The Fantastic Five
Walls & Ceilings speaks to several important women in the industry about their experiences in the trades.
|The Fantastic Five|
|Carol Kimmel Schary|
|Georgia Morrow Long|
As of December 2011, an average of 828,000 women were employed in various occupation sectors of the construction industry, according to statistics by the National Association of Women in Construction. Women now make up about 9 percent of the construction industry in the United States.
Statistics for these numbers and percents become a little more complicated when categorized through the trades but make no mistake that the wall and ceiling industry has its share of women. Whether in the field, office or running a company, the following women have made a good and important contribution to our industry and deserve our recognition.
Owner and Founder
FeFiFaux Studios designs and installs a variety of faux finishes, faux plasters and natural plasters in the Omaha, Neb., area. The company works with waxes, glazes, mica powders, metallic plasters and many other mediums, creating classic wall finishes as unique, contemporary looks. The company celebrates its 24 year anniversary this year, working in both residential and commercial settings.
Its owner, founder and artisan Sandra Lassley is a member of the International Decorative Artisans League, an international non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion and preservation of the art of stenciling and related decorative painting.
“Customer service is something I especially pride myself in and is the hallmark of our business,” says Lassley, whose business partner is Jeff Lassley, who runs the crew as project foreman. “The top priority is representing our customer’s personalities in their own home, so I specialize in specific color coordination, implementing what the client already owns along with their goals for the new space. Additionally, we are happy to travel to other states to complete our client’s vacation homes.”
This last claim is no exaggeration. The company will travel anywhere its clients have asked and have even worked abroad.
In addition to working as a contractor, Lassley provides a niche service as a design consultant in color schemes and a full line of custom Santambrogio Italian sofas and chairs. She moonlights as the national sales director for Bestitalian Sofas. She also serves as a spokesmodel for Fauxy Painter, a ladies paint wear clothing line company. Quite the busy schedule. But wait, there’s more. She also writes a column Ask Sass for various online publications, specifically for artists.
Lassley says she is seeing business finally turn, even to suggest it’s growing.
“After a down year in 2009 and 2010, we have seen marked increases each year,” she says.
Savannah Drywall Supply
Located in one of Georgia’s most cultural and historic cities, Savannah Drywall Co. is an independent, family-owned drywall supply yard. It supplies residential and commercial projects in southeast Georgia and South Carolina. Savannah Drywall Supply carries a full line of gypsum wallboard products, cornerbead, fasteners, joint treatment, and hand tools. The company also stocks metal studs and track for commercial and residential construction.
Its President Amanda Montford is third generation, with her grandfather the founder of the business and her father the present owner. Montford is an active member of the National Association of Women in Construction and serves on the Board of Directors of the AMAROK Drywall Division of Affiliated Distributors.
“I am so proud to be able to carry on the business that my family has worked so hard to build,” Montford says. Now in her seventh year with the business, Montford has learned how to work around some people talking down to her. “It used to bother me, but I have learned to let it roll off my back,” she reports. “I have worked hard to learn this business and to prove I can do this job just as well as my father and grandfather. I actually enjoy getting the opportunity to prove people wrong.”
Chief Financial Officer
Daley’s Drywall & Taping Inc.
Now entering its third generation, Brittni Daley-Grishaeva is the CFO of this residential drywall, ceilings and plastering company. Daley’s Drywall was founded by Gary and Sally Daley in 1963. Joined by their sons Craig and Chris in the mid 1970s, the company has grown into a very successful commercial and residential drywall contractor in Northern California.
“My mom and dad worked together in the business and I grew up around it, hanging out at ‘the shop’ every day after school when I was young,” says Daley-Grishaeva. Needless to say, she has been around the business her whole life (she is 27). Obviously, growing into the trades has given her a great understanding of the company, its services and how to conduct business.
Holding a Bachelors degree in Business Management Economics with an emphasis in accounting and legal studies, she is also a construction bookkeeping technician. Daley-Grishaeva has led the company into the 21st century with her passion for technology. She says to maintain and continually improve the company’s service and to track costs more accurately, Daley’s Drywall & Taping has implemented digital production tracking systems, BIM, new accounting software and remote time card entry.
“Being a part of an evolving company and dynamic team that makes a difference in the physical world everyday gets me up in the morning and makes me excited for the new challenges that come with the territory,” she says.
She says that she has never been told that women shouldn’t be in the construction industry.
“I’m sure someone out there still thinks that but they either haven’t crossed my path or haven’t had the guts to say it in front of me,” Daley-Grishaeva says.
“Luckily I’ve always gotten along great with men, even the rowdy construction-type,” she continues. “Being a part of NAWIC has also empowered me as a woman in the construction industry. Even though I get along with men, it’s great to discuss things with fellow women who have gone through it before and can always offer advice and wisdom.”
Nathan Kimmel Company, LLC
Nathan Kimmel Co. LLC is a supplier of equipment, tarps and accessories for the wall and ceiling industry. The company has been in business 57 years and Carol Schary has been the sole owner for 17 years.
Schary also grew up in the business. When she became a mother, she did not want to work full-time as a teacher (her profession at the time), so she went to work at the family business where the hours were more flexible.
“My father, Nathan Kimmel, died at 83 and my mother and I kept going to work to continue the business,” Schary says. “When we were going over my father’s estate taxes, the attorney said that I had doubled the business and that I should buy out my siblings, which I did. In 1996, I became the sole owner.”
Through osmosis, Schary’s business training came mostly from being around the family business, taking notes from her parents. And it’s worked.
Today, the distributor sells to companies all over the world, making Nathan Kimmel Co. LLC a truly international operation. And it’s clear that Schary does it because she loves it and the people in the industry.
One can find her and the company at several trade shows and meetings. She is a member of the Western Wall and Ceiling Contractors Association as well as AWCI, where she has been on its board of directors, served as chairman of the Supplies Committee and board member of the Foundation of Walls and Ceilings, which she’ll be president of in two years. This will be the foundation’s first woman to serve in that title.
Beyond the industry, the company and Schary have been listed on the Los Angeles Business Journal’s “Top Women-Owned Businesses” for 12 years in a row, was named an “Enterprising Woman of the Year” by Enterprising Women magazine, and is a member of the National Association of Women Business Owners. Additionally, the company is a Certified Women Business Enterprise, which enables contractors with the company’s WBE status to get points when sending in bids.
Schary says sometimes she sees a little of the old mentality from men dealing with women in the trades. “The construction industry is still male-dominated but getting better with the younger generation coming into the business,” she says.
Plasters by Georgia Inc.
Laguna Beach, Calif.
Plasters by Georgia is located in Orange County, Calif., where according to Georgia Morrow Long, the company transforms ordinary walls, ceilings and other surfaces into “beautiful and harmonious works of art.” The company has extensive experience in both commercial and high-end residential surface design and applications.
Morrow Long’s background as an artist allows her to see the interaction of colors and textures which she fuses with her skill set of plasters and application techniques. She says for plaster and Venetian product lines, she enjoys using Vella Venetian Plaster Systems. She also enjoys Vero Plaster’s Marmorino for lime-based applications and Modern Masters’ Platinum Line of metallic plaster.
More than two decades ago, she bought a fixer-upper house, took a few workshops and became enamored with working with plaster. As she began working with the material more, requests came in for her to do plaster jobs. Later on, she formed a corporation, got licensed and joined the trades. To this day, she still takes workshops to keep fresh on her skills.
When asked what separates her from other Venetian plasterers, she says art.
“Anyone can slap plaster on a wall but the trick is in making it look good,” Morrow Long says. “The color and texture has to be just right in order to pull in all the other colors and textures in the room into a harmonious union. The plaster should be the backdrop, the palette—not the focal point in a room.”
Morrow Long is used to being the only woman in the room on the job site, and typically she says that the majority of tradesmen that she deals with are very professional and respectful. But occasionally she does run into the odd person who is rude or hostile. But she knows not to take it personally and to focus on the work.
“I bring a woman’s perspective with regard to color, placement and feel,” she says. “Men and women are wired differently and they think and look at the world in a different manner. It’s as the French say, ‘Vive la difference’.”