Not many companies can claim they’ve been in business for close to a century, but A.D. Stowe is one of them.
With 90 years in business as of 2023—and as one of the first drywallers in the state of Virginia—A.D. Stowe has decades of experience meeting the individual needs of each client with customized wall and ceiling plaster, drywall, insulation, and metal stud installation.
In all its numerous projects in the commercial public, private, and federal sectors, the company has built itself quite a reputation for supplying metal stud framing and drywall for an array of office buildings, government and retail establishments, hospitals, dormitory-style housing, and industrial projects.
The company began modestly enough in the 1930s with Algie D. Stowe, who founded A.D. Stowe, Inc., focusing on rock lath, plastering, and metal lath systems, before becoming a notable plastering contractor in the Tidewater region in all the years since.
Bob Parker and Lynn Williams started working for A.D. Stowe, Inc., in the early 1970s, where Bob was the head superintendent in the field, and Lynn was the bookkeeper and estimator. Impressed by the pair’s strong work ethic, Stowe decided to eventually sell them the company.
The passing of the torch took place in May 1978, when Lynn was in charge of estimating and internal work, and Bob handled all field activities.
For the following 30 years, this relationship, and the company, thrived and expanded, and A.D. Stowe, Inc. evolved into the multi-million dollar business it is today. Now one of the largest drywall contractors in the Tidewater area, the company has continued to evolve and prosper, in part due to the coming on board of Lynn’s sons in 1997.
Chris Williams, now President, was previously head of Estimating, and Mark Williams, Vice President, was working as a drywall mechanic in the field before advancing to field foreman. With Lynn as Chair of the Board, this family-run business looks to continue its success well past the century mark.
“My dad came to work here in 1964 as a bookkeeper, and then left to go into the Navy reserve where he did two Westpac cruises,” says Mark. “He returned in 1969 and was trained as an estimator because the company estimator was going to retire.”
In 1977, Lynn and Bob Parker bought out A.D. Stowe, and when Bob retired in 1998, Lynn bought him out as well.
Over the years, the company has seen its share of changes in the industry, in particular the move from plaster to drywall, which offered a more affordable and faster solution. “We did a hospital that was lathe and plaster on the first floor and drywall on the second because they couldn’t afford to lathe and it would cost ten times as much,” says Lynn.
The late 1970s saw the integration of drywall into projects as opposed to plastering, adds Mark. “It was more efficient, cheaper, and a lot less invasive to install.”
A.D. Stowe has delivered many large, prestige projects in its history, from the FBI in Chesapeake to Harbor’s Edge and MacArthur Center, Norfolk, Landrum Hall at William & Mary, Williamsburg, and Christopher Newport University Residence Hall, Newport News.
One of its latest projects, which opened in January 2022, is the new 14-story pediatric behavioral health tower for Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters (CHKD) in Norfolk, which includes inpatient and outpatient services, primary and specialty clinics, and room for additional beds in the future.
The 366,700-square-foot pediatric psychiatric hospital and outpatient center which houses pediatric behavioral and specialty clinics, provides a partial hospitalization program, 60 inpatient beds, music and art therapy, a multi-sensory room, and an indoor gym. There are family lounge areas and a horticultural and rooftop recreational area, which is considered a vital addition to CHKD’s medical services.
The job was challenging in many ways but was greatly appreciated and lauded, particularly by the CHKD organization.
“I ordered 40,000 lineal feet of steel blocking to hang all their special equipment on the walls, and all the other unique things that this building required, being a mental health facility,” says Mark. “It needed a lot of additional strength in the walls for them to attach special equipment.”
Other challenging projects recently have included the Joint Manufacturing Assembly Facility (JMAF) shipyard project in Newport News. Eight to eleven floors high, with more than 3,400 tons of steel and 24,000 cubic yards of concrete, the complex takes up a quarter of a million square feet.
“They only let American citizens inside the yards which kind of made it difficult,” says Mark. “It was a challenge, and the yards were just recently completed in the first part of 2022.”
Of course, aside from individual projects, COVID also played an ongoing role in the company’s fortunes, as it has for industry everywhere, but A.D. Stowe made some savvy decisions up front, staying afloat and safely navigating the crisis and supply chain issues.
“We were lucky enough to get ahead of the curve, placing orders to get materials in advance to store at our office or at the supplier,” says Chris.
That ability to foresee potential problems and make wise decisions for both employees and clients has paid off for A.D. Stowe. To guarantee the best outcome for each job it undertakes, the company strives to offer general contractors and owners the best possible experience by employing its well-proved Value Engineering (VE) process to ensure each project is completed on time and within budget.
This process involves providing STC (Sound Transmission Class) ratings—a score given to a building’s surfaces, including the walls, ceilings, and windows, based on their ability to reduce transmission. Ratings range from 25 to 65, with the highest rating indicating the least noise penetration.
“This is for the sound between the walls, between the units,” says Mark. “If the architect, for example, wants an STC of 50 and wants two layers of sheetrock on one side and one on the other, we can do a VE and say, wait a minute, that’s going to cost a lot more.
“By suggesting something different we can get you the same STC 50 for less. So we can go in there, and, with our experience and VE, show the architect how to reduce the cost on the project and get the same output.”
By combining experience and dedication to the craft, A.D. Stowe has continually made improvements while growing in an evolving industry and doesn’t plan to rest on its laurels anytime soon.
“We’ve also started with a little bit of panelization of interior and exterior walls and then prefabrication of actual drywall, and we hope to do more of it in the future and stay ahead of the curve,” says Mark.
While the ability to foresee changes and progress with them seems to be a trait of A.D. Stowe and at least a factor in their success, it’s not the only thing. Being a family-owned and operated business has also clearly contributed to A.D. Stowe’s ability to thrive for 90 years, an incredible accomplishment.
Says Lynn: “Having my two sons working here is a big advantage, especially when talking about huge jobs.”
“To that, I would add ‘trust,’” says Mark. “Being family-owned impacts it over the years. We have pretty much a like-minded approach to critical decision-making. When there are big decisions to be made, being family means we’re somewhat like-minded.”
Aside from those benefits, all three agree that working together to overcome any challenges and obstacles is key.
The final word on what sets A.D. Stowe apart comes from Mark: “Our attention to detail and years of experience.”
And it’s those years of experience that have helped shape and mold the company from its humble beginnings to become the success it is today. Also, notes Mark, there are a number of other important and necessary qualities that will help take A.D. Stowe into the next century.
“The first is loyal hard-working employees,” he says. “The second, Lynn and Bob’s dedication and hard work for the company. Third, the quality of our work, adapting to change, and creating long-term relationships with our customers.”