Stoehr Companies: "Building From the Ground Up"
- Categorized in: Carroll Business – Past Issues
Gregg Stoehr heads the construction company that built a new Dick’s Sporting Goods store in the Town Mall of Westminster.
Stoehr Companies has done it all. As a general contracting, construction and construction management firm, they have built or renovated hotels, offices, restaurants, stores, BJ’s Wholesale Club, Crowne Plaza, Turf Valley Resort and Westminster High School, to name just a few.
“We do buildings from the ground up,” said Gregg Stoehr, 47, the firm’s founder and president of the privately-owned, Eldersburg-based company.
A tall, sturdy man with a shock of white hair, Stoehr grew up in the construction industry. He worked in his father’s company throughout his youth, starting as a laborer and ending up as an estimator, the person who determines the value of a project upon which bids for contracts are made.
It was while Stoehr was attending the University of Maryland that he decided to strike out on his own. In 1987, at the age of 24, he started his own company. He also got married. Now, he and his wife, Christine, have five children and live in Carroll County.
Currently, Stoehr runs Stoehr Companies from an office in a building that he built and owns. His company occupies half of the 22,000-square-foot structure and rents out the rest to two tenants.
Stoehr’s office is modern and airy, with a sleek conference room and another space devoted entirely to the computer technology that has revolutionized the industry. He has 15 full-time employees, although he works with numerous subcontractors such as carpenters, electricians and plumbers.
The company has evolved over the years. Originally, Stoehr did only interior construction and renovations for hotels, restaurants, stores and offices. But as other opportunities came along, he expanded his interests.
Now, in addition to general contracting and construction management, his company also builds cell towers for such local carriers as AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile.
The company’s construction division accounts for 75 percent of its business, undertaking 30 to 35 projects a year. The telecommunications division accounts for 25 percent, building 100 cell towers a year.
One aspect of the company that has not changed over the years is its focus on commercial construction.
“It’s a more structured area, a more corporate atmosphere” than residential construction,” said Stoehr. “Plus, that’s what I learned” [at his father’s firm].
The process typically starts with a bid on a contract. About 80 percent of Stoehr Companies’ jobs are obtained through competitive bidding. As the economy has tightened, so has the competition.
“The number of people bidding on a job has increased,” said Stoehr.
As a general contractor, Stoehr does not design buildings, or even their interiors. That is the job of an architect, who gives Stoehr instructions on what to build, down to the interior finishes.
“We price it and build what we’re told to build,” said Stoehr, who works mainly in the mid-Atlantic states but has worked on projects in Florida and California as well. His $1.5 million renovation of the public areas, ballrooms and meeting rooms at the Woodland Hills Hotel, in Burbank, California, won the Hilton renovation of the year award.
Stoehr has worked on everything from Class A office buildings to restaurants and retail stores. The hospitality industry takes a big chunk of his time, too.
Whatever the project, the price depends on size and complexity. “Class A and B office buildings in downtown D.C. are larger and have items like lobbies and elevators that a two-story suburban building wouldn’t have,” he said.
Each project has its challenges. When renovating a building that is occupied, for example, the owner, the tenants and the public “expect as little impact as possible,” said Stoehr.
“We have to be aware of noise, the mess, the time we are working,” he said. “It adds a layer of complexity to the situation.”
A few years ago, Stoehr renovated the Westminster Shopping Center. Originally built in the 1950s, the mall had become shabby over the years. He updated the exterior while maintaining access during construction to its more than 15 stores.
“We made it appealing for the [mall] owner,” said Stoehr, “so he’d have better lease opportunities.”
At this writing, Stoehr was working on a Dick’s Sporting Goods store in the Westminster Mall. The store was being built on a tight schedule to be open for the holiday season.
“We like to do local work,” said Stoehr. “It’s nice to build in our own backyard.”
For Dick’s, a 40,000-square foot building, Stoehr may have 40 to 50 workers on the site on any given day. Usually, though, the number is smaller, about 15 to 20 subcontractors.
As for Stoehr Companies’ telecom division, it is known in the industry for building cellular phone antennae on non-standard sites, ranging from rooftops and clock towers to flagpoles and church steeples. It has also built antennae that are designed to look like trees, complete with fake branches and leaves.
Stoehr Companies is a member of the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce, and is involved with the community in a number of ways.
The company supports several youth sports programs, as a wall of team pictures in the office attest. It also picks two causes a year for charitable giving. This year, contributions were made to the Cystic Fibrosis and Juvenile Diabetes foundations.
“It’s been good to me and to my family,” Stoehr said of his company. “But I’m a perfectionist. I am always looking for ways to improve the situation for my clients. That’s a challenge for me. I always feel I can do better.”
A few memorable projects among Stoehr’s many enterprises:
Most Unusual: The company was charged with rigging and hanging about 3,000 pounds of sculptings in the shape of koi fish. Workers hung the fish using aircraft cable over an existing fountain in the lobby of a hotel in Columbia, Md. The fish arrived with no plan for putting them in place, and the company had to design, engineer and install them.
Most Challenging: The company renovated more than 80 time-share units at the South Seas Resort on Captiva Island, Florida in 2000. The project was considered urgent. It began in late November and was to be completed by the first week in January. Despite the tight schedule, the design was modified, updated and produced while the construction was underway.
The location made it even more challenging. The closest supply house was nearly an hour away and materials had to be ferried and then transported down a two-lane road at the end of the island.
One of the company’s first jobs was in 1987 in Rockville, Md., when it was asked to fix a hotel’s structural problem while the building was occupied and operational. The problem affected the windows in the hotel rooms: they were in danger of falling out. The company worked on two to three rooms at a time, shoring up the windows. It also addressed the structural problem by reinforcing the concrete slab upon which the hotel sat.