street in Springfield, with other offices in Sixteen Acres, Feeding Hills, Ludlow, Chicopee, Easthampton, Northampton, Turners Falls, Greenfield, and Roger L. Putnam Vocational Technical Academy.

Governors America Corp. / GAC Management Co.*
720 Silver St., Agawam
(413) 786-5600
Sean Collins, President
GAC is a leading provider of engine-governing and system controls to a worldwide list of equipment manufacturers and power providers. The engine-control products are used in a wide range of industries, including generator set, material handling, marine propulsion, mining, locomotive, and off-highway applications.

Haluch Water Contracting Inc.
399 Fuller St., Ludlow
(413) 589-1254
Thomas Haluch, President
Haluch Water Contracting’s main lines of business include sewer contracting, underground utilities, and water-main construction.

Holyoke Pediatrics Associates, LLP
150 Lower Westfield Road, Holyoke
(413) 536-2393
Kathy Tremble, Adair Medina, Care Coordinators
HPA is the largest pediatric practice in Western Mass., providing primary-care services as well as lactation counseling, behavioral-health services, and patient education. HPA has a medical laboratory drawing site and also provides in-hospital support for new mothers.

JET Industries Inc.
307 Silver St., Agawam
(413) 786-2010
Michael Turrini, President
Jet Industries manufactures aircraft engines, parts, and equipment, as well as turbines and turbine generator sets and parts, aircraft power systems, flight instrumentation, and aircraft landing and braking systems.

Kittredge Equipment Co. Inc.
100 Bowles Road, Agawam
(413) 304-4100
Wendy Webber, President
Kittridge Equipment is a $57 million equipment and supply giant. It boasts 70,000 square feet of inventory and warehouse, handles design services, and has designed everything from small restaurants to country clubs to in-plant cafeterias.

Lancer Transportation & Logistics / Sulco Warehousing & Logistics
311 Industry Ave., Springfield
(413) 739-4880
Todd Goodrich, President
Sulco Warehousing & Logistics operates a network of distribution centers. Lancer Transportation & Logistics is a DOT-registered contract motor carrier providing regional, national, and international truckload and LTL delivery services.

Louis and Clark Drug Inc.
309 East St. Springfield
(413) 737-2996
Skip Matthews, President
Louis & Clark provides prescriptions for individuals and institutions and helps those who need home medical equipment and supplies. The company also provides professional pharmacy and compounding services, medical equipment, independent-living services, and healthcare programs.
Maybury Associates Inc.*
90 Denslow Road, East Longmeadow
(888) 629-2879
John Maybury, President
Maybury Associates has more than 80 employees and is a distributor for about 1,300 manufacturers. The company designs, supplies, and services a wide variety of handling equipment throughout New England, and provides customers in a wide range of industries with solutions to move, lift, and store their parts and products.
Paragus Strategic IT*
112 Russell St., Hadley
(413) 587-2666
Delcie Bean IV, President
Paragus has grown dramatically as an outsourced IT solution, providing business computer service, computer consulting, information-technology support, and other services to businesses of all sizes.

Rediker Software Inc.
2 Wilbraham Road, Hampden
(800) 213-9860
Andrew Anderlonis, President
Rediker Software has been providing school administrative software solutions for more than 35 years. Rediker Software is used by school administrators across the U.S. and in more than 100 countries, and is designed to meet the student-information-management needs of all types of schools and districts.

Rock Valley Tool, LLC
54 O’Neil St., Easthampton
(413) 527-2350
Elizabeth Paquette, President
Rock Valley Tool is a precision-machining facility housing both CNC and conventional machining equipment, along with a state-of-the-art inspection lab. With more than 40 years of experience, the company provides manufactured parts to customers in the aerospace, commercial/industrial, and plastic blow-molding industries.

Skip’s Outdoor Accents Inc.
1265 Suffield St., Agawam
(413) 786-0990
John and Scott Ansart, Owners
Skip’s Outdoor Accents specializes in a wide range of outdoor products, including storage sheds, gazebos, swingsets, and outdoor furniture, offering installation and delivery to sites with limited or no access. Skip’s shed and gazebo delivery is free to most of Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island.

Tiger Press (Shafii’s Inc.)
50 Industrial Ave., East Longmeadow
(413) 224-2100
Reza Shafii, Jennifer Shafii, Owners
TigerPress is a sustainable, eco-friendly printer, using green technology and operating in a 100,000-square-foot manufacturing plant. The company offers digital printing, commercial printing, and custom package printing all under one roof.

Troy Industries Inc.
151 Capital Dr., West Springfield
(866) 788-6412
Steve Troy, CEO
Troy Industries is an industry leader that designs and manufactures innovative, top-quality small arms components and accessories and complete weapon upgrades. All products are American-made and designed to perform flawlessly under intense battle conditions.

United Personnel Services Inc.
289 Bridge St., Springfield
(413) 736-0800
Tricia Canavan, President
United provides a full range of staffing services, including temporary staffing and full-time placement, on-site project management, and strategic recruitment in the Springfield, Hartford, and Northampton areas, specializing in administrative, professional, medical, and light-industrial staff.

Revenue Growth

1. The Nunes Companies Inc.
658 Center St., Ludlow
(413) 308-4940
Armando Nunes, President
The Nunes Companies offers services such as sitework, road construction, and roll-off dumpster rentals, relying on leadership, quality, and cutting-edge technology to get the job done.

2. Brewmasters
Brewing Services, LLC
4 Main St., Williamsburg
(413) 268-2199
Dennis Bates, Michael Charpentier, Owners
Brewmasters Brewing Services is a small craft brewery offering a wide variety of services, including contract brewing and distilling.

3. Christopher Heights
of Northampton
50 Village Hill Road, Northampton
(413) 584-0701
michael taylor, executive director
Christopher Heights is a mixed-use community located in a natural setting that features scenic mountain views and walking paths. Residents and staff each bring their own experiences and talents, which are recognized and often incorporated into social activities and programs.

A.G. Miller Co. Inc.
53 Batavia St., Springfield
(413) 732-9297
Rick Miller, President
A leader in the metal-fabricating industry, the company’s services include precision metal fabrication; design and engineering; assembly; forming, rolling, and bending; laser cutting; punching; precision saw cutting; welding; powder coating; and liquid painting.

Adam Quenneville Roofing & Siding Inc.*
160 Old Lyman Road, South Hadley
(413) 536-5955
Adam Quenneville, CEO
Adam Quenneville offers a wide range of residential and commercial services, including new roofs, retrofitting, roof repair, roof cleaning, vinyl siding, replacement windows, and the no-clog Gutter Shutter system. The company has earned the BBB Torch Award for trust, performance, and integrity.

American Pest Solutions Inc.
169 William St., Springfield
(413) 781-0044
Bob Russell, President
American Pest Solutions is a full-service pest-solutions company founded in 1913. With two locations, the company serves residential and commercial customers, offering inspection, treatment, and ongoing protection.

Baystate Crushing and Recycling Inc.
36 Carmelinas Circle, Ludlow
(413) 583-4440
Paul Baltazar, President
Baystate Blasting Inc. is a family-owned drilling and blasting firm that provides a full range of rock-blasting and rock-crushing services, including sitework, heavy highway construction, residential work, quarry, and portable crushing and recycling. An ATF-licensed dealer of explosives, it offers rental of individual magazines.

Burgess, Schultz & Robb, P.C.
200 North Main St., South Building,
Suite 1, East Longmeadow
(413) 525-0025
Andrew Robb, Managing Partner
Burgess, Schultz & Robb, P.C. is a professional certified public accounting firm providing audit, tax, business-advisory, and business-management services to private businesses, trusts, tax-exempt organizations, and individuals.
City Enterprise Inc.*
52-60 Berkshire Ave., Springfield
(413) 726-9549
Wonderlyn Murphy, President
City Enterprises Inc. is a general contractor with a diverse portfolio of clients, including the Groton Naval submarine base, Westover Air Reserve Base, the Federal Aviation Administration, the National Park Service, the Army Corps of Engineers, and many others.

Courier Express Inc.
111 Carando Dr., Springfield
(413) 730-6620
Eric Devine, President
Courier Express is committed to providing custom, same-day delivery solutions for any shipment and a courteous, prompt, and professional delivery agent. The company ships everything from a single envelope to multiple pallets.

EOS Approach, LLC / Proshred Security International
75 Post Office Park, Wilbraham
(413) 596-5479
Joe Kelly, Owner
Proshred specializes in the secure, on-site information destruction of confidential and sensitive documents, computer hard drives, and electronic media. It is an ISO 9001:2008 certified and NAID AAA certified mobile shredding company.
Gallagher Real Estate
1763 Northampton St., Holyoke
(413) 536-7232
Paul Gallagher, Owner
Gallagher Real Estate is an independent brokerage that operates in Hampshire and Hampden counties in Massachusetts and Hartford County in Connecticut. The company specializes in both residential and commercial properties and has offices in Holyoke, South Hadley, East Longmeadow, and Springfield.

GMH Fence Co. Inc.
15 Benton Dr., East Longmeadow
(413) 525-3361
Glenn Hastie, Owner
GMH Fence Co. is one of the largest fence companies in the region, offering fence installations from a selection of wood, aluminum, steel, and vinyl fencing for residential and commercial customers.

Goss & McLain Insurance Agency Inc.
1767 Northampton St., Holyoke
(413) 534-7355
Deborah Buckley, President
Goss & McLain is an independent insurance agency offering a diverse portfolio of personal and business property and liability insurance, as well as life and health insurance. It also insures homes, cars, and businesses and protects against personal and business liabilities.
Greenough Packaging & Maintenance Supplies Inc.
54 Heywood Ave., West Springfield
(800) 273-2308
Craig Cassanelli, President
Greenough is a distributor of shipping, packaging, safety, breakroom, janitorial, cleaning, and facility-maintenance supplies. It also offers custom solutions to customers, such as printed bags, cups, and napkins, as well as custom packaging, including printed tape, boxes, stretch wrap, and strapping.

Kenney Masonry, LLC
P.O. Box 2506, Amherst
(413) 256-0400
Sarahbeth Kenney, Owner
Kenney Masonry is a family-owned company with more than 150 years of combined construction experience working with brick, block, stone, and concrete on commercial, institutional, public, and residential projects.

Knight Machine Tool Company Inc.
11 Industrial Dr., South Hadley
(413) 532-2507
Gary O’Brien, Owner
Knight Machine & Tool Co. is a metalworking and welding company that offers blacksmithing, metal roofing, and other services from its 11,000-square-foot facility.

L & L Property Service, LLC
582 Amostown Road, West Springfield
(413) 732-2739
Richard Lapinski, Owner
L & L Property Services is a locally owned company providing an array of property services, including lawn care, snow removal, sanding, excavations, patios and stone walls, hydroseeding, and more.

Ludlow Heating and Cooling Inc.
1056 Center St., Ludlow
(413) 583-6923
Karen Sheehan, President
Ludlow Heating & Cooling is a full-service energy company dedicated to providing quality heating and cooling product services including new system installation, oil heat delivery, and maintenance to an existing system.

Michael’s Party Rentals Inc.
1221 South Main St., Palmer
(413) 589-7368
Michael Linton, Owner
Michael’s Party Rentals operates year-round, seven days a week. Its 9,000-square-foot warehouse holds more than 100 tents of all sizes, tables, chairs, dance flooring, staging, lighting, and an extensive array of rental equipment for any type of party.

Oasis Shower Doors
(EG Partners, LLC)*
646 Springfield St., Feeding Hills
(800) 876-8420
Thomas Daly, Owner
Oasis is New England’s largest designer, fabricator, and installer of custom frameless glass shower enclosures and specialty glass, offering a wide array of interior glass entry systems and storefronts, sliding and fixed glass partition walls, back-painted glass, and switchable privacy glass for bedrooms, offices, and conference rooms.

Pioneer Valley
Financial Group, LLC
1252 Elm St., Suite 28, West Springfield
(413) 363-9265
Joseph Leonczyk, Charles Myers, Senior Partners
PV Financial helps clients pursue their goals through careful financial planning and sound investment strategy. Services include retirement planning, asset growth, business planning, college funding, estate planning, and risk management.

R.R. Leduc Corp.*
100 Bobala Road, Holyoke
(413) 536-4329
Robert LeDuc, President
Since its inception in 1967, the R.R. Leduc Corp. has been a family-owned business that specializes in precision sheet metal and custom powder coatings. The company produces a variety of products for the communication, military, medical, electronics, and commercial industries.

Sanderson MacLeod Inc.
1199 South Main St., Palmer
(413) 283-3481
Mark Borsari, President
From breakthrough brush innovation projects to supply-chain integration, Sanderson MacLeod leverages its experience and know-how in ways that produce high-quality twisted-wire brushes for its customers.

Springfield Thunderbirds (Springfield Hockey, LLC)
45 Bruce Landon Way, Springfield
(413) 739-4625
Nathan Costa, President
The Springfield Thunderbirds are a professional ice hockey team and the AHL affiliate of the NHL’s Florida Panthers. Since the team began to play in the area in 2016, it has formed the T-Birds Foundation, a 501(c)(3) public charity that benefits causes in Springfield and surrounding Pioneer Valley communities.
Summit Careers Inc.
85 Mill St., Suite B, Springfield
(413) 733-9506
Bryan Picard, Owner
Summit Careers is a full-service staffing and recruiting firm that provides temporary, temp-to-hire, and direct-hire services for clients in a variety of sectors, including light industrial, warehouse, professional trades, administrative, accounting, and executive.

United Industrial Textile Products Inc.
321 Main St., West Springfield
(413) 737-0095
Wayne Perry, President
UIT is a family-owned manufacturer that has been making high-quality covers for commercial, military, and industrial applications for more than 60 years. Craftsmen at the company specialize in the creation of custom covers that are manufactured to each client’s unique specifications.

Villa Rose Restaurant (Tavares and Branco Enterprises Inc.)
1428 Center St., Ludlow
(413) 547-6667
Tony Tavares, Owner
Nestled across from the Ludlow reservoir, the Villa Rose offers fine dining in a relaxed and intimate atmosphere. The restaurant offers a private room with availability for weddings, receptions, showers, anniversaries, and any other banquet function from 30 to 175 people.

Webber & Grinnell
Insurance Agency Inc.*
8 North King St., Northampton
(413) 586-0111
Bill Grinnell, President
Webber and Grinnell has provided insurance protection for thousands of individuals and businesses throughout the Pioneer Valley for more than 150 years. The agency is balanced between business insurance, personal insurance, and employee benefits.

Westside Finishing Co. Inc.*
15 Samosett St., Holyoke
(413) 533-4909
Brian Bell, President
Westside Finishing is a family-owned business specializing in a wide array of services, including pre-treatment/cleaning, conveyorized powder coating, batch powder coating, silk screening, pad printing, masking, packaging, and trucking.

Modern Office

They’re Not Sitting Still

Mark Proshan

When the Lexington Group was launched in the waning days of the 1980s, the office was in many ways a different place than it is today. Spaces are more open, people can now stand at their desks, and the ‘world of sitting’ has evolved in ways that might not have been imagined years ago. As it celebrates 30 years in operation, the Lexington Group embraces change, but really embraces what hasn’t changed — the basic fundamentals of serving customers.

It’s been not quite 30 years since the collapsing Monarch Insurance Co. handed employee Mark Proshan an additional assignment — find a buyer for roughly $3.5 million in office furniture it no longer needed — one that ended with him becoming that buyer.

With that acquisition, he founded the Lexington Group, which, now as then, operates out of former manufacturing space in the old Gilbarco complex on Union Street in West Springfield, selling and repairing new and used office furniture.

As he talked with BusinessWest about those 30 years, Proshan noted two things that might seem obvious. The first is that they’ve gone by very quickly. The second is that they have been marked by constant and sometimes profound change.

Indeed, Proshan now regularly attends ergonomics conferences — there weren’t many, if any, of those in 1989. He sells sit-stand desks and something called the Magis Spun chair (it’s large, orange, looks more like a sculpture than a chair, and, yes, it rocks and spins; it’s popular in college dorm lounges). And today, rather than browse the showroom (although some still do that), many customers come in with a cell phone and show Proshan a picture of what they want. They weren’t doing that in 1989, either.

But what’s far more significant to him — not that these changes are not noteworthy — is what hasn’t changed.

Mark Proshan says there have been many changes in the inventory on the showroom floor over the past 30 years, but what’s more important is what hasn’t changed — the fundamentals of business.

“The fundamentals of doing business have never changed, in my opinion,” he told BusinessWest. “The technology and the gadgetry and the wizardry of doing business have changed, but the need to listen, establish relationships, understand, and guide someone to what would be a good solution for them — those don’t change, and that’s what we’ve always done.”

This focus on listening, guiding, and relationship building has enabled Lexington Group to enjoy consistent growth over the years, to the point where it now occupies roughly 165,000 square feet, more than eight times the amount it struggled to fill with inventory when it first opened, and employs 30 people full-time, as opposed to the two part-timers Proshan started with.

Change, as noted, has been a constant when it comes to everything from products to how people shop to the height of cubicle walls (they were 70 inches on average, and now they’re typically 48 to 54). Meanwhile, the percentage of used furniture sold compared to new, which was roughly 60-40, is now the exact opposite, and probably closer to 20-80 as customer demands change.

The client list has changed and grown as well, said Proshan, adding that it includes many of the region’s colleges and universities, hundreds of businesses large and small, and a growing number of entrepreneurs launching new ventures.

These are just some of the things the company is celebrating as it marks this important milestone, with the official anniversary date coming in December.

It will celebrate in unique style well before that, though, with an event that’s been staged in most other markets before, but not this one, to the best of Proshan’s knowledge.

We’re talking about chair hockey.

Yes, this is hockey played in chairs — specifically Aeron Chairs manufactured by Herman Miller, a company that has been helping to stage such competitions across the country and around the world. In fact, the phrase often used is Aeron hockey.

Set for Oct. 2 at Lexington’s facilities — the center aisle in the main showroom is 30 feet wide, ample enough for such a purpose — this event will feature top collegiate teams squaring off, with the winner moving on to play a delegation from the Springfield Thunderbirds. A contingent from American International College, which last spring sent a team deep into the NCAA tournament, has signed on, as has UMass Amherst, which went all the way to the championship game last spring (won by Minnesota-Duluth) to participate as well.

“The technology and the gadgetry and the wizardry of doing business have changed, but the need to listen, establish relationships, understand, and guide someone to what would be a good solution for them — those don’t change, and that’s what we’ve always done.”

Proceeds — and Proshan is hoping to raise $5,000 to $7,000 — will go to the Foundation for TJO Animals.

Funds will be raised by selling Aeron chairs to be used in the tournament to participating companies (at an amount well below sticker price). Companies get their name on the back of the chair for the tournament, and when it’s over, they get to keep the chair.

Ultimately, Proshan is hoping this becomes an annual event, and he has ambitions to take it to a larger venue (the MassMutual Center, perhaps) and involve dozens of area businesses in the competition.

“We’re excited about this because a lot of people do walks, a lot of people do runs, and a lot of people do golf tournaments, but this has never been done before,” he said, adding that this year’s hockey competition doubles (or triples) as an anniversary celebration and networking event for the region.

And it’s an appropriate way to mark the company’s milestone because it represents something new, different, and forward-looking, qualities the company has strived to embody from the very beginning.

Chair Man

As he talked about his business and his industry, Proshan acknowledged what many probably knew already: office furniture is not exactly rocket science.

But it is certainly more than filling a warehouse with desks, chairs, file cabinets, and credenzas and waiting, as he noted, for people to come in, bring their phones out, and show pictures of what they want. This is, indeed, a customer-service-focused business, even if the customer might not fully grasp this at the beginning.

“With office furniture, people will often come in thinking that they know what they want,” he said. “But when you question them as to why, they start to look at things differently.”

To get his point across, Proshan summoned one of the myriad anecdotes he’s collected over three decades as a business owner.

Mark Proshan, seen here with his dog and frequent work companion, Beckett, says the company will celebrate 30 years with an Aeron hockey competition.

“A guy came in a few years ago, and he wanted a very traditional, bank-like-looking leather chair to sit at his desk in,” Proshan recalled. “It had all of the looks of old-school banking and power, and that’s what he wanted. And when I talked with him, he said he was also having trouble with his back.

“I told him this chair would do nothing to help with any physical ailments he was experiencing, and also told him I understood what he was going for in terms of a look,” he went on. “But I told him he needed to weigh that against the benefits of some of the technological advancements that have come out in the world of sitting.”

Fast-forwarding a little, Proshan said he showed the customer an Aeron chair, and the response was “absolutely not — this is not what I have in mind.” He then enticed him to sit in one. When the customer left the showroom, he took one of the chairs with him.

That story provides a simple yet effective tutorial in how this business is carried out, or should be carried out.

“It’s that kind of guiding people to what may be a more favorable outcome that they may not have been aware of when they came in that still takes place,” he said. “And that’s really the key to success in this business.”

Meanwhile, that story also provides more evidence of how things have changed.

Exhibit A is that phrase Proshan used above — ‘the world of sitting.’ It has changed considerably in 30 years, and even in the past few years. And, as noted with that reference to the sit-stand desks now populating the workplace (Proshan has one himself), people are doing less of it.

But when they do sit … well, there are options, more of them than some might imagine.

Like the Magis Spun chair, made by Herman Miller and described in marketing materials as “a fun and functional chair that lets you rock side to side or spin around.” And like the Berdi Perchiching sit-stand stool, made by Ergonomic Solutions. As the name suggests, it’s designed for use with sit-stand desks, and, further, it’s designed to enable people to exercise their core while sitting and working.

Proshan, who also has one of these, explains, with insight gathered at one of those ergonomics conferences he now attends:

“The experts say that not only should we stand, but we should be constantly engaging our hips and our core,” he said, referring to the now-universally accepted opinion that people need to sit less. “And I have a chair with a bottom that moves so that you constantly engage the hips and your core and are more active than if you were just standing.”

As for the aforementioned height of cubicle walls, and the more-open nature of today’s offices, a topic of considerable import in this business, Proshan won’t predict anything, but he said he’s heard anecdotally that they may be soon be rising again.

“Things seem to cycle, and there’s a question about how long it will be before the walls go back up and people want their private and individual spaces again,” he told BusinessWest. “And that’s good news if you’re in this industry, because then you’ll have an opportunity to provide product in that new design mode.”

He added that it’s not his job to predict what will come, but to be ready for it, and to help customers be ready for it. And that’s another thing that hasn’t changed since he put a sign over his door.

Bottom Line

Returning to the question of what has changed and what hasn’t in 30 years, Proshan said his office provides ample evidence of the former, between his desk and his ergonomically correct chair.

As for the latter, he goes back to his comments about the fundamentals of business — and his in particular.

“The basics of office furniture haven’t changed that much in a very long time,” he said. “There’s a place to sit, a place to stand, and a place to collaborate. It’s not that dynamic.

“It’s still about the fundamentals — paying attention to who your customers are and what they’re asking you to do, and being there when they need you to be there,” he went on. “Those are the things that are constants, and they’re as important now as they were back then.”

A sharp focus on those fundamentals has helped Lexington Group grow and thrive through three decades of change to the so-called ‘modern office,’ and this is what will carry it through the next chapters in its intriguing history.

George O’Brien can be reached at [email protected]