Building a Strong Bond
For both Steve Brann Sr. and Steve Brann Jr., quality construction is a family value
By 8:30 on a hot late-summer morning, the Yarmouth house under renovation by Steve Brann Building and Remodeling of Freeport is already a beehive of activity. Some of the crew are installing cabinetry in the new kitchen; others are painting the owners’ bedroom. They’ve been on this job since December and are now nearing the finish line of a project that included building a new, two-story garage and more than doubling the size of the original house. As I wander through the rooms looking for Steve Brann, father or son, I note the workmanship in the simple, farmhouse-style trim and realize that, because the transition is so seamless, I’ll need the Branns to tell me where the old house ends and the addition begins. “When you go into a house like this and you’re remodeling, you’re trying to take pieces from the old structure and blend them back in,” says Steve Jr. “You want it to look like it was always there—obviously with an updated look and giving it new life.”
After working for 20 years for another construction company, Steve Brann Sr. launched his business in 1993. Steve Jr.—the only son in a family of five children—joined him a few years later, following an early career managing a call center. But even when Steve Jr. was a teenager, “He was made to come out to my job sites, kicking and screaming and everything else, to do some work,” his father says.
The two men banter easily, clearly enjoying each other’s company; they’re both on-site to chat with me but are usually running projects independently. “We don’t like to be on the same job together because I’m going to tell him what to do, and he’s going to tell me what to do,” says Steve Sr. “I’m running this job, which is full-time, and he has a job in Cape Elizabeth. We only have so many resources, so we’re pretty careful. We keep it to two jobs at a time.”
Steve Jr. explains that his dad means two major projects— the Branns are also happy to do smaller jobs as well. “If you need a window, we’ll come put in a window. You need a door, we’ll put a door in,” he says. “We do any little thing to help you out because someday you’re going to want something bigger or your kids are going to want something bigger.”
While they work independently on large jobs, father and son share many of the same skills and responsibilities, including attracting new business and maintaining good relationships with both their subcontractors and clients. Steve Jr. handles the billing and much of the organizational side of the business; he also pulls his somewhat reluctant father into embracing twenty-first-century technology. A long-overdue update of the company website is in the works, and Steve Sr. is slowly getting comfortable with his new smartphone. “We’ve been doing more and more work for architects, and I understand they like to be able to send clients to your website,” he says.
The Branns are in complete agreement on what they identify as the most important—and their favorite— aspect of their work. “I tell my guys all the time that there’s a lot more to this business than pounding nails,” says Steve Sr. “I think a lot of it is the interactions with people.” Judging by the cheery mood of everyone I encounter on the Yarmouth job site, enjoying the process is a key component, too. “We’re going to do it right, and we’re going to do it right the first time, and we’re going to have a good time doing it,” he says.
On top of their well-established reputation and building skills, the upbeat attitude of the Branns and their subcontractors is a bonus, according to Tammy Nicholas, who owns the Yarmouth home with her husband, Phil. “Having them around is always a pleasure, which is something I don’t think a lot of people can say with a seven-month project,” she says. “Their patience and consideration are really impressive. They’ve gotten to know my kids, and they take such care with all of our property and personal items.” She also points out the “strong sense of community” around the Branns, both on their crew and in the network of happy customers she’s encountered. “It’s almost like an extended family,” she says. “It’s very comforting and reassuring as a homeowner to have people that are so committed to doing things right.”
The Branns are content with the size and reach of their business. “My plan is not to grow this thing to super large,” says Steve Jr. “I think we’ve got a good niche. We like the kind of clients that we have, and we just want to build more relationships.” With the crew and commute in mind, the Freeport-based company serves a relatively compact area of Maine. While they’ve been asked to do projects in Kennebunk, they’re more focused on greater Portland, Scarborough, Cape Elizabeth, Sebago, and Brunswick.
Now 67, Steve Sr. plans to continue working full-time until he’s at least 70. “I don’t throw plywood up on the roof or anything like that anymore, but as long as I feel relevant and my health is good, I don’t mind doing it,” he says, then points to his son. “He’s going to have a hard time when I’m gone.” Both Branns laugh. “There’s no intention to push him out,” Steve Jr. replies. “We’ll just get him a driver and bring him around because he’s great at what he does.”