Former Connor Homes workers launch new firm

MIDDLEBURY — After more than three decades in the construction business, Michael Gingras suddenly found himself out of a job. He was among the 63 workers at Connor Homes who were suddenly laid off last December when that business ceased operations in its 116,000-square-foot headquarters at 1741 Route 7 South in Middlebury.
Connor Homes founder Mike Connor vowed to re-boot his business in a smaller location, and has begun to do so in a portion of the Good Point Recycling building on Pond Lane. But Gingras and a handful of his former colleagues wanted to return to the workforce more quickly, so they spent the majority of the winter planning a new venture to again showcase their architectural, design and building skills.
They believe they have developed the perfect formula in Addison Residential, a new business that touches upon virtually all aspects of the building process, from mapping out projects to construction work.
“Before this business started, the individuals currently working here spent a lot of hours of their own time helping get things started,” Gingras said. “It was not just me; it was a team effort. And it’s very much appreciated.”
Gingras had already been operating his own New Haven-based construction business (Seven North Log Homes) for 25 years prior to signing on with Connor Homes in 2011 as its manager for design and construction. So he was already well versed in the ins and outs of the industry when he was turned loose at the end of December.
“When (Connor Homes) shut down, I decided to think about my own business again,” Gingras explained. “And who better to bring on than the professionals I worked with on an everyday basis.”
He reached out to some of those folks, and received positive responses. Before long, he had assembled a team that includes architectural designers Joe Murphy, Bryan Waters and Theodore Gillen III; interior designer Kristy Hamilton; and millwork specialists Jason Nickerson and John Gingras.
“It wasn’t, ‘I’m going to open this company, do you want to work for me?’” Gillen recalled of Michael Gingras’ invitation. “It was, ‘I’m going to open this company, and do you want to help form it?’ Everyone was involved, and it was really exciting to have my voice be heard in a lot of decisions.”
The early success of the new company is showing that there’s a silver lining to just about every cloud.
“As unfortunate as everything was down the street, it gave us an opportunity, all of us, to rethink our career goals,” Gillen said during and interview last Thursday at Addison Residential’s offices on Creek Road in Middlebury. “All of us were having these private little discussions on ‘What do you think you’re going to do?’ and we all had the same idea.”
The new business is expected to complement, rather than compete, with what is now known as Connor Mill-Built Homes, which continues to manufacture colonial reproduction “kit” homes. Addison Residential is not building entire homes; it is more focused on the planning aspects of construction and in making things that can make a home better.
“We are focused on serving builders, architects and homeowners, providing plans, specifications, materials cut-lists, stamped blueprints, construction drawings — the whole works,” Gingras said.
Company officials have secured a short-term lease with landlord Sam Pryor for around 6,600 square feet in the former Connor Homes headquarters. That’s where they’ve started to build fine cabinetry, custom windows, stairs, doors and other special orders.
Gingras has taken out a three-year lease for office space at 16 Creek Road that will serve as Addison Residential’s administrative home base — for now. Gingras said he is working out a deal with J.P. Carrara & Sons to eventually move into a 20,000-square-foot building on Route 7 South, across from Foster Motors. The company will initially occupy the front portion of the building, which will undergo some renovations during the months ahead, according to Gingras. He’d like to see all corporate operations consolidated in the Carrara building with 12 to 18 months.
Company officials were pleased to report a nice early demand for their services, particularly from builders. Gingras wants to see his workforce eventually expand from the current eight workers to as many as 15 within the next year or two.
“We have a lot of contacts throughout the Northeast,” Gingras said of his desired service area, but added “there’s no job too small for us.”
Indeed, Addison Residential wants to establish strong ties with local clients. It is currently involved with the restoration of a 1790 Greek Revival home in Shoreham that was a stop on the Underground Railroad during the 19th century. Workers are, among other things, fabricating historically accurate adornments for the home out of mahogany and copper.
“I don’t think we’re going to rule anything out,” Waters said of Addison Residential’s services.
“A lot of doors are opening and there’s a lot of potential out there — and not just in houses.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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