Inherited Trade, Earned Success
Brothers embrace masonry roots as they lead award-winning ARC Restoration & Development, Inc.
Kenneth and Edward Spencer are fourth-generation masons of proud Italian-Irish heritage.
The brothers were raised in what’s known as the “forgotten borough” of Staten Island, New York, but a couple of things are clear: They’ll never forget who they are or where they come from.
Born on the same day two years apart, the two have lived strikingly parallel lives. While their siblings pursued other interests, Ken and Ed seemed naturally born and built for the family business from day one.
“My great-grandfather was a mason, my grandfather was a mason, my father was a mason and we’re masons,” Ken states with signature Staten Island bravado. “We were born into this—we don’t know any other way of life.”
They began working when they were just 5 and 7, and by the time they were teenagers, they’d established their first masonry company, Richmond County Stucco and Stone Contractors, Inc.
Over the years, Ken and Ed gained a reputation for high- quality work and went on to create a second company that expanded their services into building. They called it ARC Restoration & Development, Inc., named after “A Richmond County,” a nod to their origins and Staten Island’s county.
Today, ARC Restoration & Development is an award-winning general contracting company that specializes in complex commercial, condominium and high-end custom home builds and remodels, as well as masonry and luxury outdoor living projects across New York City.
While it was always clear that Ken and Ed were meant for the masonry and construction business, they chose to pursue other ventures along the way.
In the 1980s, they learned that the gym they worked out at was for sale.
“I bought it for $10,000 and my Cadillac,” reflects Ken, laughing. “We had to drive the same car everywhere together for a while.”
Five years later, the brothers turned that small gym, originally called Hard Bodies, into three monster health clubs and World Gym franchises—two in Staten Island and one in New Jersey, each boasting about 25,000 square feet.
During that time, while they were still overseeing their masonry business together, Ken and Ed successfully ran those health clubs and hosted competitions for NPC National Bodybuilding Championships that drew famous bodybuilders and guest posers from around the world.
It wasn’t long, however, until the brothers refocused their efforts, returning their attention back to the masonry and building the business they’d always loved.
In 1989, they went all in on their lifetime goal, obtaining general contractor licenses to take their business to the next level.
That’s when ARC Restoration & Development was formed.
“I’ve owned health clubs and I’ve been on Wall Street, but I’ve always had construction companies since I was 17,” Ken says. “I have 38 years in the construction business, and ARC was always what I wanted to do.”
Just as Ken and Ed were able to transform a tiny gym into a wildly popular franchise success, the brothers took their family’s humble masonry work and built a solid business upon it.
Together, they tackle high-visibility commercial buildings, offices and condos as well as luxury home projects in some of the country’s most prestigious real estate markets. Since its inception, ARC Restoration & Development has completed thousands of commercial projects for companies including Trader Joe’s, Bank of America, Boar’s Head and Chase Bank across areas such as Staten Island, Brooklyn and Manhattan.
Their passion for creating exceptional environments that enhance lifestyles has not only garnered them success but also multiple awards from the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce, including excellence awards for exterior, interior, craftsmanship, natural beauty and interior decorating, among others.
When asked which projects stand out among the thousands, the brothers reference challenging builds that are a far cry from the stone ages.
Ed cites a state-of-the-art, ultramodern trading firm in Manhattan’s Union Square that required 1,500 terminals, SMART capabilities, extra air conditioning to keep the computers cool and an uninterrupted power supply.
“It’s extremely intense, and you’ve got to be hands-on from start to finish on a project like that,” he says, referencing the IT requirements, hot cables and wiring needed for the job. “Millions of dollars could be lost inside of a couple of seconds if everything isn’t performing right. It really can’t get more intense than a trading firm.”
For Ken, his favorite project is the one he’s working on now: a 30,000-square-foot smart home that boasts 22 bathrooms, four kitchens, elevators capable of carrying millions of dollars’ worth of cars down to a nine-car garage, and a tunnel from the garage to the main house.
“This home we’re building is going to be the home of homes,” Ken predicts. “I think this will be on the cover of Architectural Digest.”
Ed chimes in, unable to hold back his excitement about the project.
“Everything in the house—from the blinds to the lighting to the chandeliers—can be hooked up and run from your phone,” he says. “This really is some James Bond stuff.”
A Solid Foundation
Ken and Ed have continued to give back to the Staten Island community, which is the solid foundation on which their childhood and careers were built.
The brothers were involved in the Special Olympics when they were in the gym business, and have raised money for organizations including the American Red Cross and The Salvation Army through their masonry and building businesses.
When Staten Island was devastated by Hurricane Sandy in 2012, their yard was impacted, resulting in the damage of hundreds of thousands of dollars of equipment. Regardless of their own losses, the brothers showed up for their community, helping with the cleanup and leading efforts to replace brick pavers along the beach and rebuild the marina.
“We’ve always given back, even when we were kids,” Ed says. “We believe in giving to other people. Our parents raised us that way, and it’s just part of who we’ve always been.”
Over the years, Ken has also volunteered countless hours coaching youth baseball teams, donating to other local sports teams and building concrete dugouts for children in rough neighborhoods.
When asked what he gets out of it, Ken’s answer is simple: “I get everything out of it. We don’t forget where we came from.”
These brothers who have shared decades of success together continue to lay the groundwork of their business like the bricks and mortar of their masonry work: one stunning project at a time.
“We always make it right, and we always finish the job,” Ken says. “There’s no cutting corners. Our work is good, our clients are happy and that’s the name of the game in this business. We do every job like it’s our own.”
Looking back at the trajectory of their careers, it’s clear that their lifetime commitment to building is rooted firmly in the generations that came before them.
“We come from proud people,” Ed says. “When you produce something you’re really proud of, the satisfaction is overwhelming. This is what we were born for.”