PITTSFIELD — Eric Taylor began working for his father in the construction business when he was 15 years old, but, building new structures or restoring old ones are not all that he does. Taylor owns properties, too.
Taylor, the owner of Restorations Inc., a general contracting firm in Hinsdale, also owns two popular commercial properties, The Lake House Guest Cottages of the Berkshires in Lanesborough, and The Proprietor's Lodge in Pittsfield, which are located on opposite sides of Pontoosuc Lake. Taylor refurbished both properties after he bought them, and he eventually hopes to link them by boat.
We spoke to Taylor recently about the restoration of old buildings versus the construction of new ones, his two properties on Pontoosuc Lake, and how his firm is dealing with the supply chain disruptions that have affected the economy.
Q: You're listed as a general contractor, but I know your firm has restored some historic properties. Do you see yourself more as a restorer or a contractor?
A: We're more of a contractor.
[Restorations] was created back in 1970 by my father [George Taylor] and a couple of partners to do historical preservation work, and there's just not enough of that. We spent many years in Lenox working on the [historic] cottages and stuff like that, But, in the 1980s and '90s, I came into Restorations and we just got into more general commercial work and new construction. [Taylor became the head of the firm in 2002].
Q: What well-known buildings did your company work on when your father was in charge?
A: There were quite a few of them. ... The Brookhurst Estate [in Lenox], we renovated back in the 1980s. We've done work at Tanglewood. There's a camp on Yokun Avenue [in Lenox], Belvoir Terrace, where we did a lot of work. For a while, we got into the historic preservation of church steeples. ... We did the one in Lee, at the Church on the Hill [in Lenox], and Becket Congregational, when there was the demand and the availability for it.
Q: How do you approach a project like that?
A: We're usually brought in by the owner or an architect. It's a collaboration on how we all approach it, financially, physically and detail-wise. The Mass. Historical Society and [similar entities] have higher and more stringent guidelines.
Back in the '80s and the '90s, we did a lot of work at Arrowhead ["Moby-Dick" author Herman Melville's home in Pittsfield]. That stuff required more museum-quality work.
Q: What do you mean?
A: Just matching things [restoring a piece on a building] one-for-one. It was what it was. It had to go back to what it was. There was no variance from that. ... It's fun and interesting, and it can be very time-consuming.
Q: What materials do you refer to when you're planning to restore a historic property?
A: Old photos, old blueprints.
Q: Are they hard to follow?
A: Yes. Sometimes they're not well-documented and you have to retrace it. ... I'll do it in collaboration with the architect and the owner.
Q: How do you pick the modern materials that you use to make the restored parts of a building blend in with the original work?
A: The materials are picked for their workability and their longevity. ... I hate to say it, but [we use] PVC and plastic. ... We see a lot of that.
Q: What's the most interesting restoration project you've worked on?
A: The Lee steeple was really unique. We did a bunch of structural reinforcements. It was kind of like building a ship in a bottle.
Q: So, you built a model before you went up there?
Q: What was it like when you actually got to the steeple?
A: Lots of cobwebs.
Q: What attracted you to this business?
A: I'm not exactly sure. I went to trade school in metal fabrication. At that time, my father had Southern Berkshire Welding. ... Then, I switched over and became the estimator for Peter Francese and Sons and Restorations Inc. I was more into the modern end of things. We did a lot of new construction, as well.
Q: [In 2012, Restorations built MountainOne's Financial Center in the William Stanley Business Park, a structure that was built under green building conditions and is 40 percent glass]. How do you approach a new project as opposed to a restoration?
A: Most of our new stuff is plans and specs. ... In new construction, you have your built-in marching orders. It's usually fast-paced.
Q: When you purchased The Lake House property in Lanesborough, what did you originally envision it becoming?
A: I bought it at a time when the economy wasn't in the greatest shape, so, I didn't have a direct plan. I just knew the property had value. ... The Realtor kept calling me. ... I think I went to the property two or three different times with him [before Taylor bought it]. It was finally the view looking east [across the lake] that sold me there.
Q: When you bought the former ITAM Lodge and turned it into The Proprietor's Lodge, you said you wanted to connect it with The Lake House. Is that still the plan?
A: Well, we're trying. The dock [a 12-slip marina that Taylor wants to build] is in appeal right now with the Department of Environmental Protection [in August, a neighbors' group appealed the DEP's decision to grant a provisional license for the dock in July]. ... We hope to see approval early next year, which would allow us to pull the trigger on purchasing the dock and installing it when the weather lets us.
Q: The neighbors' group originally raised concerns about noise, parking and traffic at The Proprietor's Lodge when you first opened. Is there still opposition to your plans?
A: When we first started our project over there, there were, like, 40 or 50 people who were after us, and that's kind of dwindled. There's still a citizens' group. ... [But], we've won over some of the neighbors.
A couple of people in that neighborhood are employed by us. And we know how to behave now. We're not new. We [originally] ran into problems with [capacity] in the parking lot. When we were brand new, there was so much demand. Now, we know how to govern that.
Q: If the dock does get in, what's the strategy going to be?
A: Sometimes we get crossover events where [guests] will be staying at The Lake House but want to go to Proprietor's [to eat]. They all have this kind of fantasy about being boated over, and we haven't been able to deliver on that.
Q: The Lake House has become a popular spot for wedding parties. The COVID-19 pandemic really ate into the wedding business in the Berkshires. How did it affect you?
A: We had a really tough 2020. In the first impact [of the coronavirus pandemic], everybody wanted refunds. We were able to postpone a lot of weddings to the following year, in 2021. The second impact [of the pandemic] was harder, because 2022 was already a pretty solid year, and now you're trying to move 2020 and 2021 there.
We couldn't give clients the weekends they wanted, so, we had to think outside the box. ... We had some midweek weddings. Some people just came to an agreement with us on a refund and we let them go.
We are sold out in 2022, we're halfway into 2023 and we've even got some bookings for 2024.
Q: As a contractor, how have supply chain issues affected your ability to get materials?
A: We've had some issues in being able to obtain things. It's more recent. Back six or eight months ago, we were able to get it, but you were paying a premium for it. Now that companies like Marvin and Anderson and garage door companies are starting back up again, they have staff shortages.
Windows that we would typically get in six weeks, now it's 16 weeks. Garage doors are out 18 weeks. ... Our restaurant distributors are having trouble getting glass for bottles.
Q: Has it ever been this bad?
A: No, it hasn't.