Saturday February 3, 2018

Building a Future: Dunsmoor Construction Celebrates Milestone

Longtime contracting business observes 30 years of serving Port City community
By Lou Sorendo

    This month marks the 30th anniversary for Dunsmoor Construction Inc. in Oswego.


    Owners Tom and Michelle Dunsmoor have enjoyed a steady stream of business for quite some time as they celebrate their 30th business anniversary in February.


    Tom has been in charge of construction and supervising while Michelle manages office operations and human resources. The couple agrees that their skills complement each other, ccontributing to the business’ success.


    “It is a milestone for us. When we started, I don’t think either one of us anticipated that we would have had a stretch this long,” Tom said.


    “Business is great, and that comes from Tom’s reputation for quality craftsmanship,” Michelle noted.


    Keys to their success also include cultivating solid relationships with employees, customers and vendors.


    Michelle said, “The projects the company has done around the Oswego area and its reputation with local suppliers like Burke’s and Raby’s home centers are things that have made Tom a frontrunner in this business.”


    Michelle noted both suppliers highly recommend Tom for jobs.


    “You have to be honest with your customers and fair. There are a lot of people that are not in this business,” Tom said. “We’re fully insured and have always carried workers’ compensation and liability insurances.”


    “A lot of people — particularly the one-man operations — do not have that,” Michelle said.


    While one-man operations are not required to carry workers’ compensation insurance, they are required to carry liability insurance. However, many don’t carry insurance due to its cost, and this creates an uneven playing field, the owners said.


    In terms of the bottom line, Dunsmoor Construction has been the epitome of consistency as far as sales are concerned.


    The business has averaged $950,000 in annual sales over the past 10 years. It has eclipsed the $1 million mark, but most years its revenues are around $875,000 to $900,000.


    The construction company does all phases of construction, from small jobs to building custom homes or multi-million dollar projects.


    “That is a big part of the reason that we do continue to keep the work flowing is because Tom can accommodate all levels of construction,” Michelle said.


    Tom noted he has employees who have worked for him for more than 15 years.


    “Most guys that work for me have been with me for a while,” Tom said. “I have a lot of repeat business and customers, and they know my crew and trust them to come into their homes.”


    Tom said the company works with customers on designs and helps walk them through projects.


    “I give them suggestions and ideas and help them lay jobs out,” he said. “I work with their architects, which is a big factor, and give as much input to the job as I possibly can.”


    Successful partnerships: Tom has formed several business partnerships in the city, including with Dr. Corliss Varnum at Port City Family Medicine and the New York Heart Center, and also with William Galloway, co-owner of the Whitewater Commons at Bridie Square off West First Street. Dunsmoor Construction did both projects from start to finish.


    “Those are two commercial projects that I designed and worked with architects on. I pretty much designed the entire jobs,” he said.


    The Whitewater Commons at Bridie Square — the former site of the Whitewater Grill restaurant — now features eight high-end apartments on the Oswego River along with office space for Century 21 Galloway Realty and Robert Berkley Physical Therapy.


    The restaurant closed down about seven years ago. “Bill [Galloway] and I had enough of the restaurant business and had enough of renting to restaurant businesses,” Tom said. “It was tough and didn’t work out. So we went back to our original plans to do housing.”


    Dunsmoor Construction has also done work on many other businesses in the area such as the Oswego Sub Shop, The American Foundry, St. Luke Apartments, Seaway Lofts, Clearview Pool and many others.


    The business focuses mostly on residential work, although it does some commercial jobs and often works as a subcontractor for Rich and Gardner out of Syracuse.


    Farming family: Michelle and Tom and their two sons — T.J. and Eric — have resided in Oswego Town for 27 years. At 29, Tom purchased his family home and made renovations to accommodate his construction warehouse and office location.


    In the late 1980s, Tom teamed with Candide Michaud, an accomplished carpenter, and the two began doing jobs together.


    “We worked for a couple of years together, and then went our own ways. I went to Arizona and Boston and worked at both places framing houses for contractors,” he said.


    While in Boston, Tom was framing houses for a contractor who was the same age.


    “I said to myself, ‘He’s doing it. Why can’t I?’ So when I came back, I started picking up jobs on my own. I took old, dilapidated houses, gutted and renovated them, and rented them as apartments,” Tom said. “I just kept building the business.”


    The couple launched their business in 1988, a year before they got married. They lived in a modest home on Albany Street in Oswego and moved to Oswego Town after they had their son TJ.


    “The reason we moved out here was because Tom’s dad wanted to pass it along to a family member, and it was ideal for us because of the warehouse,” Michelle said.


    Dunsmoor Construction employs eight full-time workers, a number that has been the average for the past 20 years, and Michaud has worked with Tom for the past 10 years.


    Future prospects: “Right now for us, the future looks pretty bright. There are significant projects lined up throughout the winter and spring,” Tom said.


    He said a lot of his clients are repeat customers who plan ahead “because they know how busy we get.”


    One of the upcoming projects involves converting the former Salmon Shop on West First Street into a multi-use building. Two high-end apartments will be created upstairs while a doctor will occupy the lower level.


    “I enjoy taking something that is very unappealing and turning it into something to be proud of,” Tom said.


    He noted that he is seeing “a lot of positive attitudes toward things that are happening and people are feeling a little more comfortable and confident.”


    A year or so ago, people were frightened as the possibility of closing the James A. FitzPatrick nuclear power plant at Nine Mile Point in Scriba loomed.


    After about a six-month period, their fears were allayed when Exelon Corp. purchased the plant.


    “Nobody was doing anything,” Michelle said. “They were afraid to spend money. When things leveled out, then things really picked up.”


    Rooted in onions: In 1943, Ross and Louise Dunsmoor began muck farming as sharecroppers in Oswego and planted their first acres of cooking onions. Their five sons — Ron, Dan, Bill, Tom and John — grew up helping on the farm.

    “My son TJ and myself are also running an onion farm,” Tom noted.


    TJ has been managing and running his own onion farm for the past five years with help from his parents.


    Tom and Michelle noted they helped him launch the business, which now features a crew of six that raises 55 acres of onions.


    TJ is in charge of everything from planting to grading the onions and preparing them for shipping. Tom helps TJ on evenings and weekends during the more critical times of the planting season.


    “It’s tough to start a new business,” Tom said. “It’s very expensive and there is a lot of equipment involved and purchases to be made to run the business. But it’s going pretty good.”


    Besides owning and co-owning four commercial properties, the family also is involved as owners in the housing rental business.


    Tom said, “I look forward to continued projects and working with my customers in the future.    Michelle and I are grateful for our success and thank our customers, family, and friends for the support they have given us over the past 30 years.”

Oswego County Business Magazine
Issue 160

Issue 160
February/March 2019

Cover Story


James Weatherup

On The Job

What Are Your Goals for 2019?

Success Stories

Laser Transit Ltd.

My Turn

The Incompetent Boss and the Peter Principle

Economic Trends

Economic Advancement Plan Progress Report

Last Page

Chena Tucker