Pennacchi & Sons Masonry Restoration Co.: Longtime Family Business with Proud History
FAMILY TIES: “Ours is a real family business. It has included my grandfather, my dad and uncle, my brother and me, my son, and also two nephews. We have all been part of establishing and continuing A. Pennacchi & Sons Masonry Restoration Company, which is now 72 years old.” Paul Pennacchi (right), owner and president of the Hamilton-based company, is shown with his son Paul Jr.
By Jean Stratton
A family business today stands out as unique. In times past, independently-owned and operated family businesses were seen throughout Princeton and the area, but now, such establishments have become rarities on the business landscape.
That A. Pennacchi & Sons Masonry Restoration Company has stood the test of time since its beginning in 1947 is a tribute to the determination and hard work of its founders and current owners and employees.
Actually, the company’s origin began even earlier, explains owner and president Paul Pennacchi. “1947 was the official opening, but my grandfather Gaetano Pennacchi had come from Umbria, Italy in 1918, and settled in Trenton. He was a mason, and started helping his neighbors with repair work to their houses. It was a side trade for him since he worked full-time for General Motors, but it grew into a real business.
“My dad, Anthony Sr., and my Uncle John started helping with stone and brick masonry work on weekends when they were teenagers. Originally, the headquarters was located in Trenton in one garage, and then it grew into a real family business when my father and uncle realized it could become an ongoing operation.”
The company continued to grow as the next generation became involved, and by the 1980s, the business had branched out into the surrounding area, especially in Princeton.
Paul Pennacchi and his brother Anthony Jr. began working on weekends and after school when they were boys, and eventually became the owners. Anthony Pennacchi, now semi-retired, is still involved in the company’s suburban location near Philadelphia.
“We are the oldest masonry contracting company in Mercer County. We are the ‘blue bloods’ of masonry,” points out Paul Pennacchi. “Fifty percent of our business is still residential in Princeton and the surrounding area in Mercer County. We also do commercial and institutional projects in the area and beyond.”
“I always wanted to work in the business,” he adds. “I came into it full-time after high school, and in addition to the hands-on work, I was interested in promotion and letting people know about us.”
As a full-service masonry restoration and waterproofing company, A. Pennacchi & Sons, now headquartered at 119 Buttonwood Street in Hamilton, handles brick, stone, and stucco work; brick and stone pointing; masonry and concrete repairs; chimney restoration; and waterproofing, both above and below grade. It also installs French drain systems, sump pumps, and does foundation restoration.
“We have 18 full-time employees, and many have been with us for more than 30 years,” says Pennacchi. “We also have multiple subcontractors who are employed year-round.”
Houses of worship are a particular focus for the company, he continues. “A majority of our work is religious institutions, including churches and synagogues. We have worked on 150 churches in Mercer County.”
Some years ago, the company embarked on a large-scale project for St. Paul’s Roman Catholic Church in Princeton, including cleaning, waterproofing, and restoring the stone and mortar of the then 56-year-old church.
Other previous projects have included work at Jasna Polana Country Club, St. Lawrence Rehabilitation Center, the Institute for Advanced Study, the Hamilton Township Municipal Building, the Trent House, Drumthwacket, the Clark House, McGuire Air Force Base, New Jersey state prisons, and countless private residences.
And their work stands the test of time, points out Pennacchi. “My father restored the St. Francis Medical Center in Trenton in 1954, and it looks wonderful today. It’s a beautiful building,”
“We have also worked as far north as Newport, R.I., and as far south as Washington, D.C., and North Carolina, as well as in between in New York in Brooklyn and the Bronx. Now, we are about to take on a new adventure. We are now licensed in New York City, and will begin to serve clients there.”
Staying abreast of changes is crucial to the success of any business, believes Pennacchi, and this has been important in the ongoing good fortune of A. Pennacchi & Sons.
“You cannot have a business stay stagnant; you have to adapt to the times. In the past, many buildings were stone and brick, but a lot of new modern structures are all glass now, especially in the cities like New York and Philadelphia. With these buildings, repair is done with caulking and sealants instead of mortar and cement. Glass is the modern look of buildings today.”
“We are constantly learning and researching new techniques in restoration,” he continues. “For example, my brother and nephew have completed the Jahn Restoration program, a select form of stone sculpturing, and they are pros at replicating ornate stone work.”
Even with the new look of many of today’s buildings, A. Pennacchi & Sons’ focus is the restoration of older buildings and retaining the character of the original structures. “My worst enemy is the demolition ball,” says Pennacchi. “We like to think of ourselves as the plastic surgeons of masonry. We love to repair and restore.”
Pennacchi, who is a member of Brick Layers Local Union #5, knows how important it is to be hands-on in the business, and he appreciates the skill, workmanship, and experience of his employees.
“As a bricklayer and stone mason, you serve a four- or five-year apprenticeship to a skilled mason,” he explains. “It is such a valuable experience. Our employees are our greatest asset. They are very skilled at what they do, and have their own specialties, and they are very dedicated.
“We have people who are stone masons, others who are marble setters and tile setters, others who specialize in basement waterproofing, and still others who are plasterers. Each worker specializes in a particular area, and here at Pennacchi & Sons, we all work as a team.”
The time frame for projects varies considerably depending on the scope of the job, he says. Also, in some cases, work can be done in stages, which can be helpful for budget considerations.
“We are diversified, and do all kinds and sizes of jobs. We’ll fix steps at a house, sidewalks, chimneys, patios, etc. A job could take one day, a week, three weeks, months, or a year — it really varies. We’re very hands-on. I am always here, and we are partners with our clients.
“I will estimate how many hours, how many days, how many workers, and how much material will be needed for the job. There are no hidden costs or surprises. Clients know they can count on us.
“Also, remember, the work we do is a basic necessity, not a luxury. When steps are broken or water is flooding the basement, this all has to be fixed.”
A. Pennacchi & Sons is a member of the Mercer County Chamber of Commerce, the Better Business Bureau, the Newport Historical Preservation Society, is registered by the state of New Jersey as Historical Preservation Contractors, and is certified as Jahn Applicators.
Working with a variety of clients from different backgrounds and in different locations is an ongoing pleasure, says Pennacchi. “I enjoy meeting different people every day. It can be the CEO of the Liz Clairborne Company one day or an artist in Trenton the next day. I love the opportunity to meet and interact with all these different people. I love this business!”
He is very proud of his company’s longevity and fine reputation. Continuing the family tradition is especially fulfilling, he adds.
“I feel I am the custodian for this generation, and it is our goal that our business will continue and do well. And now, my son Paul Jr. has been in the business for five years, and it is such a privilege to work with him. We look forward to continuing to enjoy our work and provide an important service for our clients.
“As my friend Martin Siegel of Hamilton Jewelers said to me when I once asked him ‘How’s work?’ — he answered, ‘I’ve never worked a day in my life!’ Like Marty, I love what I do. I feel lucky every day when I am here.”
For further information, call (609) 394-7354 Website: www.apennacchi.com.