Case Studies

Bake’s Steel Erectors Inc.

Structural and decorative steel and staircases in Chicago

Since 1985, Bake’s Steel Erectors Inc. has been serving varied steel needs of the construction industry in the Midwest. Based in Grayslake, Illinois, the family-owned company is known in Chicago and the surrounding areas for innovative steel work ranging from structural to decorative.

Established by Richard “Dick” Baker, the company has been in the family for two generations. His nephew, Louis “Lou” Belletini, started working for the company in 1988 as an apprentice. He now serves as president of Bake’s Steel. “I actually started out in another family business, working in my parents’ restaurant,” he recalls. “I saw what my uncle could do and that there was money to be made here and I made the switch.”

Back in the ’80s, the company began serving exclusively as a metal stair installation company. Over the years, the business has expanded significantly. Bake’s Steel now provides installation services for a variety of miscellaneous metals, including metal structures, ornamental steel and stairs.

The family-owned and -operated business employs approximately 60 people in the busy summer season, though that number shrinks in the winter as construction slows down. A majority of the company’s work is in Greater Chicago, though the team has traveled out of state several times at the request of repeat clients.

Stepping up the competition

Belletini says that despite the company’s growth over the last 30 years, Bake’s Steel has remained committed to serving its clientele. “Customer service is the primary way we stand out from competitors,” he explains. “Our customers like that we are family-owned and they know that regardless of our size, they can call our office at any time and talk to a family member.”

This reputation for reliable, customer-oriented practices has made Bake’s Steel a trusted partner for contractors and project owners throughout the Midwest and beyond. Over the years, the team has taken on complex projects ranging from schools to major sports stadiums.

“We do work on all the stadiums in Chicago,” says Belletini. “We work on the United Center, Soldier Field and U.S. Cellular, where the White Sox play. We also do a lot of work at Wrigley Field. We are currently working there, putting in all new bleachers for the ongoing outfield expansion. That project is broken into nine phases and will continue for another four or five years. We also just got done working on a new practice facility and entertainment district attached to the Buffalo Sabres’ stadium facility in Buffalo, New York.”

One of Belletini’s favorite projects has been work at an exclusive resort in St. Martin. “We were building a sound-proof enclosure for a generator there,” he recounts. “So we spent 6 weeks on the beach making the generator hum in the background so it didn’t disturb the guests. This was a time and materials job and there was a lot of downtime. Our crew could only work from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. so we wouldn’t disturb the guests. Another personal favorite of mine is when we built the actual high school my children go to.”

Building lasting relationships

Belletini explains that the company’s most critical indicator of success is repeat business. These relationships helped to see the business through even the toughest of economic times. “We have had our ups and downs,” he says. “A few years back when the economy was really bad, we faced tons of challenges. There wasn’t enough work and people were taking jobs at low margins. Cash flow was a huge issue, but we struggled through. We counted every dime, paid attention and cut costs.”

Now the business is back on track for further growth. Belletini and his team continue to foster lasting relationships with both customers and strategic partners. “We self-perform most of our work, but we do sub out crane work and operator engineering,” he says. “We have good relationships with the operators we work with. Other than that, we are full-service and perform everything in-house.”

With strong relationships across the board, Belletini and his colleagues have created a stable and growing business. “If your employees want to stay around, you’re doing something right,” he notes. “We enjoy that we can all make a living in this business while accomplishing something. I take a lot of pride in being able to drive down the street and see what we have built together. On top of that, we have a great safety record.”

Over the coming years, Belletini foresees continued growth. “We don’t want to get too big, but we’re happy to stay steady and hold the course we’re on,” he says. “We have a lot of upcoming work in Chicago – we have several contracts for high-rises downtown.”

With a strong backlog and a history of quality and safety, Bake’s Steel Erectors Inc. will continue to serve contractors and facility owners in Chicago and beyond.

Published on: July 24, 2015

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