Connor Concrete Cutting & Coring
Connor Concrete Cutting & Coring (CCCC) is a family-owned and -operated service contractor based in Norco, Calif. Built up from the ashes of a tragic family loss, the company’s history is unusual and heartbreaking. Bruce Penhall established the company in October 2012 to honor the memory of his son, Connor Penhall, who passed away unexpectedly in April 2012. Like his father and grandfather before him, Connor worked as a concrete cutter on projects throughout Southern California.
Only 21 years old, Bruce’s son had dreams of working in law enforcement. He was a hard worker, saving up money and building working experience with his father since an early age. Connor started out as a shop boy for one of CCCC’s competitors. It was not long before he worked his way up to a full-fledged concrete cutter, laboring alongside his family members on complex heavy construction projects. Tragedy struck one night while he was working on a late-night freeway job. A drunken driver crashed onto the closed highway, striking and killing the young man.
Honoring Connor’s memory
“This company is for my son,” Bruce explains. “I had been running a concrete company in the same yard where we are now before the accident. A few months after, my wife and I decided to go for it. Our family has been in this business forever and I worked for my father’s company, Penhall Co. Despite all of the other work I’ve done, I always seem to return to this industry.”
Bruce and his wife, Laurie, decided to open up a new business to honor their son. Many of the employees from Bruce’s former business stayed with the family. “It was really hard at first,” says Bruce. “Connor had been working for me and a lot of our customers knew him and were really heartfelt about the situation. When I would come into the office, people wanted to talk about him. It was difficult, but it was also rewarding. I think we really just had to do this.”
Launching the business was also hard for Laurie, who scarcely came into the office for the first six months of operation. “She is here every day now,” Bruce notes. “Our son Ryan is here, as well. Laurie owns the business. She was never really associated with this line of work before, but she has learned so much. I could never do the work she does here every day. She has become a big part of the business.”
Bruce and his family had a great first year, pulling in double the revenue expected. CCCC has the advantage, as a newer business, of a strong network of clients. Many had worked with the Penhalls before, either with Bruce’s former business or his father’s company.
In some ways, concrete cutting is a capital-heavy business. Bruce made the decision to buy new, custom equipment, which meant the team had to start out small. “For the first four months, we only had three saw trucks,” he explains. “As we have grown, we have added three more, as well as a backhoe and a 10-wheeler.”
Growth has been steady, not explosive, which is how Bruce would like to see the business progress. “I know how cheesy it sounds,” he states, “But we don’t necessarily want to be the biggest cutting company out there. We want to be the best at what we do. From here, our growth depends on our ability to buy equipment and expand our team. We don’t want to grow too fast. It is important for us to keep our hands on the reins. We cannot get too busy and lose control over our quality. We need to serve the customers we already have before taking on too many more.”
Approximately 90 percent of CCCC’s work is on freeway and freeway expansion projects for many of the larger general contractors in the area, such as Atkinson, Murray Company and Ames, among others. Focusing on the service aspect of the industry, the team performs sawing, cutting, breaking, wall sawing, removal and coring work.
Recent projects include work with Atkinson on the ongoing Route 405/605 expansion, renovations to Dodger Stadium, as well as some commercial and mechanical work at the Staples Center in Los Angeles and the Hall of Justice. “We have done some really rewarding work with Ames in the last year, working on the 215 freeway through Riverside and San Bernardino, as well as the Perris Railroad,” he continues.
The support of CCCC’s customers goes beyond just concrete work. Contractors, Ames and Atkinson, have offered support to the Penhall family in lobbying for safety reform in highway work. Six people have been killed on freeway projects in the area over the last year. Fueled by the family’s loss, Bruce, Laurie and their supporters want to improve safety for the contractors and workers who labor on the roads.
Building the company has been both a struggle and a healing experience for the family. For the future, Bruce has his eye on steady growth and hopes someday to turn the company over to his son, Ryan, who currently works for the family business as a sales estimator. Connor Concrete Cutting & Coring continues to grow, providing experience, quality and reliability with heart.
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