In the 1893, George Hyde had a vision. He wanted to start a mechanical contracting company in Watertown, New York, with hard-working, family values. He passed down the business, now known as Hyde-Stone Mechanical Contractors, to his grandson Charlie Hyde.
“Both my parents were born and raised in Watertown and wanted to move back here. My father negotiated with Charlie Hyde for three years,” recounts Chris Stone, Vice President. “We moved here to Watertown in 1979. My father wanted to buy the business and run it. In 1985, Charlie retired and my father took the reins.”
Now, the commercial and industrial contractor has three locations in New York State: Watertown, Potsdam, and Plattsburgh. The Potsdam location was added in 1989, just over a century after the company’s foundation. The Plattsburgh location opened in 2002. “We cover a fairly good territory,” says Stone.
Throughout its growth and change in ownership, the family-oriented company maintained its values. Chris Stone informs us that his father, Jay Stone, who owns the company, is soon to turn 80 and still works seven days a week. Chris Stone’s father Jay, mother Dawn, and brother Thom are all passionate leaders in the company.
“My brother runs our facility maintenance division, doing anything and everything from patching walls to putting on roofs, plowing, repairing driveways. Even cleaning the floors and office maintenance,” says Stone.
The mechanical contracting company offers a range of services, such as HVAC, industrial piping and plumbing, sheet metal, and temperature control. It has a 24-hour, seven-days-a-week emergency service department, and a customer service department that will service installed equipment for the rest of its life.
With a focus on building long-term relationships, two of Hyde-Stone’s most treasured assets are its customers and its employees, both of whom Hyde-Stone strives to keep satisfied for the long haul. “Every time we hire someone, I tell them that family comes first here,” says Stone.
On work-life balance, Stone asserts that if employees have to coach a softball team, attend a child’s musical, or rush home to care for a sick child, he doesn’t hesitate to tell them to do what they need to do. “I tell them, ‘You go, and we’ll figure it out,” he says.
And they do. The Hyde-Stone team takes pride in their ability to solve problems, even for smaller niche jobs where the customer’s problems may seem unclear. “A plant may call us up and say, ‘I have this problem, it may be sheet metal, or plumbing, and it may not even be a big job…’ But we love those. We’ll take those all day long. We solve a problem that they knew enough to come to us about, and we’re pretty damn good with solving them,” says Stone.
Hyde-Stone has seven project managers who all work in various aspects of commercial and industrial contracting, including paper mills, cheese plants, commercial buildings, banks, and local hospitals. “These people have seen it and done it. And that’s why we get so much repeat business. We cannot do this without the group of employees that we have.”
Not only does Hyde-Stone care for its team, but also for its customers. “We take care of them as best we can, because when we go in and do a project, we want that customer for the rest of their lives and the history of the equipment.”
This long-term outlook is reflected in Hyde-Stone’s motto, “Design, install, service.” When the company installs equipment, it is with the intention of servicing that equipment as long as possible. Considering how long Hyde-Stone has been around, it is quite a commitment. “We don’t walk away from a customer,” states Stone.
For example, Hyde-Stone recently finished a piping job for a local Watertown paper mill, Knowlton Technologies (formerly Knowlton Specialty Papers). Knowlton is the oldest continuously operating paper mill in the United States.
Hyde-Stone has also remained a client of the same Watertown bank since its 19th century foundation. “There’s some serious history in this town, and it’s still going. You don’t see that a lot. It’s hard to find a company that’s 100 years old, let alone 124 years old,” Stone says.
But the historic company doesn’t shy away from progress. Hyde-Stone values efficiency, in both its processes and its designs. One of its professional engineers is LEED certified. All service technicians carry iPads that communicate to the company’s software system, and the crews use GPS navigation so that they can be easily reached by project managers and minimize fuel consumption.
Most crucially of all, Hyde-Stone is continuously investing in its exceptional safety program. “We are constantly training all of our employees, from the service technicians to the fitters. It may be confined space, or ladder safety. When we work a job, we have a safety plan that everyone is involved in,” Stone says.
To ensure the safety of both its valued employees and customers, Hyde-Stone commences projects only after a strict safety plan has been prepared and a risk assessment has been completed. “For instance, we have a rigging next week at an industrial plant, and there are ten forms that have to be filled out, and a risk assessment. Everybody involved in that rigging has a 15-minute safety briefing before anything starts, and everybody signs off on it. They know the risk, they know how we’re going to assess those risks, and that goes into our system.”
Safety is extremely important in the mechanical contracting industry, which is why Stone also encourages the team to stay alert and approach other tradesmen or women if they notice anything awry, even outside of the company.
“I say, ‘On a job site, you may see another tradesperson. Go up to them if you see their extension cord cut, or if you notice their harness is frayed and out of date.’ It’s not just about Hyde-Stone; we keep a lookout for everybody on that job. I’d rather have everybody go home to their families than the hospital, or God forbid somewhere else.”
To be sure, Hyde-Stone is a company that looks out for others, both within the industry and the broader community. Six years ago, Stone’s father, who is very philanthropic, expressed to him and his brother that he wanted to start a foundation. They decided to work with an organization called the Northern New York Community Foundation. The advisory foundation, headquartered in Watertown, has been around since 1929. It serves as a resource for local charities and nonprofits to help them raise and manage funding. With its help, Hyde-Stone was able to make significant contributions to local organizations.
Hyde-Stone has donated a lot of money for food banks and other organizations in dire need, occasionally including some of the organizations the firm has completed work for. “We search for organizations truly in need of money. With five or six hundred dollars, we can go to several different food banks in the areas we work—because we want to support local—and I can’t tell you what that five or six hundred bucks does for a small food bank,” says Stone.
The spirit of continuous improvement has been with Hyde-Stone since its inception. Stone adds that in 1910, founder George Hyde even created an offshoot to the mechanical contracting business dedicated to building boats, called Hyde Boat Company, with his brother.
Stone had the opportunity to see a Hyde creation when he attended a party hosted by a friend of his, who also knew one of George’s grandchildren. The friend was a renowned boat builder. Stone decided to ask him if he had ever heard of Hyde Boat Company, and sure enough, he responded that he had one in his barn. “We went to the other side of the barn, and there was a 30-foot cruiser. His son was the curator of an antique boat museum. He was refurbishing it, and it was the only one made,” recalls Stone.
“I was in awe of that. I thought, I definitely want to be on that boat when it’s back on the water,” he adds. “That’s just a little history on the Hydes. They are forward thinkers.”
As for what the business has planned for its future on the cusp of its 1.25 century milestone, Stone still has long-term growth on the trajectory. “My long-term plans are for slow growth,” he says. “I’m not into taking a project because it’s big; I’d rather take a project where we can ensure the customer a great product and still make money at the same time,” says Stone.
Now that Hyde-Stone has recently completed a large sheet metal project for Kraft Heinz, Stone would also like to continue to grow the company’s facility maintenance and sheet metal divisions in order to continue to provide high quality service to customers in a timely manner.
“We started our sheet metal division about three to four years ago. Before that, we subcontracted our sheet metal work. We would run into situations where the subcontractor was busy with other things, and that would back up our work,” Stone explains.
Fortunately, the talented individual that competed most of the work for that division agreed to work for Hyde-Stone fulltime. “The gentleman who is now running the division is truly an artisan. He can take anything metal, whether ductwork or artwork. He is an incredible artist with copper and blacksmithing,” says Stone.
Hyde-Stone’s Plattsburgh office, which is its newest location, also contains a wealth of opportunity for growth. Stone informs us that rather than continuing to manage it from the Potsdam office, the team recently recruited a fulltime project manager for the location.
Investing in Plattsburgh is important, considering Hyde-Stone’s capabilities in design build, which Stone feels is a better process than traditional plan and spec. Moreover, there are many high-tech industries in the area, and the team wanted to be adequately positioned to better serve those customers. “It’s in an area that is really a gem for a contractor like us that designs, builds, and services.”
Hyde-Stone is a company that has stood the test of time and rises to meet new challenges. As we approach the 2020s, Hyde-Stone will continue to do its best to serve its customers and community.
“I get up every day and I can’t wait to go to work. There’s always something new, every day,” says Stone.