CHUTES International builds business on debris removal
If you manage a historic building and you need to replace an old linen chute, who do you call? The New York City Waldorf Astoria folks knew exactly who to call: CHUTES International.
“They had an existing internal chute, and they needed us to come in and design a new system for them, without doing anything that would take away from the classic original building itself,” says Heidi Wood, Vice President of the chute manufacturer and distributor in the serendipitously named Waldorf, Maryland. The project, Wood notes, was not without challenge. “We had to remove the old chute and replace it with the new system while the hotel was still open and without disturbing guests or interrupting hotel operations.”
The Waldorf Astoria is 47 floors. The linen chute wasn’t a straight shot from the top floor to the basement laundry room. “Around midway (the 19th floor) we had to design a funnel section that placed the linen onto a conveyer belt that moved the laundry several feet from the discharge of the upper chute, over to the intake of the lower half of the chute,” Wood says. “That was fun.”
But tackling that and all types of projects is not out of the norm for CHUTES International, which manufactures, sells, rents, repairs and maintains both external and internal debris removal chute systems around the world. The company has multiple kinds of chutes: external steel chutes, external plastic chutes and internal trash, recycling and linen steel chutes along with compactors, sorters, cans, odor control systems, etc. “We’ve become the supermarket of quality chutes!” says Judy Taylor, a 25-year-plus CHUTES sales veteran.
The external heavy-duty steel chutes are used for construction debris removal and are leased from CHUTES International. The company owns the patents and design for its external steel chute that is made exclusively for CHUTES International. The external plastic chutes, for which CHUTES International owns the mold, are both rented and sold. The internal chutes, which are used for trash, recycling, linens and laundry, are manufactured by CHUTES International at the Waldorf location.
Among the company’s most notable projects were the use of a more than 600-foot external steel chute during construction of the Wynn Tower in Las Vegas in 2004-2005 and its companion Encore Tower in 2008, and the placement of an 830-foot permanent internal chute in the 76-story Beekman Tower in New York City complete with two compactors and a specially designed diverter.
“While the Astoria, Wynn and Beekman are noteworthy, we are proud of each and every project,” says Doug Galeone, Director of Sales. “Every customer and every project is just as important as the next.”
The company got its start in 1989 when Owner and President Hadi Boustani purchased the patents for an external heavy-duty steel chute that had been designed to safely remove debris from construction sites. At the beginning of CHUTES International, there were about four or five employees, and the company serviced and rented chutes in the Maryland-Virginia area. The company now has 90 employees. “As is the story with most successful companies, growth was planned but it came naturally by offering amazing customer service with a concentration on high-quality products and continuous improvement,” shares Galeone.
The steel chute was an ideal product to offer with business booming in the late ’80s. But in the early ’90s, when Wood joined the company, new construction started nosediving, she says, and Boustani was faced with a choice between cutting back or expanding into other products. Boustani chose additional products, starting with the plastic external chute. That decision changed the course of company.
The timing was critical. The plastic chute is used most often for renovation work, and as new high-rise construction dipped in the ’90s, renovation work increased, Wood explains. The plastic chute became a key part of business for CHUTES International.
Opening up the Market
The decision to move into plastic chutes opened the market for CHUTES International. The company was no longer just renting chutes in the local area; it now had multiple products to market and sell on a national or even an international basis. “So that became a very popular product, and it really expanded our business model and enabled us to become a national company,” Wood says.
Following the introduction of the successful plastic chutes, the company was approached by some general contractors to provide the internal, permanent chute as well. Those are permanently installed steel trash, linen and recycling chutes that go inside of a building and are specified by and designed into the building by architects, Wood says. Originally sourced from another manufacturer, CHUTES International designed, patented and then started manufacturing its own internal chute line. In 2016, the company opened a new manufacturing plant in Waldorf that includes space for a second manufacturing line and minimizes the need to outsource other products.
“The fruits of our efforts are paying off,” Galeone says. “We have moved up in the ranks.”
CHUTES International has other products, such as odor control systems, compactors and an apartment style bagger, which complement the internal chute and have helped the company continue to grow, Wood says. “Originally it was a simple, straightforward chute. Now we have an electrical interlock option. We have hands-free options. We have a smart system that can be built in and that can even advise building maintenance personnel if there is a problem within the chute. Depending on customer need and intent, we are always looking to add and improve upon what we have.”
Helping Grow the Construction Industry
CHUTES International is actively involved in outreach to the construction community as well as reaching out to the community at large.
The company is heavily involved with the Associated Builders and Contractors Metro Washington chapter. “We work with them in the high schools with those students who are doing the vocational-technical program, helping them with their resumes, teaching interview processes, kind of helping to prepare them for real-world work,” Wood says.
The company is also active with the National Association of Women in Construction, helping to promote opportunities for women in the industry. “Currently only 10% of the construction industry is represented by women, which is an issue,” Wood says.
In that same vein, women in the office and some sales reps recently worked with She Builds, an outreach program for women, spending time doing repair work at an area women’s shelter, “just trying to make it a little bit nicer for the women staying there,” Wood says. The annual event is an outreach of the national nonprofit Rebuilding Together.
The company has participated in Toys for Tots, food drives, fundraising activities for the homeless and several breast cancer awareness walks. The team also supports the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, veteran initiatives and scholarship foundations. And CHUTES International encourages volunteerism in the community by offering a day of paid leave for all of its employees.
Galeone, who has been with the company less than four years, says that CHUTES International is “by far, hands down, the most comfortable, family-style atmosphere you would ever want to be a part of. Everybody here really truly cares,” he says. “It’s about our people. That is what matters here. We care more for people and getting things done right than we do the money. The money will come. We truly care for our customers and for our employees. I think everyone who comes in contact with us would tell you that.”