January 25, 2023

Expert Masonry Restoration and Waterproofing Are Key to A. Pennacchi & Sons’ Success

FAMILY PRIDE:  “I am very proud of our company’s longevity — now 76 years! Continuing our family tradition is especially fulfilling, and I feel I am the custodian for the next generation. And now my son, Paul Jr., is in the business, and we look forward to continuing to enjoy our work and provide an important service for our clients. We are a family business in every way.” Paul Pennacchi (left), president of A. Pennacchi & Sons Masonry Restoration & Waterproofing Company, is shown with his son Paul Jr., who is vice president.

By Jean Stratton

Paul Pennacchi Sr. loves what he does. He enjoys the interaction with his co-workers, clients, his many and varied projects, and he is proud of the longtime family business, which he now heads.

A. Pennacchi & Sons Masonry Restoration & Waterproofing Company is a thriving organization that has benefited from the hard work and dedication of each generation that contributed to its success.

Now headquartered in Hamilton, it was established in 1947 in Trenton by brothers Anthony and John Pennacchi. Its storied history actually began earlier when Gaetano Pennacchi arrived from Italy in 1918, and settled in Trenton.

“He was a mason,” explains Paul Pennacchi,” and he started helping his neighbors with repair work on their houses. It was a side trade for him since he also worked full-time for General Motors, but it grew into a real business.”

One Garage

“My dad, Anthony Sr., and my Uncle John started helping with stone and brick masonry work on weekends when they were teenagers,” says Paul Pennacchi. “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, now semi-retired, continues to oversee the Philadelphia area projects, and Paul became president in 1995.

“We are the oldest masonry contracting company in Mercer County. We really are the ‘blue bloods’ of masonry,” he points out. “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 continues. “I came into it full-time after high school, and I became a member of Brick Layers Local Union 5 when I was 19. In addition to the hands-on work, I was interested in promotion and letting people know about us. I later began to expand the business beyond Trenton and Mercer County.”

As a full-service masonry restoration and waterproofing company, A. Pennacchi & Sons 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 and sump pumps, and does foundation restoration.

Expanded Projects

Waterproofing has become an increasingly important part of the business, and Pennacchi reports that 50 percent of the company’s work is now waterproofing, and the other 50 percent brick and stone work.

Business has expanded to projects in New York; all parts of New Jersey, including the shore; Pennsylvania; and as far north as Rhode Island and as far south as Washington, D.C., North Carolina, and Florida.

“We are now licensed in New York City and have been working on town homes in Manhattan,” he reports, adding that one project often leads to another. For example, after a recent job restoring the Westin Hotel in Princeton Forrestal Village, he was asked to do similar work for a Westin Hotel in Pittsburgh.

“A great deal of our work is from referrals, and we have many longtime customers,” says Pennacchi. “We do all sizes of jobs, whether for houses, commercial buildings, churches, schools, banks, hospitals, or historic renovations.”

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.”

Of course, staying abreast of changes is crucial to the success of any business, and this has been important in the ongoing good fortune of the company.

New Techniques

“You cannot have a business stay stagnant; you have to adapt to the times,” says Pennacchi. “We are constantly learning, and researching new techniques in restoration. Also, the newer materials are better, stronger, and more durable, including for waterproofing.”

Projects in the area have included diversified work at such locations as Jasna Polana Country Club, St. Lawrence Rehabilitation Center, the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton University, the Hamilton Township Municipal Building, The Trent House, Drumthwacket, the Clark House, an ice house in Marquand Park, and countless private residences.

Houses of worship are a particular focus for the company, reports Pennacchi. “A major part 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.

The company has worked closely with churches in the area from its earliest days, adds Pennacchi. “My father had an association with bishops in Trenton, and we began to get a lot of church work. We did 70 percent of the restoration work on churches in Trenton.”

Greatest Pleasure

Even with the widespread range of jobs elsewhere (including a mausoleum in northern New Jersey), Princeton projects remain close to his heart.

“The majority of our residential work is in Princeton, and my favorite projects are working on the houses here. Many are historic, and the Princeton architecture is so interesting. And our clients are from all backgrounds: professors, politicians, actors, business people — it’s very diverse. Princeton is my greatest pleasure!”

And the company has been very busy in Princeton and the area recently, he adds. “During COVID, people have been staying home more, not going on vacations, so they wanted to make improvements to their home. And other people moved from the cities, and then wanted to make changes to their new house. Patios are very popular for us now, with bluestone and brick in demand. Also stucco is important now for houses.”

He points out that customers can count on the quality of the company’s work whether it is a small repair job on a porch or a full-scale restoration over a long period of time. Projects vary from one day to many months, with typical jobs taking two to three days.

“Most of the work we do is critical, mandatory repair, for both commercial and residential,” he says.

Pennacchi is very proud of his staff, which includes 28 full-time employees, some of whom have been with the company as long as 20 and 30 years.

“We have people who are stone masons, others who are marble setters and tile setters, others who specialize in waterproofing, and still others who are plasterers,” he says. “Each worker specializes in a particular area. There is always  a foreman in charge of the job, and someone is overseeing the work every day. Our employees are our greatest asset.”

Test of Time

For an independent company to survive — and thrive — it takes extraordinary effort and focus. It is unique these days. 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 has stood the test of time is a tribute to the determination and hard work of its founders and current owner and employees.

“My dad worked hard, and we worked hard. We definitely learned the value of hard work and dedication from him,” says Paul Pennacchi. “This is now a business of four generations. It included my grandfather, my father, my uncle, my brother, and myself, and now my son, Paul Jr., who is vice president, and my nephews. This is a special achievement.

“I love everything about the business, especially meeting customers for the first time, who are really from all walks of life. And I am always looking forward to the next job, the next project, the next challenge. The next place is always my favorite. I love what I do. I feel I am just warming up!”

For further information, call (609) 394-7354. Website: apennacchi.com.