A Peek into the Past
Today we are stepping back in time with Tom Menold. Menold Construction & Restoration has grown so much, and it's amazing to look back to the first days of the business!
Tom graduated from Morton High School in 1966 and immediately started a bricklayer apprenticeship with Otto Baum & Sons. The Vietnam War was underway, and Tom was drafted soon after, entering the Army as an operating room technician. On his return, he went back to Otto Baums and finished his apprenticeship. Upon completion, he decided to go to college. Tom wanted to try something completely new - to "broaden his horizons" so to speak, away from business and physical labor. He enrolled at Illinois State University for five semesters, and then transferred to Southern Illinois University Carbondale where he graduated with an English Literature major, and a minor in Fine Art. He met his wife Sheryl during these years at Southern, and they were married a week after their college graduation. They took a three day honeymoon, and then moved up to Morton thinking it would be their starting point before moving elsewhere.
Sheryl had an internship at the Peoria Park District, and Tom went back to laying brick. They have been here ever since! They are so grateful for the community they are a part of - such a great community to live in and do business with. Tom started their business in 1977 as a small two-man masonry business - just he and his college roommate. Sheryl came to work for Tom for about six weeks - that's how long it took for them to realize their relationship is much better when they aren't working together!
One of Tom's very first projects was to build a decorative block wall around the perimeter of a new subdivision in East Peoria. Tom's good friend, also rather new in business as a concrete contractor, hired them as the masonry sub-contractor. Tom still remembers when they received a $24,000 check for the whole project - they all took photos holding the check. Such an exciting moment for the new business! In the first three years business was booming and they loved what they did. Tom and his crew would work like crazy in the Spring, Summer, and Fall laying brick, and then in the Winter they would take off and go skiing.
However, disaster soon struck. In 1980, Interest rates reached 18%, and everything stopped. No buildings were being built and there was almost no work anywhere. Around the same time, Tom developed cancer, and at times could not work anyway. After a few years, Tom was on the mend, but the market, however, was not. As Tom began to search for work, he found that buildings still needed to be repaired. Tom and his team got into commercial roofing, as well as basically any dirty job that no one else wanted to be doing. Fire and flood repair jobs began around this time as well, and still happen today. In 1987, masonry repair and restoration customers eventually asked them to do their entire projects. Menold became a general contractor and along with repair and remodeling, began building new buildings - motels, funeral homes, and houses. Later, in the '90s, as the property repair and remodeling business grew, new construction and masonry began to be phased out, and their disaster restoration cleaning division was begun. Menold Construction became Menold Construction & Restoration.
In 2003, the business was expanding and spread among 3 different locations across Morton. They had been looking for a central location to not only house the entire company operations, but also to provide additional room for tenants whose rent would provide income to help pay for the mortgage on the building and allow space for future growth. Tom had driven past the 32,000 square foot Tazewell Publishing Building, built in 1969, with it's for-sale sign a hundred times. The landscaping was grown over, it's leaky roof had deep ponded water, the school-bus sized heating and air conditioning system on the roof was unusable, and the office area was dark and dank. On the plus side, the location for transportation was excellent, the building was only 35 years old, and was of very solid construction, it's mix of office and warehouse space would be useful, and it sat on 4 acres allowing plenty of room to grow. Tom and VP Steve Driscoll purchased the property in early 2004 and went to work. Being able to do much of the refurbishment of the building with their own employees was a great cost benefit. In September 2004, with a new Menold entrance and new parking lot on the north side, the office remodel complete, and 8000 square feet of tenant spaces on the west side, Tom and his team moved the entire Menold Construction & Restoration operations into the facility. Their move to this building raised their visibility in the community, increased their efficiency, and was a catalyst for growth. This was an exciting time, and was a major milestone for the business.
During the economy crash in the 80's, Menolds stretched to find work, and so Tom and his crew traveled to Bloomington-Normal to do roofing and repair jobs, and started to place their roots there. In 2008, they staffed their Bloomington office, and the Bloomington branch started to grow. In 2015, Menolds also opened a branch in Champaign, Illinois - they actually merged with and in 2018 acquired a Mahomet company called US Pro, which now is Menold Construction & Restoration. Each new branch and community allows them to form new relationships, and grow roots in these Illinois towns. Today, Menold employs about 70 people full-time, plus a flexible number of contract workers as disasters and workload require. Property Insurance-losses and planned commercial remodeling projects are their two main areas of focus. Menold's working area covers much of the center of Illinois along the 1-74 corridor. Strong relationships with some of the best disaster restoration companies across the country bring invitations to travel to help with property disasters elsewhere in the country. Those relationships provide the continuous sharing of technology and best practices to help keep the Menold team at the top of their industry.
Some key moments for Menolds in the past were the Red Cross Open-house in 2010, Summer Olympics team-building events, and the Venture Award in 2008.Tom was a member of the Red Cross Board of Directors and they were looking for ways to raise money for the Red Cross as well as awareness in the community. Menolds began working with the marketing director of the Red Cross to plan an event at their building in Morton. The event turned out to be a grand affair with safety training for children, safety training by the IL State Police rollover vehicle, as well as a visit from the OSF Medivac helicopter which was onsite. Approximately 900 people attended, Menolds raised money, and they even hosted about 30 guests from Peoria's sister city Friedrichshafen, Germany.
The Summer Olympics team-building events started to occur as Menolds grew as a company. As they added different types of construction and restoration services, and as more people came onto their team from more locations with varying types of skills, they needed a way for everyone to get to know one another, and to feel like they were important parts of the Menold Team, because they were! In 2006, Menolds held the first of many yearly food and fun team-building events now called the Menold Summer Olympics. Each team was made up of six or seven people from each Company department. It was friendly, sometimes silly competition, with some of the games challenging, others just fun, and all of the games allowing the coworkers to get to know one another outside their work environment. These games are still a favorite of the company today!
Tom was chosen to be the first recipient of the Morton Economic Development Commission Venture Award in 2008. The Venture Award celebrates the role of the entrepreneur or visionary in the free enterprise society. While the risks, rewards, failures, and successes of the entrepreneurial journey were always exciting and rewarding, to have been recognized for the Venture Award was and is a great honor to Tom.
When asked about his dream for the future of Menolds, Tom replied that he hopes the company will continue to sustain and grow beyond him, and not just be a memory left behind. In January of 2019, Tom handed the reins over to new CEO Jeff Neihouser, and under Jeff's excellent leadership, the entire Menold team's success and growth continues. Menold Construction & Restoration is a great part of the community here in Central Illinois, and they look forward to continuing to serve and grow within our communities in the best way possible.