Brick business a labour of love for ex-pilot
At Bermuda Brickyard Ltd, the company truck is a bright red 1931 Ford Model A with the company logo on the side. Owner Peter Schindel loves antiques. It was this passion that led him to form the company in 1994.
“I bought the old Devonshire post office,” Mr Schindel said. “Working with architect David Benevides I paved the driveway with old Chicago brick.”
When people started asking how they could get brick for their driveways, Bermuda Brickyard was born.
He set up a small shed and stool near his home and started bringing bricks in by the container load.
Bermudian through his mother’s side, he was splitting his time between Bermuda and the US where he worked as a pilot and instructor for United Airline for 32 years.
Then United Airlines suffered bankruptcy after the September 11, 2001 World Trade Center terrorism attacks. He then flew for NetJets for several years.
“After (United) took our pension fund and gave us pennies on the dollar, I thought I better get serious on the brickyard business,” he said.
Twenty-five years after inception, the company now on Mill Reach Lane, Pembroke has a large showroom and brickyard, and a master mason, master electrician and master carpenter on staff. Recent projects include the Rosedon Hotel on Pitts Bay Road in Pembroke, St James Court in Flatts and The Breakers in Warwick. And now they also do wood flooring, hurricane protection and bronze casements and doors, among other things.
Mr Schindel loves to talk about the pavers, cobblestones and bricks he has on hand in the showroom. Some of them are simply made to look antique, while others are centuries old.
“We get the bricks from New York City or downtown Chicago,” he said.
He explained that when these cities made the switch from cobblestone streets to asphalt years ago, the asphalt companies simply went in and poured material over the cobblestones, rather than removing them. “It was easier that way,” Mr Schindel said.
But when utility companies dig up the streets to do repair work, now, they don’t replace the cobblestones, because of the expense. So the bricks are sold to companies which sell them on to people like Mr Schindel.
Occasionally, some of the antique bricks come with the handprints of their makers.
“I collect these,” he said. “Then I’ll get a collection of 40 or 60, and someone will want them and they’ll go.”
He loves sourcing unusual objects for customers. His show room is a mishmash of items such as an old wooden floor, a church pew and hand-hewn beams. One of the most unusual items he sourced was a cast iron British phone booth that someone wanted for their garden.
“We found it in the UK,” he said. “Generally speaking, they are hard to come by, particularly ones in good shape, but we found this one in great shape.”
The only problem was the phone booth made of cast iron was extremely heavy.
“I thought we could take it in one of our trucks,” he said.
All it took was one attempt to lift it up, with another guy, for Mr Schindel to switch to specialised equipment to move it.
But running the business isn’t all roses. Mr Schindel said one of the most difficult tasks is collecting money at the end of a job.
“Sometimes it comes easy and sometimes it is a hassle,” he said. “That is the single most unpleasant thing of a business like this, and I am sure it’s the same for other small business owners in particular. You don’t want to get into a situation where you have to get a lawyer involved. It is not just the money; the big thing is your time.”
As the business has heated up over the last three years, he has been working 12-hour days on average, six days a week.
“To my mind the challenges are knowing where you are with everything, being as knowledgeable as you can be and get the best people you can possibly find for someone to do things,” he said.
He said in any business it’s important to be the best you can be, and do the best job you possibly can.
• This article has been amended to show that it was United Airlines that went bankrupt.
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