Case Studies

E. W. Burman Inc.

Building Business on Repeat Customers

E. W. Burman Inc. (EWB), based in Warwick, R.I., has built its business on customer satisfaction in the commercial and institutional building industry. Ed Burman, who led a team that performed work in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, founded the general contracting company in 1964.

The company has remained in the family. Ed Jr., current president of EWB, along with brothers Tom and Paul, have proudly followed in their father’s footsteps. Ed Jr., Tom and Paul all grew up in the business, working summers throughout high school and college. The brothers continue to run EWB with the professional approach for which the company is known.

EWB employs a skilled team of workers, most of who have been in the business as long as Ed Jr. The company completes all the rough and finish carpentry work on a given project and subcontracts with electricians, plumbers and other specialty trades to complete the job.

Just as Ed Jr. entered the company under his father’s wing, EWB has welcomed a third generation of employees to the team. The next generation joined not only to honor the family business, but also to further EWB’s record of excellence. As Ed Jr. trains his children to take over the company, he emphasizes that taking pride in the craft is extremely important. “We are proud to be builders,” he says.

The Burman family’s pride is important, as EWB focuses efforts to exceed goals, maintain a staff of long-term employees, use the best tools available in the trade and treat clients with respect. The final principle that Ed Jr. attributes to the extensive return business EWB has seen in its nearly 50 years of business. The company boasts that 60 percent of its business is from return clients, including CVS Corporation, Girl Scouts of Rhode Island, Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design to name a few.

Preserving the Past

As the market for new buildings has slowed, Ed Jr. reports EWB has found a niche in historic restoration and preservation work. One recent job the company has been involved with is the renovation of a Pawtucket-based historic building, known to many as the TK Club.

The TK Club was nearly 150 years old, as it was established in 1869 and moved into the building at 26 Main Street in 1911. The club was a renowned elite men’s club in Rhode Island for over 100 years. The building served as a place for members – only recently including women – to socialize, drink and conduct business.

The Public Archaeology Laboratory (PAL) purchased the 13,000-square foot building for $450,000 by in February 2011. The $2 million renovation project was completed in fall 2012, and the new building is now the headquarters for the lab with 50 employees. Given its work as cultural resource management firm, PAL felt that renovating an old building rather than building new, fit within the company’s mission.

The project required EWB to make extensive upgrades inside and out. New hardwood floors, carpeting, walls and staircases were added, and the exterior brickwork, windows and woodwork were refurbished. Durkee Brown Viveiros & Werenfels of Providence, R.I., the project architect, blended the design to mix fixtures of the old building with modern amenities.

As EWB managed the project, the company helped the building owners navigate the available historic preservation tax credits to help fund the project. “We’re a medium-size contractor, so we’re very hands on,” details Ed Jr. “We’re not too big so we provide a lot of client service, while still being capable of completing large jobs.” EWB was also the owner’s best pick because of the company’s ability to upgrade a building while maintaining historical features like the grand staircase, ornate fireplace and old benches from the billiard hall.

Facing the Future

In addition to restoration work, EWB has completed projects in the educational, hospitality, religious, commercial, medical and cultural markets. EWB’s flexibility ensures the company can handle many types of jobs, which has been a huge asset. The company’s versatility prepares its team for any project.

The company offers many services to its clients. EWB serves as a construction management team and works cooperatively with architects and engineers to complete projects to the client’s specifications, as well. The company’s goal is to fully understand construction feasibility, cost, site selection and scheduling before tackling the labor side of a project.

Hand-in-hand with the planning stages, EWB offers budget estimating. Costs are reviewed with selected subcontractors and material suppliers to provide a competitive bid that can be tweaked based on budgetary needs. In addition to skills in the construction process, EWB works with local architects and engineers to provide a design-build project for end-users. EWB also serves as a construction firm for turnkey development projects, which can be leased with or without option to purchase.

“The economy has been in the doldrums,” says Ed Jr. “But we’ve been able to survive because of long-term clients, our history of completing jobs on time and on budget and our versatility.” Ed Jr. hopes the third generation of Burmans can continue growing E. W. Burman Inc. as a time-honored family tradition.

Published on: April 19, 2013


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