GENEVA — On Oct. 29, 1968, Daniel D’Amico took a big leap into private business. At the time he was working for a Rochester-based plumbing and heating company, and was a member of Local 74 of the Plumbers and Pipefitters union in Geneva. He made a good living, but really wanted to start a business in his hometown of Geneva.
So he did — and D’Amico has never looked back.
D’Amico Plumbing & Heating Co., which is now run by his sons, David and Stephen, celebrated its 50th anniversary Oct. 29.
The company began with a very modest, light residential and commercial business. It has grown into a multimillion-dollar residential, commercial and industrial HVAC and plumbing company. David and Stephen said the company has survived and prospered through 10 U.S. Presidents, and they look forward to its next 50 years in the business.
Dan D’Amico is retired, but still drops in on occasion to see how things are going. His two sons say Dad isn’t shy about making comments or suggestions.
Dave and Steve both worked in the business while in high school, threading pipe and performing other tasks Dad wanted done. Dave graduated from Waterloo High in 1975 and then attended Alfred State College to earn a degree in mechanical engineering. Steve graduated from Waterloo in 1979 and earned a degree in engineering science from Monroe Community College. Both were involved in the union apprentice and journeyman programs and worked as union plumbers and pipefitters as well as helping out their dad.
When Dan D’Amico retired in 2000, the two sons took over the business.
“We’ve gone from around $100,000 worth of business a year to $2.5 million to $3 million a year now, depending on the economy,” Dave said, adding that 30 percent of their work is in residential plumbing and heating and 70 percent is commercial work.
“We try to stay within 100 miles of our shop in Geneva, but we’ve done work in New Jersey, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania,” Steve added. “We’re active in doing subcontracting work for general contractors who bid public projects.”
While technology has advanced their business, the brothers say “a pipe wrench is still a pipe wrench. No robot can do that work.”
Steve said the paperwork involved in meeting government and local regulations has increased, especially in New York. They say worker compensation, liability insurance, and meeting minority and women-owned business requirements have made their work more demanding.
About 90 percent of their work is in the private sector and 10 percent is bidding on public contracts.
Their shop on Middle Street, a site once occupied by Geneva Carpets, has an interesting history. Dan leased space from that company in a part of the building. A fire in the spring of 1977 destroyed the carpet store, and the heat was so intense it melted and bent much of D’Amico’s plumbing inventory.
“We recovered what we could, and Dad moved to the former Buckley Dry Cleaners site on Park Avenue until 1986, when he rebuilt on the Middle Street site,” Dave said.
D’Amico Plumbing & Heating has done work at Cornell AgriTech, formerly the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station; Hobart and William Smith Colleges; the former Willard Psychiatric Center; the Smith Opera House; Courtyard Apartments; and many other local businesses.
“We’re doing well as a business, but there was a time a few years ago when we were on the brink of fiscal stress,” Dave said. “We persevered and worked hard to turn things around. We sacrificed to get where we are today.”
“We both have families now, and it takes a family that understands what it takes,” Steve added. “It’s not always a bed of roses.”
Their father also started working as a plumber early in his life, working for Barth Plumbing and Heating and Edward Joy as well as toiling at union jobs.
“The boys are doing all right,” Dan said, before adding with a smile, “but I like to check up on them now and then.”