Case Studies

Varsity Plumbing and Heating Inc.

53 years of family-run plumbing and HVAC in New York and Long Island

The great New York City – Long Island plumbing and HVAC service markets are flooded with contractors, but few have been doing business for 53 years with the trusted family-owned and -operated reputation as Varsity Plumbing and Heating Inc. Since Robert Bellini, Sr. (Mr. B) built the business from the ground up in 1962, Varsity has been serving homeowners, as well as multifamily and commercial properties with a dedication to leading quality work, competent and careful employees and unmatched responsiveness.

With locations in Flushing, New York, and Bohemia, Long Island, Varsity deploys active residential and multifamily service crews, including 58 vehicles and upward of 130 employees. “We service everything from single-family homes, all the way up to 80-story high-rise residential and commercial buildings,” says Bobby Bellini, second-generation president of Varsity. “We serve homeowners, but our target market in the city is primarily real estate management companies and multi-property owners.”

Today, Varsity’s scope of services runs far and wide, including plumbing, cooling, heating, water quality, sewer and drain cleaning, fire protection and suppression, backflow prevention and pumping systems. The company even has a division that works NYC’s public agencies such as the New York City School Construction Authority, Department of Design and Construction, the Mass Transit Authority and public libraries.

Growing from the ground up

Varsity has grown to serve greater Long Island and all five boroughs of New York City, but when Mr. B founded the company, Varsity had a single, small location. “We’re now in our 53rd year of business and my father was the entrepreneur who started it all,” recounts Bobby. “He didn’t finish high school but he learned the plumbing trade and went on to become a master plumber.”

Bobby says the company name comes from his father’s love of baseball and his dreams of being a varsity athlete. “He didn’t finish high school, although he went on to get his GED later in life, so he never was able to be on the team or earn a varsity letter,” explains Bobby. “He named the company Varsity to symbolize the success he achieved instead.”

In founding Varsity, Mr. B laid the groundwork for the principals the company lives by today. “He knew it was essential in business to earn a customer’s trust,” says Bobby. “This is easily said, but not easily done; in fact, it’s pretty hard to do.”

“My father established four fundamental points that are critical to our business, even 53 years later,” continues Bobby. “They are: do a good job, at a fair price, stand behind your work and always keep your word – this philosophy is very much alive at Varsity still.”

Mr. B also founded Varsity as a means to provide for his growing family. “My parents had five children right in a row, so he was working seven days a week, pulling 12- to 14-hour days and struggling to make ends meet,” says Bobby. “He started his own service and repair business to earn a better living and things began to expand.”

Varsity Plumbing and Heating Inc.

Sons step in

In the early 80s the next generation of Bellinis joined the Varsity team – Bobby and his brothers, Tom and Rick Bellini. “The company began to diversify in the type of markets we serve and the services we provide,” recounts Bobby. “We really hit our stride in the mid-’90s and Varsity continued to grow. We went from a four-truck operation to a 40-truck.”

Varsity had always been a residential plumbing contractor and the company began to take on heating and air jobs, fire suppression and sprinkler systems in more sizable multifamily units in the city. “Some of this is renovation work, but most of it is on-call, emergency response and service work,” notes Bobby.

Today, Varsity divides its resources between the Long Island division, which is full residential service, supporting private homes with plumbing and HVAC service, repair and installation and the city division located in Queens. “In the city we have 40 repair trucks running, serving all five boroughs,” says Bobby. “From 70- to 80-story buildings to a 500-unit multifamily complex – Varsity offers mainly plumbing and fire suppression services, catering to property owners and real estate management companies in the city.”

The company currently has a project at Elechester Housing. “We are the plumbing contractor renovating 30 boiler rooms on the set of multifamily residential buildings,” notes Bobby. “We’re working as the subcontractor for two general contractors, doing all of the plumbing and gas repiping.”

Rapid turnarounds

One hallmark of Varsity is its responsiveness. The company is quick to act and deploy crews when there’s a high-profile or high-pressure situation on hand. “We had a major problem this past summer in two public schools in Brooklyn where blue-colored water was coming through the water mains,” says Bobby. “The issue hit the press and quickly became a political problem.”

Once Varsity got the call, the company worked around the clock to help design and install water filtration systems and adhere to disinfection protocols. “We had to repipe and put temporary fixtures in to get the summer school programs going while disinfecting the mains, water distribution piping and building new fixtures for the start of school in September.”

Across from the home of the new Freedom Tower, Varsity has recently completed the replacement of hot water generating equipment, serving three, 35-story multifamily residential towers, each consisting of 550 families. “The roof top mechanical equipment rooms on these multifamily buildings contained antiquated domestic hot water systems,” says Bobby. “While in the design phase of new equipment, all of the old equipment started failing. They were losing hot water on a frequent basis across all three buildings. The old equipment was no longer serviceable.”

Varsity stepped in with a rapid response team. “The real challenge was to provide continuous hot water during the change out, while constantly having  to move crews from one building to the next as the existing equipment continued to fail,” explains Bobby.

“We successfully took a job that was calculated at six months and knocked it out from start to finish with very few problems in three months,” says Bobby. “Needless to say the owner was extremely happy.”

Going above and beyond to take care

Varsity consistently meets and exceeds customer expectations by turning around projects in timelines other contractors sometimes struggle to meet. Bobby says this is all related to reinvesting in the company and its workforce. “Varsity offers ongoing education and our employees must undergo OSHA safety certification courses on a regular basis,” he says. “We also drug test and run criminal background checks on our employees. There is an added cost to providing all of this but we do it because in our line of work, we’re not just going into a building, we’re going into someone’s home. We respect that.”

Even in the NYC market with more than 1,200 licensed master plumbers and many companies low bidding project after project just to land work, Varsity continues to gain market share. So much so that Bobby says the company is limiting bids right now. “Because of our reputation for performance and responsiveness, we have a huge backlog,” he reveals. “As president, one of my responsibilities is to facilitate growth and find new revenue streams, but right now, we’re scaling back a bit because our infrastructure could easily be overloaded by so much incoming work; it’s about maintaining a balance.”

This balance is important in Varsity’s effort to uphold its 53-year-long reputation. In addition to close customer relationships, the company is also actively involved in community events and fundraisers. “We have organized a food drive for Long Island Harvest and also provided donations to the Boomer Esiason Foundation for Cystic Fibrosis research,” says Bobby. “Boomer is a former NFL quarterback and one of my friends.”

Varsity has also sponsored Little League and local sports teams, and regularly donates to churches, synagogues, police and fire departments. Bobby says it all comes back to doing the right thing, for customers and the communities they call home.

For 53 years and counting, Varsity Plumbing and Heating Inc. has furthered its reputation as a standby plumbing, HVAC and fire suppression contractor throughout greater New York City and Long Island.

Published on: July 23, 2015

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