Rectenwald Brothers Construction, Inc. raises the roof in retail developments
Born of a long line of carpenters, Art Rectenwald understands the importance of cutting, shaping and adapting to produce quality results.
He blended his family legacy with an entrepreneurial mindset to found Rectenwald Brothers Construction, Inc. (Rectenwald Brothers) in 1984. As the President and CEO of this general contracting business based in Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania, Art’s vision was to build and renovate stores and malls regionally…and maybe beyond. Along the way, he found like-minded individuals to help push new boundaries.
Now celebrating 35 years in business, the company has exceeded even Art’s early expectations, completing over 2,300 projects for 170 national accounts in the U.S. and Canada. Actively working in 43 states and with annual revenues around $50 million, the company continues to realize strong and steady growth.
Looking back at over three decades of operation, Art says, “I watched and learned as my father managed his business and served each customer. Diligence, integrity and respect were his code and we’ve built our company on these basic principles. I believe our success, growth and longevity is due to our team ethos. There is liberal and consistent sharing of knowledge and expertise throughout the company—and rarely a situation or problem that one of us has not faced and figured out how to resolve.”
It’s a foundational belief that has helped the company undertake some of its clients’ most challenging problems—from reimagining shopping malls to raising roofs.
At the Core
Over the years, the company realized steady growth, building new relationships and learning the national retail construction niche. By the mid-90s, the company had name-brand accounts with retailers such as American Eagle Outfitters, Aéropostale and Toys “R” Us as well as regional and national shopping center developers.
While continuing to build that client base, Art was also building his team, which by 1997 included one of his brothers. Jerry Rectenwald came on to manage the company’s millwork division that was starting to take off thanks to some major retail accounts.
Now Vice President of Business Development, Jerry says, “My role in the company changed around 2004. Recognizing that we needed a healthier diversification of clients, Art asked me to assume leadership of marketing efforts; and I’m happy to say we succeeded, adding many significant accounts.”
In 2010, with the ever-expanding client base and growing national presence, Tim Aubel joined the company as assistant project manager, and in nine years has worked his way up the ladder to Vice President of Construction.
Tim recalls, “At the end of my very first week, working alongside Art and traveling to project meetings across the country, I knew that the company’s vision and drive was a perfect fit as to where I wanted to be.”
In addition to overseeing operations, Tim heads up a team that handles significant accounts, such as Nike, Dave & Buster’s and Forever 21.
While the company’s executive leadership team, a group whose tenure with the company averages 22 years, provides guidance, Art sees the field team as the lifeblood of the organization. Having been a site superintendent himself, he understands the challenges of managing a construction project, and he has built into the company’s culture a respect for and appreciation of field personnel.
He adds, “Our project managers and superintendents are among the best in the industry. Expertise and experience, combined with utilization of advanced technologies, enables us to meet and exceed client expectations.”
Beyond top performance and a strong work ethic, Art clearly admires and likes his employees, emphasizing, “We have a terrific group of dedicated, hardworking people who know their job and do it well. My father taught me that dedication and service should never be taken for granted. I strive to maintain a very positive culture of friendliness and mutual admiration. We are a close-knit group who socialize regularly. With very low employee turnover, we are not just co-workers, but more like family.”
Evolving with Demand
The tight family connection along with the vision of the executive team have helped Rectenwald Brothers grow and evolve with industry demand, despite ups and downs in the economic cycle.
Ten years ago, the company client base was about 80 percent retail stores and 20 percent shell modifications and food and beverage/entertainment. The evolution of e-commerce and other influences has changed the industry considerably, and Rectenwald Brothers has adapted in response. While retail work has decreased some, the company has expanded its work in shopping center redevelopment and food and beverage work, which combined now account for close to 50 percent of revenues.
Projects in retail centers are increasingly complex and often require some creative thinking by landlords, and present challenging builds for contractors. When H&M, a multinational retail clothing company, signed on for a new 21,000-square-foot store at The Mall at Robinson in Pittsburgh, the mall owner looked to Rectenwald Brothers to reform a wing of the mall to prepare the new H&M space. The scope included removing nine tenants, relocating a service court and adding an addition to the mall. Rectenwald Brothers went on to build the high-end H&M store, its 18th in the last three years.
A trend in retail centers is to incorporate more restaurant and entertainment options, which resulted in another interesting project, this one just outside of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The landlord of Capital City Mall looked to redevelop the 28,000-square-foot anchor end of a mall to accommodate a future Dave & Buster’s. As part of the project, Rectenwald Brothers was asked to add an 8,000-square-foot addition and hydraulically raise the height of an existing 17,000-square-foot roof section to accommodate the sports restaurant and arcade. Better yet, once Rectenwald Brothers completed the mall project, they bid on and won the Dave & Buster’s tenant build- out contract.
Art believes the abovementioned industry shift, particularly in shopping mall tenants, is the perfect environment for his team to demonstrate their ability to facilitate even the most complex challenges.
“There is liberal and consistent sharing of knowledge and expertise throughout the company—and rarely a situation or problem that one of us has not faced and figured out how to resolve.” Art Rectenwald, President/CEO, Rectenwald Brothers Construction, Inc.
Beyond the JobSite
Rectenwald Brothers is more than a problem solver in the retail business—the team is also striving to make a difference in the community.
One activity the company is passionate about is the charitable organization, Pennies from Heaven Fund, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that helps to ease financial hardships for parents with sick children at the UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.
Art has been involved since the founding of the organization. He explains, “This fund was started by a close friend soon after his son was diagnosed with leukemia more than 15 years ago. He and his wife spent every waking moment at the hospital, and he recognized how financially challenging it was for parents to take off from work and be with their sick children. A large majority of people can’t afford to be away from their jobs for extended periods of time. So, my friend and his wife did something about it.”
The Pennies from Heaven Fund provides a variety of resources to allow parents to remain with their children during hospital stays—from small overnight toiletry bags and brown bag lunches to paying lost wages, utility bills and even mortgage payments. To date, the organization has raised over $2.3 million and helped 90,000 families.
Art adds, “To me, this organization is representative of what community is all about. I’ve supported this organization personally and professionally since inception because it’s making a direct difference in the lives of these families.”
Besides corporate sponsorships and donations, Rectenwald Brothers has made “in honor of” donations in lieu of client gifts during the holidays for the last several years—a tradition that clients appreciate.
While celebrating 35 years in business, Art strives for continuous improvement.
“I always wanted to be a general contractor,” Art explains. “I knew from experience with my dad’s business that a client’s expectation of quality and timely completion is merely the minimum; and any competent general contractor can meet that requirement. My goal on every project is to provide another layer of excellence, to make the entire construction process a positive experience for our clients.”
He concludes, “Our slogan is ‘Proactively Managed. Technically Advanced. Experientially Guided.’ These are more than just words to us. It’s our operational imperative.”