Schumacher Systems, Inc. Leaving Their Footprint on the Hudson Valley

On The Level

Construction Contractors Association January 2020 Newsletter

By Barry S. Lewis,
Vice-President of Communications & Member Relations

It was late October and a winter chill is in the air. Snow won’t be too far behind. Craig Schumacher, who heads Schumacher Systems, a family-run commercial construction company, is a subcontractor on the $14.6 million expansion and modernization project at Belleayre Mountain Ski Resort. Asked if work will be done on the lodge in time for the upcoming season, Schumacher, 68, smiles and answers with the confidence of a man who has experienced more than his share of project deadlines. “You’d be surprised how much gets finished in the final weeks.” He looks around. “Yea, we’ll be sure to have our work done.”

A U.S. Army veteran, Schumacher first began as a lineman for AT&T before joining Painters Local 155 and learning the drywall trade by working on hundreds of private homes and many of the famed Catskill hotels including the Concord and Pines. What began in the mid-1970s as Schumacher Drywall, a small taping and painting business has evolved over the years into a commercial business whose work can be seen in some of the most iconic and historic landmarks in the Hudson Valley including Bethel Woods Center for the Arts and many of the facilities at West Point.

These days Schumacher Systems, located in western Sullivan County, has about 35 employees and is led by Schumacher’s daughter Kori Allen, the company vice president and son Brett, estimator and project manager. Having rode the wave through many up and down years in the construction industry, the Schumacher’s remain proud of the high standard of quality throughout their projects and what lies ahead for them. The three sat down to discuss how the business has evolved over the years and how projects have broadened in size and complexity.

Q: You did a lot of work at Bethel Woods including the metal framing of all the exterior and interior walls, ceilings and roof trusses, rough and finish carpentry and acoustical and linear wood ceilings. How did you get the job?
Craig: “I got a call from Alan Gerry. We had done a lot of work at his house and so he was familiar with our work. Bids were coming in high and the general contractor was looking at multiple contractors. Alan knew we were local and I’m sure he liked how the renovations on his own house turned out.”

Q: How involved was he on the project?
Craig: “Alan is very hands on. But in a good way. I was out with my wife Anne on a Sunday and we decided to stop at the job site. There was no one else there except Alan, looking over the area. He looked at me and said, ‘somebody else works on a Sunday, too?’” Kori: “I was the project manager and it was a tough job. The first component which nobody really sees and appreciates but was a huge headache was the skylights in the pavilion. For us it’s a structural metal stud framing that had to be engineered to hold those skylights up in the pavilion roof. The skylights are like 60 feet long. There’s a wall that we built to support them.”

Q: What else made that job such a challenge?
Brett: “The logistics. Bethel Woods was a difficult project because it was out in the middle of nowhere. The deliveries are difficult. Complicated. Not easy framing. Not straight up and down like when we did ShopRite or schools like Sullivan West or Washingtonville.”

Q: The last several years you’ve been doing a lot of work at West Point (Eisenhower Hall renovation, Keller Hospital three-story addition and renovations to several barracks). How does construction there differ from other locations?
Kori: “A lot of projects at West Point are overseen by the Army Corps of Engineers. They are very strict about measurements. If the specs say you have to screw your drywall every 12 inches you better screw your drywall every 12 inches. We have a certain standard for ourselves and we’re known for that. Schumacher does a good job. And we hold ourselves to that standard. But if we’re off half an inch that’s too much for the Corps.”

Q: How has the business changed overall?
Kori: “I think with anything it’s just gotten more complicated. More regulations, more paperwork. We’d get a project, start tomorrow, order materials and get guys on the job site and put it up. These days it’s all pretty extensive. Contracts have gone from a few pages to hundreds of pages. There are references to other contracts and thousands of government clauses and you need to know what they are.” Craig: “We used to have a room full of plans. I’d take my pickup truck and load plans on it. We have the ability now to use smart phones on the project. I can look at something on my screen while talking to my foreman. I’ll draw color on this wall and take a snapshot and text it to them. They send a picture to me. The time that saves is invaluable.”

Q: What does a recession do to a family-owned business?
Kori: “It was the worst thing you could ever imagine. We went into the recession with a bad project that immediately proceeded it. So we had hundreds of thousands of dollars out on our credit line. And suddenly there was no work to be found.”
Brett: “We were bidding stuff that I never would have bid in a million years. Stuff I would just leave alone. We don’t specialize in retail. Do it very rarely. Suddenly you’re doing retail bids constantly. Anything to survive.”
Kori: “It was week to week. We weren’t taking paychecks and always paid out union benefits. Then we got the Keller Hospital addition. Battled through it. Slowly climb out of the hole.” Craig: “You always have to have faith. Work at it. You can do it. It’s a stressful business. We became more conservative after the recession.”

Q. Do you show off your work to friends and family?

Brett: “It’s fun to show them off. We have a lot of pride in our work.” Craig: “You know the buildings will be here. Bethel Woods will be here long after I’m gone. We’ve left a footprint that is going to go through the ages for quite a while. That feels good.”