Better, Not Bigger
After flirting with rapid growth, Grotto Plumbing Inc. focuses on being the best, not biggest
There was a time when Peter Grotto Jr. couldn’t say no.
Commercial and residential customers would call looking for help with their plumbing, heating and drain problems across Westchester County and New York City, and he would find a way to help. And that meant hiring more employees.
“If you’re good, there is always work in the plumbing trade,” Grotto says. “But there came a time when we grew too fast, and I got tired of the headaches. We were up to 85 guys on staff a few years ago, and the quality of work can suffer when you grow so quick and you don’t really know if the guys that you’re hiring are the best for your business.”
For Grotto, Owner of Grotto Plumbing Inc. (also called Grotto Plumbing Group, LLC), the growing pains became too great. His father, also Peter, founded the family business in 1963 with customer satisfaction as the No. 1 focus. Peter Jr. did not want that priority or the family name compromised.
So, in a world where bigger is often perceived as better, Peter Grotto did something different. He downsized to where he felt he could serve his community and his clients the best way possible.
And he’s happier for it.
Today, Grotto Plumbing Inc. has 45 full-time employees to service both commercial and residential projects. Small or big, Grotto wants his customers to be completely satisfied, and his website, grottoplumbing.com, features special offers for a loyalty program, new customer discounts and free plumbing evaluations.
“You want to give something back to the people who trust you with their service, and the coupons are our way of helping them and saying thank you,” Grotto says. “For what we do, we just found the growing pains weren’t worth all the trouble of adding so many people. When you grow quick, sometimes you don’t know if something is a problem until it is too late.”
Grotto says the turning point came nearly two years ago when he saw his payroll escalating and more workers’ compensation claims being filed while production was dropping below expectations. At that point, he says, he opted to scale back operations and refocus on providing excellent service.
Bigger, he found, didn’t mean better.
Peter Grotto Sr. died in 2003 from cancer, but not before working with his son to build their family business on “blood, sweat and tears,” Grotto says.
“I started working for my dad when I was 8 years old, going out to jobs with him, and by the time I was 17, I was basically running it because he had a really bad back by that time,” Grotto says. “We’ve come a long way.”
Grotto, 56, has been married for 27 years and has twin daughters who are 22.
He’s not sure if they want to follow in the family footsteps, but he is certain there won’t be much change in the company for the foreseeable future—by design. The proclamation doesn’t mean that any job is too big or too small. It simply means that Grotto knows his company and what it can offer better than ever.
Through it all, he is happy that Grotto Plumbing Inc. has developed into an essential part of the Westchester community, and he believes that the company is the perfect size to deliver the top quality service that customers have come to expect.
“You live and learn,” Grotto says. “I want to stay where we are at and stay in control. We want to do what we can do and that’s it. That works out best for us.
“If you ask what people should know about Grotto Plumbing, it’s that we work hard and we’re honest. Our word means everything. We guarantee our word and our performance, and people can call us anytime day or night.”
Bill Saich attests to Grotto Plumbing Inc.’s availability day or night.
Saich is Executive Director of Ferncliff Manor, a private school in Yonkers, New York, for children and adults with developmental disabilities, and his relationship with the Grottos dates back to when Pete Grotto Sr. founded the company.
“Pete (Jr.) was in high school when I was working with his dad,” Saich says. “They have been so good to us over the years. It doesn’t matter when I call them, they’ll come. Day or night, weekend, 3 a.m.—it doesn’t matter.
“Just the number of years we’ve worked with them should tell you a lot about the Grottos and what we think of how they do business. It is a very good company to work with, and I’d recommend them to anyone.”
There is no singular signature project Grotto will point to that defines his company’s work. The portfolio is too vast and encompassing.
Grotto Plumbing Inc. has worked on projects including the River Tides in Yonkers, New York, a new 10-story, 330-unit residential apartment building, as well as Washington House Apartments in New Rochelle, New York, a 130-unit renovation/conversion project. Another project is Thessalonia Manor, a seven-story, 120-unit residential building in the Bronx.
On a daily basis, the company also works on homes in its community for anything from snaking drains to repairing or updating water and heating systems.
In other words, the company is adept at coming up with effective plumbing designs, installations and repairs, whether it’s new construction, a renovation or something even smaller.
Grotto Plumbing Inc. also offers sewer and drain services, with repairs and installations for jobs as small as showers and sinks and as big as storm drains.
For heating issues, Grotto can identify inefficient systems to reduce costs for residential and commercial clients, as well as perform boiler repairs, installations and conversions.
Plumbing, though, remains the company’s wheelhouse, and Grotto says that residential jobs mean just as much as major commercial projects. The company’s team can handle bathroom, kitchen and hot water heater installations and repairs and many more services.
Through it all, Grotto says that the plumbing trade continues to evolve and that his team stays current with the latest innovations and trends.
“A lot of tools and materials come out every year to make the industry easier to work in,” Grotto says. “This industry is more worker-friendly than it used to be. The materials have become easier to work with, and technicians don’t have to have the expertise we did 25 years ago. But, we do have that expertise on our staff, and that’s important. We have employees who have been with us more than 25 years.”
Through the years, Grotto’s family business has donated to military veterans and local youth teams. They are Giants fans and Yankees fans.
Grotto Plumbing Inc. reflects its community.
“What really makes me proud is the school districts call on us and trust us,” Grotto says. “Harrison Central School District, Greenburgh Central School District, Port Chester-Rye Union Free School District, Westchester County, Putnam County and Dutchess County all call on us for our service. We do so many jobs for schools, and we get calls from businesses all the time saying someone at one of the schools recommended us. That’s a good feeling.”
Grotto and his team value loyalty from all of their clients. “Our focus is on making the customer happy, whether big or small jobs. That’s what we try to do every time, and we will go 100% on making sure that happens.”