By Sarah Hall
J&B Installations has come a long way from its humble beginnings. The roofing company got its start as a two-man operation in 1981. Now, celebrating their 40th anniversary, they employ upwards of 100 people during peak season and are known as one of the most reputable and safest roofing companies in Upstate New York.
Majority owner and President Robert Parker says he owes that growth to his team. “We employ good people” he said. “Our company is productive and safe because of our employees’ commitment—it’s a team effort.”
J&B specializes in commercial and industrial flat roofing. Their 16,000-square-foot corporate office/warehouse in Skaneateles Falls includes an in-house sheet metal/fabrication shop and a top-of-the-line plan room using cutting edge estimating software. They also have satellite offices in Ithaca and Rochester and are looking to increase their presence in those areas. All roofers, foremen, and superintendents are OSHA-certified. J&B’s full staff of 12 roofing crews, facilitating a 25-vehicle fleet, including its own crane and 8- 42’ to 55’ forklifts, allow the company to provide clients with complete roofing services and 24/7 roofing repairs.
J&B’s 5,000-plus clients include office parks, warehouses, supermarkets, schools, municipalities, and production facilities, among others. “We’ve performed work on over 200 Aldi’s stores,” Parker said. “Aldi’s insists on quality when selecting a contractor to install in their region. They chose us and that’s a huge compliment.”
J&B’s reputation has netted the firm a number of clients. “Most of our work is word of mouth,” Parker said, “which is the best form of advertising. We strive to exceed clients’ expectations and have gained many loyal customers as a result.”
The company, which typically does work all across New York State, has ventured into Pennsylvania and Massachusetts as well. They even followed a client to Colorado Springs. “We were doing work for a company in Fulton,” Parker said. “They had a roof problem at their plant in Colorado Springs and they were very happy with our work here, so they asked us to re-roof their plant in Colorado. It was a new type of long-distance challenge we had yet to experience, and the crews and superintendents that ran the project ultimately brought it in on time and budget.
The firm has taken on some significant projects, including the 1 million-square-foot Tops Distribution Center in Lancaster, New York, and a $5 million roofing project for the Webster Center School District. J&B will be starting a $4.9 million roof project for Ithaca City School District, a $750,000 project for Community Hospital in Hamilton and a $650,000 project for JMA in Syracuse, to name a few upcoming projects in 2021.
It’s a far cry from Parker’s kitchen table, where he first drew up plans for his own company back in 1981. As a 23-year-old newlywed who had worked for Rochester Roofing & Sheet Metal Co. for three years after college, Parker couldn’t find anyone local who was hiring. So he decided to start his own company, “to be outside,” he said. When the business outgrew his “home office,” he moved into an office building down the street, where he slowly added staff, an administrative assistant and an estimator.
In 1988, the warehouse caught fire after being struck by lightning, making it unusable. In 1989 the current office/warehouse was built. In 1993, Mark Anderson, the owner of a local competitor, came on board as vice president and part owner, and he has been with the company since. By 2014 the company had again outgrown its space. A 6,000-square-foot addition was completed that year. Keeping up with the consistently changing industry and company growth has kept Parker and his employees extremely busy over the last 40 years.
Longevity has also brought recognition to J&B; the company is the recipient of numerous honors. J&B has been named Firestone Master Contractor 25 times. “The award is only bestowed on the top 125 contractors in North America,” Parker said. “It’s based on the quality of installation and workmanship.”
J&B has also been a Sarnafil Partners Club member for more than two decades, receiving Sarnafil’s Elite Contractor Award for a number of years. In addition, J&B has earned Carlisle Syntec’s Excellence in Single Ply Award, which Parker said is only awarded for “perfect work.”
Parker said his employees undergo rigorous training, both to ensure they’re producing top quality work and to guarantee everyone’s safety. “We are a safe company,” Parker said. “We preach to them by saying, ‘we want you to come to work on time, rested ready to work, and we want you to go home to your family safe.’”
Community and family are important to J&B, which is why the company makes sure to give back on a regular basis. The firm has done pro bono work for a number of local charities, including the Make-A-Wish Foundation, the Southern Cayuga Observatory, the Elbridge Fire Station, and the American Legion Post 317 in Skaneateles Falls. And their generosity doesn’t stop there.
“We like to give back to the community,” Parker said. “We donate to a variety of causes. Locally we’ve contributed to the Christmas Basket for the elderly and to the Jordan-Elbridge Central School District, which helps families in need of Christmas presents for kids. We’ve donated to several cancer charities and have helped raise suicide awareness, both of which have personally affected our J&B family. We also try to take care of our employees if they need something, such as help with funeral expenses or food for a benefit. We try to give where we can.”
Parker said J&B has been fortunate during the pandemic to not have faced as many losses as other businesses. “We were considered essential,” he said. “We had a lot of work going on. As far as the pandemic went, yes, it affected us somewhat in sales and with labor. Navigating the legalities of the ever-changing landscape and day-to-day updates in the beginning took a lot of focus and our office team really came to the plate. We wanted to ensure that our staff was safe and compliant. We got hurt a little bit, but not as harshly as other companies. Your smaller businesses, they really took a hit.”
That’s not to say the business is without challenges. As the new administration takes over, Parker said there is some concern that the tax bill passed as part of the 2017 Tax Cuts & Jobs Acts may be repealed. The tax bill allows for 100 percent expensing of a new roof in the first year up to $1 million per property instead of the old 39-year depreciation schedule it replaced.
The 2017 Tax Cuts and Job Act also helps with the cost of bringing existing buildings up to the new energy code. The new building code requires R-30 minimum insulation on all new construction and re-roofs. Parker estimates that 90 percent of existing buildings presently do not meet the code.
Parker also states that “multiple metal buildings/roofs built in the 1970s, ‘80s and ‘90s are leaking and are at the end of their life cycle.” These buildings are easily re-roofed using fill insulation between the flutes and adding additional insulation to bring the system up to the new energy code. The building owner then receives a 20- to 30-year leak-free warranty from the roof system manufacturer.
As for the future of the company, Parker says it looks pretty green. “People are getting more conscious about the environment, which they should,” he said. Parker is so invested in the green movement that he also owns a green roofing company. Chatfield Green Roofing supplies the northeast with Xeroflor mats grown at Chatfield Farms in Elbridge. These mats consist of sedum, which are flowering succulent plants meant to withstand the harsh weather conditions of the Northeast. The mats are non-biodegradable, lightweight, low maintenance, economical and can be removed 10, 15, or 20 years down the road to perform roof service/maintenance and then be reinstalled, making them a truly “sustainable” product. Chatfield and Xeroflor have supplied their products on a number of large-scale green roof projects throughout the East Coast, including the 294,000-square-foot Jacob Javits Convention Center roof in New York City. Other recognizable landmarks using these living mats are Binghamton City Hall, the Empire State Building and Duke University Medical Facility. Eventually, Parker said he plans to retire from J&B and devote himself full time to Chatfield Farms, but that’s still at least two to three years away. Right now, he’s fully invested in J&B.
“I’m really happy about our reputation as roofing contractors,” he said. “I’m proud of my team. They really work hard to get to a common goal and they do a very, very good job.”
Parker marveled at how far the company has come since the day he sat down at his kitchen table to sketch out the plan for his company.
“I cannot believe this is our company,” he said. “Our employees are here for a long, long time. We have people that have been here for over 30 years and we count multiple generations among our crews. Our CFO, Lynn Proulx, has been with me for 33 years. There are several other employees that can say the same. We have had very little turnover… I am proud of that fact and when I see my employees living in nice homes, supporting their families that now, in some instances include grandkids, I feel like we’ve all grown up together. We’ve helped support a lot of families, and it’s nice to see that.”
The business is transforming to the younger generation. Chris Bacon, Parker’s nephew, will be taking over as majority owner in the near future with Brian Anderson, Anderson’s son, taking over his interest. This will happen over the next few years but both have been with the company for 20 and 15 years respectfully. “No one knows what the future holds, but one thing’s for sure—J&B will continue to provide the best quality and workmanship for years to come,” Parker says. “I have loved coming to work every day even after 40 years.”
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