The Bennett name has long been woven into the fabric of both the Albany and Delmar communities through the years.
Bennett Contracting, Inc. established a home in the storied section of Albany’s South End. Signage to the store has cast a shadow upon the back entrance of the old Doane Stuart School ever since Gregory Jackson moved the business to South Pearl Street more than 30 years ago. In the following years, the company has flourished along with a city rejuvenated by economic growth. Some of which coming from real estate investors looking to preserve the architecture of Victorian Age brownstones peppered throughout Downtown Albany.
Venture a few miles south towards the Town of Bethlehem, the Bennett family’s place in area history becomes more apparent than the handy work left behind in those bathrooms and kitchens.
“My ancestor got off the boat in 1647 and he was an indentured servant to Van Rensselaer,” said Jackson, whose mother was born a Bennett. “A lot of what Delmar is now, was all once a family farm.”
Now, a different legacy is celebrated as 2015 marks the 100th year since Dan “D.A.” Bennett started the family plumbing and heating business out of a rented garage just off Four Corners, in the center of Delmar. To this day, it’s not uncommon for a home in Old Delmar to still possess a service reminder for D.A. Bennett plumbing and heating, though Jackson and his business partner Paul Gutman sold that branch of the business three decades ago. In 1915, however, the family patriarch moved on from being a railroad steamfitter to embrace the new technology of the time.
“My grandfather was a very interesting guy,” said Jackson. “He and a bunch of business men [also] started a bank.” The purpose of which, outside the obvious business plan of providing mortgages and loans to would be homeowners in the community, was to create a steady stream of customers in need of a plumber. The Bank of Delmar was erected on Delaware Avenue, now occupied by TD Bank — also next door to where D.A. Bennett conducted business, presently occupied by SpotlightNews.
“One of the things that continues to amaze me is how often people call upon D.A. Bennett as the service expert for heating and plumbing, though it was sold off 30 years ago,” said Jackson, who got involved in the business straight out of college in 1976, at the height of the Energy Crisis. The insulation business was born, and less than ten years later, the business model evolved to a full-service home remodeling firm. Bennett Contracting has since expanded their services to include windows, siding, kitchens and baths. “I have friends who still ask me about D.A. Bennett.”
As he has from the start, Jackson looks at consumer trends and sees one that hits close to home for the 61-year-old. Customers, particularly Baby Boomers, are remodeling their homes to make it easier as they age, replacing doorknobs with levers, adding seats to showers, and lowering kitchen cabinets. For the patriarch of a business employing 60 people, with 60 families dependent upon its success, Jackson finds himself thinking about preparing for the future.
“Somewhere in the next ten years, I will not work here anymore,” said Jackson. “It’s important to me for the business to continue… To accomplish that, I have a partner, and his children will be the fourth-generation of the Bennett family business.”