Proactive, Professional and Diverse
Icon Interiors Inc. provides quality commercial contracting services across northern Ohio
Glenn Pickens, President of Icon Interiors Inc. in Cleveland, Ohio, says he always knew he’d work in one of the construction trades. “My dad was a commercial roofer,” he recalls. “When I was a little kid, I loved going with him when he’d do side projects on the weekends.” His chance to try his hand at drywall installation and finishing came when Glenn was 14 years old. “I wanted a dirt bike and I needed 500 bucks to buy it,” he says. So, he started working for his older brother, Dan McLaughlin, who owned a small drywall company that mostly did single-family residential projects.
“I enjoyed the work,” he says. “When I started high school, I’d go to classes half a day and work the other half. At 16, I went to Polaris Career Center in Middleburg Heights, Ohio, for their construction trades program. Once I graduated from high school, I started working full time as a drywall finisher for my brother and I spent the next several years honing my skills.”
Expanding Into Commercial Work
In 2006, Glenn founded his own company, Icon Interiors, to expand into the commercial market sector. “For residential construction, everyone specializes in a particular area: drywall finishing, rough carpentry, finish carpentry,” he says. “In the commercial sector, things work like a system. If you frame it, you more than likely do the drywall and other tasks as part of your overall package. That’s how we’ve transformed and grown.”
Icon Interiors now has 28 employees who provide interior contracting services for assisted living, corporate, educational, hospitality, industrial, mixed-use, religious, residential, retail and restaurant facilities throughout northern Ohio. While Glenn and his team primarily build walls, ceilings and floors, they also install door frames, doors and hardware, and accessories such as cubicles and restroom partitions.
Proactive Project Management
This broad range of project types and interior architecture services informs and influences how Icon Interiors does business.
“Our experience helps us to recognize constant variables as well as potential risks,” Glenn says. “We are always looking at the situation ahead of time. During bidding, we identify any questions and potential issues related to the plans, site conditions, work sequencing, schedule and budget. Sometimes we need to take an educated guess because the general contractor doesn’t have an answer to a question, but we make sure to tell the people who need to know about any concerns we may have.”
The company’s proactive stance continues through every step of the construction process. “We have weekly meetings and run through everything with the project superintendent on a daily basis,” Glenn says. “We keep at least one foreman assigned to midsized and large projects to avoid miscommunication that can happen when there are handoffs between multiple foremen. If we see something is going to be an issue, we make sure to work through it—days, weeks or even months in advance.”
He elaborates: “This is definitely important for long-lead items. For example, if we are putting in welded metal door frames, these need to go in after the walls are framed but before the drywall. Metal door frames can have a four-to-six-week lead time, so if they arrive late that can ruin a project. It’s also important to have access through and around the site. If someone is scheduled to grade a site at the same time we need to start framing, or a scaffold used by another trade is in the way of our work, these situations can cause unnecessary delays.”
Strategic Sequencing and a Sizable Workforce
According to Glenn, working out sequencing in advance is especially critical for larger, multifaceted jobs. Even brief delays can affect what dozens of people are doing on a job site.
“We break massive projects, like the O’Reilly Auto Parts Distribution Center in Twinsburg, Ohio, down into manageable sections and work through those,” he says. “This is the largest job we’ve done. It is a 400,000-square-foot building and our work was spread throughout the facility. Our scope included installing metal studs, thermal and sound insulation, acoustical ceilings, doors, door frames and hardware, casework, restroom partitions and accessories and fiberglass-reinforced panels. We also did the cold-formed and light-gauge metal framing and drywall. So, the sequencing was complicated—and the schedule was fast-paced.”
Since most of the construction occurred in the winter, weather-related delays added to the challenge of completing such a wide range of tasks on time. Glenn says the fact that Icon Interiors employs a sizable in-house workforce of experienced carpenters, drywall hangers and drywall finishers proved critical. “There were a lot of hurdles to clear, so we flexed manpower at key points in the schedule to keep things moving forward,” he explains.
Weston Cooper, Project Superintendent for Peak Construction Corporation based in Des Plaines, Illinois, says he appreciates Icon Interiors’ strategic approach to planning and executing a scope of work. As the on-site construction project superintendent, Weston oversaw the daily field operations for the O’Reilly Auto Parts Distribution Center.
He says, “After sitting down and speaking with Icon’s team members and seeing how thorough and professional they were, we were excited to award Icon Interiors the contract for this industrial facility. Icon has very experienced personnel who communicate well throughout the project, do quality work, and go above and beyond to get projects completed. They did an excellent job, which made it easy to use them again for the Wayfair distribution center in Strongsville, Ohio.”
“We’d like to do more projects like this,” Glenn says. “It’s impressive how much work we were able to accomplish in a day. A lot of our projects are small to midsized, detail-oriented and intricate. That’s another one of our niches: projects that require precision within a limited space.”
Such was the case for the subcontracting services that Icon Interiors provided for a Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurants location in Orange Village, Ohio.
“We primarily did the general carpentry and drywall for this new, ground-up restaurant,” Glenn says. “Our work focused on the architectural interiors where there was a lot going on in one space, with a short schedule so the restaurant could open on time. We were able to accomplish everything with a high degree of accuracy and optimal efficiency because of our skilled, experienced crew.”
First Lutheran Church in Lorain
Icon Interiors’ work at the new First Lutheran Church in Lorain, Ohio, also required meticulous attention to detail—and a creative solution for addressing site conditions. In August 2014, someone set fire to the existing church complex. The sanctuary was burned extensively and many of its distinguishing features, including a magnificent Brombaugh pipe organ, were destroyed. The congregation voted to have the damaged structures demolished and a year later purchased a site across the corner to begin rebuilding. According to Glenn, the complexity of the load-bearing metal and light-gauge steel framing combined with the timing of construction presented some unique challenges.
“The walls of the church were stick-framed and the site was incredibly muddy,” he says. “This made it hard to set braces, so we brought in temporary concrete barricades and tied our walls back to these. Once the trusses were set, the walls were locked in at the top and we could remove the huge concrete blocks.”
The architectural design for the building’s interiors also required highly skilled craftmanship. “The sanctuary had an undulated ceiling for acoustics,” Glenn says. “If you look at where the wall meets the ceiling, it’s all up and down. We built it using blueboard, then applied a plaster finish over it.”
Building a Talented Team
Regardless of the size, building type and range of services that Icon Interiors provides for commercial projects, it’s clear that building a talented team of skilled craftsmen and establishing lasting relationships with clients are top priorities for Glenn.
“We take pride in providing a stable workplace and offering growth and advancement opportunities for employees of all ages and experience levels—from recent graduates to seasoned professionals,” Glenn says, adding that individuals who are punctual, have a positive attitude and strong work ethic stand out pretty quickly. “We help our new employees get acclimated by having them help keep job sites clean. During that first week, we see how smart and committed they are, what kind of hustle they have. We can usually tell if they are going to make it a week, a month or for life.”
Glenn’s role as an advisory board member for local vocational schools—such as Polaris Career Center, Lorain County JVS Adult Career Center and Auburn Career Center—helps him to connect with students who will be seeking jobs in the construction industry after graduation. He says that in addition to sharing knowledge about industry trends and which skills are in demand, he has a chance to speak with instructors about Icon Interiors.
“The students usually have specific interests,” Glenn says. “If they want to build houses versus work on skyscrapers, those are two totally different things. The instructors know the students best—their attitudes and skill sets—so they take the lead in matching new graduates with companies that will be a good fit.”
Taking the Long View
According to Glenn, evaluating the lasting impact of business decisions has helped him build his company into a preferred interior systems contractor.
“I have a long-range vision,” he says. “We make sure we understand what each project requires—from our initial takeoff to final close-out documents—so that we can submit honest, accurate bids. Our numbers are reliable and consistent. If we are busy one day, our numbers don’t increase. If we are slow, our numbers don’t drop. If we don’t win one project, we’ll hopefully win the second or third one.” This philosophy has led to the formation of strong client relationships and repeat business.
According to Dennis Zanath, President and Partner at 3DEE Construction LLC in Brook Park, Ohio, the mutual respect between his firm and Icon Interiors started during contract negotiations for Avenue at North Ridgeville, a facility in North Ridgeville, Ohio, that provides skilled nursing, respite care and hospice services.
“We interviewed Glenn and Icon Interiors’ Estimator, Jameson Pagan, and conducted a detailed review of Icon’s work scope,” Dennis says. “Although our companies had not worked together, I believed there was anticipation that Icon could help us be successful in completing our first major project, which was clearly a risk on their part too. They do what they say they are going to do and have the manpower to back it up.”
In fact, based on Icon Interiors’ performance during their first collaboration, Dennis later hired Glenn and his team for the Avenue at Lyndhurst and Avenue at Strongsville projects.
Nearly a decade and a half after Glenn decided to start his own company, Icon Interiors holds a positive reputation for seasoned, diversified experience. With its sizable in-house workforce and strong project management expertise, the company has everything needed to continue providing a full range of interior contracting services for commercial construction projects throughout northern Ohio. Heather Beal has 25+ years of experience as a magazine journalist and book author covering all aspects of the built environment.