MODULAR HOME DEVELOPMENT
Main: 7930 Olean Rd. (Rte. 16), Franklinville, NY
With a family that’s been in the real estate business for over 100 years, Triton Homes is the go-to modular home developer in the greater Western New York area.
Let’s go back in time for a quick history lesson. It was the 1970s, and the United States was experiencing the worst oil embargo in our nation’s short history. Interest rates skyrocketed to as high as 18% for a mortgage, and the construction world collapsed.
William “Robin” Pfeil, the 3rd generation of the family to work in the business, had done his thesis in graduate school on mobile homes for the elderly. The company had been Western New York’s largest buyer and seller of foreclosed homes - until the embargo, when the whole market started to spin out of control. Robin knew change was needed, so he sat down with his brother and father to discuss a change of plans.
“What we had been doing, it wasn’t working anymore,” he said. “I suggested we get into the mobile home business. In 1978, we bought a park in Arcade. By 1982, we were ready to buy another one - and we did, in East Aurora. Now, we have sales facilities in Franklinville, Chaffee and Derby.”
By now, Triton Homes is the go-to custom modular home developer for the Western New York area. Because most towns and villages don’t allow mobile homes to be developed on individual spots of land (only in parks) it drove the Pfeils to adapt and get into modular homes.
“The product today is just wonderful,” Robin said. “The companies are great and the warranty and support networks are excellent to deal with.”
In 2008, the country underwent one of the worst things since the oil embargo - the collapse of the housing market. But Western New York somehow stayed immune from its effects, and Triton’s business didn’t take that bad of a hit.
“Our Western New York housing market, it’s stodgy,” Robin said. “We never had the run up in values. That kind of housing disaster just never really hit us. There was a dip in those years, to be sure. But we didn’t have the bust you saw in other places like Florida or California.”
One of the biggest misconceptions about modular homes is that people think they’re going to save tons and tons of money by choosing it over a traditionally-built house. Robin says that’s just not the case.
“All of the things that are required to build a home - garages, foundations, etc. - all those costs stay the same. Where people do save money is the time it takes to build the home, which is about half the time. The real benefit of it is that they’re built in factories. When the lumber comes in, it all goes under intense quality control. The materials aren’t left outside in the rain or mud. There are quality control guys always on-hand, always looking for deficiencies.”
Triton deals exclusively with Ritz-Craft products for its modular homes, which is high end. There’s an iPad app that you should definitely check out, as it allows you to fool around with floor plans and different customizations.
The Pfeil family has been around housing for over 100 years … four generations. They know what they’re doing. If you’re looking for the peace of mind when building a home, look no further than Triton Homes.
J.D. NORTHRUP CONSTRUCTION
Site Preparation for Large Scale Projects
5767 Route 219, Ellicottville, NY
J.D. Northrup Construction has been an Ellicottville staple for the past few decades. Although it’s Karl running the show now, the quality of work and prestigious reputation remains the same.
When you’re building a home or starting a new project, it’s nice knowing those working on the site are ones you can trust will get it done correctly the first time. Enter J.D. Northrup Construction.
The Northrup name is known for its work on site preparation for large-scale projects. Things like foundations, sewage and storm drains - all of the things that you don’t think about or take for granted - are the things that has allowed Northrup Construction to maintain a pristine name.
In April of 2008, longtime owner and founder John looked to retire. His son, Karl, was looking to buy the business.
“Dad wanted to retire, but still provide jobs for his employees,” Karl said. “I really wanted to buy it. It took a while - hey, it’s a big business - but we got it done. It was something that we both wanted to happen.”
When the jobs are done well, there’s peace of mind for both the employer and the buyer. Karl maintains the same mantra as his dad when it comes to the work.
“We instill in the guys that we expect them to do work as if they were doing it on their own property,” he said. “That’s continued since Dad was here. Take pride in what you do.”
If you’ve heard of HoliMont’s new Westmont Ridge development plan, you know that it's going to require some heavy lifting. The process includes clearing the site, balancing it for the roads, installation of water, sewer, storm drainage, concrete curbs, asphalt, signing, guard rails and top soil seed.
“It’s going to be shovel ready to build on,” Karl said.
One really cool thing that the company does is called Horizontal Directional Drilling. Instead of tearing up the road, horizontal drilling allows the crew to go underneath - without affecting anything up top.
“It’s a really cool process,” Karl said. “We’ve been doing it in Williamsville and Amherst for the past couple of years - installing Verizon’s FiOs cables. We can also go underneath a farmer’s field so we don’t have to tear up any of the field or the crops. It’s something that’s given us a whole new dynamic.”
The most visual change for the company came in 2012, when Karl bought the old Johnson Brothers car dealership on Route 219 towards Great Valley.
“We grew out of our old spot,” Karl said. “The new location - with our shop, the office, everything in and out - is much nicer. There’s way more space for the equipment, and everything is contained right here.”
J.D. Northrup Construction is now in its 2nd generation of family ownership, with Karl’s wife Jill as acting vice president. Most of the employees are local guys, and Northrups has won multiple awards in terms of safety records.
“We’ve got a good thing going here,” Karl said. “We’ve got two little girls and plan on raising them around here. I’m doing the same thing Dad did.”
WORTH W. SMITH
HOME IMPROVEMENT FOR 85 YEARS
Main: 1624 W. State St., Olean, NY
A local favorite for homeowners and contractors alike, Worth W. Smith’s old-school customer service complements its expansive, specialty inventory for an experience you just can’t get at a big box store.
When you walk into a Worth W. Smith store, you feel it. It’s not a Home Depot, nor a Lowes. Nor does it wish itself to be. There’s nothing like the smell and look of an independently owned hardware store. It doesn’t matter if you’re a new homeowner or a seasoned contractor, because everyone feels it.
Founded in 1929 by the man of the name on the building, the Smith family has navigated - and maintained success - through a Great Depression, a World War, a baby boom, recessions, a Cold War, and the onslaught of the Internet and big box stores. It’s not a coincidence they’re still around.
“My grandfather was a very enterprising individual,” said Nate Smith, the company’s current owner. “He owned a multitude of businesses, until a man he knew that owned a toy factory in Smethport, PA gave him some worn-out grinding wheels. The wheels were still in good shape, but the toy company couldn’t use them anymore. So Worth drove around and sold them out of the back of his truck. And that’s how this whole thing started.”
Worth traveled up and down the Eastern seaboard and as far west as Indianapolis selling supplies out of his truck. Then, life happened. After he started a family, a storefront was opened in Farmers Valley, PA. Of Worth’s four children, one stayed in the business and moved the store to Olean in the 1970s.
“The first Olean store was mainly surplus materials and industrial supplies for the logging and oil industries,” Nate said. “In the 1980s, dad had an epiphany. Take what we were doing - the surplus - and combine it with a traditional hardware store. It was unbelievable how successful it was.”
When 1990 came around, Nate’s dad moved the store to its current location in Olean. In the past ten or so years, they’ve opened locations in Bradford, PA; Salamanca, NY; East Olean; and Eldred, PA.
Nate’s dad is mostly retired, now. However, the Smith family continues to embody the enterprising spirit of Grandpa Worth.
“Two years ago, I bought the former ABC Building Supply Company that sits behind our main store,” Nate said. “I opened a new business called Backyard Bargains. It’s 85 years of accumulation. There are wrenches my grandfather owned. There are church pews. There’s glassware, upholstery, an eclectic selection of knickknacks. There are even machine gun boxes from Bulgaria. We’re blown away by how well it’s done. And we’re just getting started.”
In an age where stores like The Home Depot and Lowes can offer substantial discounts, incredible national advertising and humongous storefronts, it’s difficult for small businesses like Worth Smith to stay afloat. But there are ways to fight back, and the Smith family has found them and capitalized.
“Those stores, they are tremendous competition,” Nate said. “But they have chinks in their armor. We’ve got the people - the knowledgable employees who will go beyond the call of duty to make sure you’re getting the right stuff. The service - we do lots of hands-on service right in the store, like cut steel, sell bulk, fix windows. But I think the biggest thing is the accountability. We’re locally owned, and there’s a level of accountability there that a corporate store just can’t duplicate. We live in town and go to the same grocery store as our customers.”
The next time you’re doing some home improvement, remember the name: Worth W. Smith. They embody the American small business spirit, and they’ve been doing it well for 85 years.