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They were definitely feeling 10 feet tall.
When Ackard Contractors was named Renovator of the Year last month at the Canadian Home Builders’ Association-Edmonton Region’s Awards of Excellence in Housing ceremony, it was an excellent way to celebrate the company’s 40th anniversary.
But even though they had won this award before — nine times — Ackard wasn’t taking anything for granted and was even a hint nervous. A tenth win was no guarantee, said partner Richard Plamondon, as one of their competitors was racking up award after award in the renovation segment of the awards gala.
“It was pretty exciting, I think everyone jumped pretty high,” said Plamondon after the announcement, adding Ackard was fortunate to have seven finalists — more than double that of any other challenger — in the six renovation award categories, as the Renovator of the Year winner is based on total points received. “It’s always exciting to win. It’s a lot more fun, that’s for sure.”
In addition to being named Renovator of the Year, Ackard won for Best Renovation Under $150,000 for its Greenfield Grand project, which saw it transform an older, smaller kitchen in a 40-plus-year-old home into a couple’s culinary dream by doubling its size and adding all the amenities they desired.
40 Years Earlier
Aquilino Naccarato, Plamondon’s partner and long-time friend, could have had a career in the grocery sector. He turned that down. Construction was his calling.
“For me, it was always something I loved doing,” said Naccarato. “As a kid, when I was 12 years old, I’d go on my bike to the new neighbourhoods. I was always checking them out.”
It was also Plamondon’s calling, who might have received a nudge from his father, a carpenter.
“He had me doing some work as early as 12,” said Plamondon. “I always loved that.”
In 1982, the two would formalize their working arrangement, which saw the carpentry duo work construction jobs together when they first started out. That turned into a myriad of construction opportunities once Ackard was formed. Some of their earliest jobs included framing, cabinetry and concrete. They did whatever they could with one underlying message: to deliver quality and a standard that not only they could be proud of but that their clients would be proud of as well.
In those early days, which saw the company launched during a recession, Ackard was small and lean with just Naccarato, Plamondon and two other employees. Today, Ackard employs 48 people, just under the level it was at before the pandemic hit.
Not Just Renos
Winning the Renovator of the Year title 10 times is a good thing. But it also eclipses that fact that Ackard builds new homes and specializes in other aspects, too.
Both Naccarato and Plamondon point out that people tend to think of Ackard as only a renovator. But it has its own cabinetry, electrical and special projects divisions.
Then there’s another item that Ackard has noticed when it comes to new homes.
“Most people believe building a whole new home is much more difficult than doing an addition to a home,” said Plamondon. “But even a smaller rear or front addition involves knowing much more of how a home is built, and how a person adds that addition requires somebody with much more understanding (of a home) to be able to do this well.”
The Next Generation
For the moment, Ackard’s founders have no plans to step back. They really enjoy what they do.
As Plamondon puts it, “it doesn’t feel like a job. I never felt like I had a job. I had an opportunity. I love what I do.”
But both realize that one day they will have to slow down, even though they bring the same energy today as they did when they started Ackard. Thus, with a goal of keeping the company successful well into the future, Travis Plamondon, Remi Plamondon, Paul Swekla and Michael Plamondon will be taking on increased responsibility over the next few years to assume both leadership and ownership of the business.
“It’s pretty exciting,” said Travis, of the opportunity to be able to play a more active role in Ackard’s journey going forward. “We will have that many more thoughts to improve … we want to carry that torch and carry it for many more years.”
The pandemic has changed the renovations Edmontonians are interested in. In the past, Ackard Contractors noticed that kitchens and sun rooms were in demand. Nowadays, while kitchen renos are still popular, other choices are, too.
Homeowners, said Ackard, are adding elevators. Others want a home office or a play area for their kids. Outdoor spaces are getting more attention with an interest in outdoor rooms geared to three-season use, and pergolas. Inlaw suites and garden suites are also popular.