The Anti-Contractors… Gulick & Co.
by RONA MANN
It’s a bone-chilling day in downtown Madison, Connecticut, but it’s warm and cozy in the conference room of the circa 1733 saltbox house. Peter Gulick sits at the head of the table and thinks out loud. “I don’t know what’s so unusual about the way we do business, but people seem amazed by it. When they phone, we call people back…and right away. We show up on time for appointments. We don’t leave the job till it’s finished. We don’t leave our clients stranded. That’s the old-fashioned way of doing business, I guess, but it’s the only way we know how to work. And it still surprises clients to this day. I guess you could call us the “anti-contractors.”
Perhaps these ethics come from working the old-fashioned way with a healthy respect for the integrity of existing wood and brick and stone and design. “I don’t want to tear down and rebuild, replacing it with something not as nice. That’s why we don’t take on a project that doesn’t fit into our philosophy.”
The “we” of which Peter Gulick speaks includes his son, Travis Gulick, a design-builder schooled at the famed Savannah College of Art and Design with an honors degree in historic preservation. Additionally Travis and his father are complemented by a small staff of craftspeople who take pride in renovating and building, strictly adhering to the Gulick philosophy. “We approach our work of designing, planning, consulting, structural repair and renovation, historic preservation, new construction, and additions as always requiring a team effort to achieve the desired result of quality and perfection,” Peter adds.
It started quite simply as stories rooted in history often do. Peter had been self-taught at nearly everything he had ever done. He always had an artistic bent; and after restoring an iconic 1780s home in Madison, he founded the Wall Street Gallery with partner Jim Reinhart, custom framing photographs and works of art at the historic property. But he soon grew tired of “just standing in one place all day measuring and framing,” and yearned for something else. The something else led him from decorating to carpentry, once again self taught. In his own words, “I got good at it.” An understatement it would appear, as he went on to preserving old houses and winning awards for his work. Gulick points with pride to recognition from the Madison Historical Society honoring him with the first-ever Jane R.Kuhl award for Historic Preservation.
In 2011 Gulick and partner, John Spradlin opened a renovation contracting business, winning instant fame for their attention to detail. In 2014 Peter founded Gulick and Company, adding the talents of Travis who had not only worked with his father at Gulick and Spradlin during summers away from college, but had interned with the National Trust for Historic Preservation in Washington, D.C. and worked on President Lincoln’s cottage.
Serving a wide area that extends just west and north of New Haven to Middletown, the river towns, down Rt. 9, and the shoreline, Gulick and Company has in a short time built a long list of exuberant clients and a reputation for the very highest caliber work.
“We don’t just do historic preservation, however,” Peter says quickly. “A lot of people think that’s all we do. First and foremost we are designers, renovators, and contractors. We can remodel one room or build an entire home. We work hand in hand with architects and can just as easily put our touches on an addition to a modern home as reinforce and beautify a house from the 1700s.”
While each client and each project is unique to Gulick & Co., the process of working with a client is similar. “First we go to the site to see exactly what is existing and what they are looking for us to do,” says Peter. The design build team listens at this point, more than they speak. They want to get the total picture of the client or clients, their personalities, their expectations, budget constraints, and vision. Then it’s time to carefully measure before Peter goes to work creating sketches that he hopes will satisfy both expectation and vision. “We call this an “as built” because we measure the home and draw up a floor plan exactly as it is now. Sometimes the homeowners aren’t sure what they want, so I just go ahead and sketch what I think will work best in the given space. They usually thank me.”
The next step in the process involves bringing the clients to the Gulick & Co. saltbox offices. “We sit right here at this table and show them not only our work, but pictures of other projects we’ve done or are currently doing. Bringing the clients here shows them we are a real company; not some contractor operating out of the back of his truck,” Peter says, ever reinforcing the image of an anti-contractor.
Once approval is given, the work begins with the client knowing what will be involved, what it will cost, and when the work should be completed. “We take great pride in the detail of our work because we want it to last another 500 years, ” says Travis.
To complement what they do, Gulick & Co. incorporated a custom cabinetry division into their business, providing demolition, design, building, and installation. These cabinets are not merely limited to the bath or kitchen, but can also provide needed storage in an office, closet, pantry, mudroom, or vanity.
When they’re not remodeling and renovating their town, both Peter and Travis contribute to its growth and well being on a voluntary basis. Peter is both a director and property manager of the Deacon Graves House and active in the Historical Society, while Travis is Assistant Varsity baseball coach at his alma mater, Daniel Hand high school and is on the board of the Madison Historical Society. Additionally both men are proud members of the town’s volunteer fire department.
Gulick & Co., although known for their magnificent historical renovation and preservation, is a whole lot more than “this old house.” They are first and foremost a design-build team that can create a new structure, add on to an existing one, or secure and improve the integrity of what was built by equally loving hands hundreds of years prior.
“And, Peter concludes, if they say when we’re through, ‘It looks like it’s always been here,’ then we know we’ve done our job.”
Gulick & Co. Renovation Contractors is located at 45 Wall Street, Madison
(203) 996-6151 www.gulickcompany.com CT Reg. No. 583580