Built to last: Pawcatuck roofing celebrates 75 years and counting | Stonington

STONINGTON — If you ask brothers and business partners Rob and Brent Holland why they got into a laborious career such as roofing, they’ll tell you the trade just seems to run in the family — and there are absolutely no regrets about that.

The two longtime owners, who acquired the company from their father Paul Holland in 1998, were raised learning how to run an old-school roofing business, spending their days as children and early teenagers working with hot tar, soldering copper and hustling as laborers alongside dad’s skilled workers. It wasn’t an easy career path, but both said they are proud of how far the business has come since it was first founded by their great uncle, Frank Savageau, in 1946.

“When we first got into it, it was still based on old-school methods and materials,” said company President Rob Holland, 54, who worked alongside his father in the 1980s and 1990s. “With the development of various technologies, so much has changed in recent years. We’ve seen the advent of new tech-driven products that has definitely driven a shift.”

The company recently celebrated 75 years of success, providing services as one of the top — and at times the only — roofing services in the region. With the help of a newly formed business partnership a year ago with J&R General LLC founder Jared Whewell, who started with the company as a teenager and left in 2005 to start his own business before returning as the company’s chief operating officer, Pawcatuck Roofing hopes to expand on the award-winning business’ reputation as an honest, hard-working local company and good community partner.

Pawcatuck Roofing has won four consecutive GAF Master Elite Triple Excellence Awards from 2018 to 2021, and was a 2020 and 2021 recipient of the GAF Master Elite President’s Club, among several other recent awards. 

In an industry where contractors, companies and names change with nearly every generation, Pawcatuck Roofing has been a consistent part of the Westerly-Stonington communities. The company was founded by Savageau, operating as Frank’s Roofing & Siding and starting off with just three workers and a truck.

Savageau would run the company successfully for nearly 30 years, with stories from customers who waited nearly a year for his services.

“Some of it was because they were the only game in town, much of it was due to the quality of work,” Rob Holland said. “They would shut down for the winter around Christmas because of harsher weather back then and pick it back up in March.”

Paul Holland joined the family business after he returned from the armed services, joining his uncle and working in the field until his uncle’s retirement, at which time Holland purchased the company and renamed it Pawcatuck Roofing and Siding. The company also moved headquarters to Pawcatuck at that time, finding a home in Anguilla Park plaza at the intersection of Route 1 and South Anguilla plaza, a location that has remained the company’s home for almost 40 years.

Under their father’s leadership, Rob and Brent said the company thrived through changes and challenges that included bad economies, a stock market crash in the 80s, an energy crisis that drove the cost of asphalt products and shingles up, and a labor crisis in the 90’s. Rob Holland said that never stopped his father from providing quality services, even if it meant keeping his own business small.

“Pawcatuck Roofing wasn’t a huge company, but it was the biggest and the busiest,” Rob said. “Dad didn’t have access to the larger labor pools in the cities which forced him to pass on some of the bigger jobs like school projects and skyscrapers, but he knew how to grow with what he had and knew how to build long-lasting relationships. He doubled then tripled the revenues coming in over a short amount of time.”

It also provided the company with a solid foundation that has allowed the business to give back to the community as well, Chief Financial Officer Brent Holland added. Holland, 50, said the company also sponsors a Pawcatuck Little League team and the ice rink in downtown Westerly and is a regular contributor for youth sports in the community. Rob Holland also serves as a 10-year member of the Westerly Library & Wilcox Park Board of Directors, including serving as president in 2018-19, and is a member of five committees for the board.

With the addition of Whewell to the team, Brent Holland said he’s confident that the company will be able to continue to provide quality services throughout the region for years to come.

At 40 years old, Brent and Rob each said that Whewell brings a youthful energy mixed with 16 years of experience as a business owner. The combination of those skill sets, along with his own hands-on work in the field, made him a natural fit for the team, they said, and provided both companies with a larger workforce and more resources.

All three are active members in the local community — Rob and Jared live in Stonington and Brent is a resident of Westerly — and they are all Stonington High School graduates who have lived and worked in the area their entire lives.  

“My thinking was if we were able to keep the finances within Pawcatuck Roofing, we could build a bigger company, with guys that we could utilize full-time,” Whewell said. “The merger came because it made sense long-term for the longevity of the company.”

Whewell said one of the most significant impacts early has been an expansion of assets and implementation of new technologies that are streamlining projects, allowing crews to accomplish more at a faster rate with fewer mistakes.

All three said the effort will require staying educated on the latest techniques and products, constantly analyzing the process, adjusting to improve efficiencies and always considering outside the box ways to improve. Whewell said that over the next five years, the company will also seek to expand its workforce and hopes to move from the current roster of 55 employees to one that would contain more than 100.

The company is also seeking to develop divisions as it expands, Rob Holland explained, which would allow for more specialized services that would better meet the individual needs of each unique customer.

More importantly, however, Brent Holland said the company plans to keep doing what works and all three plan on providing the same high-quality services that have helped the company be around this long already.

“It all goes back to Rob, Jared and I being on the roofs together learning old school, the right way,” he said. “Pride in the company, pride in the product, pride in preserving our reputation.”