By Lee Howard   Day staff writer

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Waterford — It’s been a family affair since Maxum Irrigation started four years ago, so now that the business has opened its tent to plumbing along with lawn-sprinkler contracting it only makes sense that the genesis of expansion would be another Grandieri wanting to join the fun.

This time around, said company principal Scott Gladstone, it was 20-year-old Kevin Grandieri who had been hoping to join father Bob and brother Bryan in the business to be able to get experience with residential plumbing after spending two years as a plumber’s assistant working on bigger projects for North Stonington-based AZ Corp. Only problem: Maxum already had a plumber of record, Steve Michaud of Michaud Plumbing, and as an irrigation company the work was largely seasonal.

But Gladstone had a vision. He knew Kevin Grandieri was a good worker, and he realized that if he could add an in-house plumbing dimension to Maxum it could be more than a fair-weather business. So he went hunting for a plumbing firm to buy.

“One thing I have learned is when you put good people together and take care of customers good things happen,” said Gladstone, co-owner of several Wireless Zone stores in the region and a former Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut Citizen of the Year.

Soon, he discovered that a 33-year-old plumber from Portland named John Nadile was looking to sell his business, Nadile Enterprises. Nadile, a fifth-generation plumber who grew up in Meriden, was tired of spending all day working and then coming home to return calls, email estimates, mail out bills and do all the other required paperwork, Gladstone said.

“If you’re a one-man band, how do you take care of people in a timely and efficient manner?” he said.

Gladstone already had the office staff assembled, so he made Nadile an offer to buy his business and join what would become Maxum Irrigation & Plumbing. The deal closed April 1, allowing Kevin Grandieri to come onboard as a plumber’s apprentice under Nadile, who is under a two-year contract with Maxum. Michaud’s plumbing services will continue as well, he said.

“We continue to grow,” Gladstone said. “We’re all over the state.”

A company that Gladstone and partner Neil Ryan bought in 2016 from P&W Paving started with just five employees, but now is up to 16, and business has doubled, he said. Maxum had well over 100 installations last year alone, Gladstone added.

Gladstone credits the business’s dramatic rise to a combination of staying on top of technology and using the soft touch of handwritten thank-you notes to demonstrate a “customer-centric” approach. Tablets in the field handle a range of information, including keeping track of piping underground, and office software reminds customers of appointment times and alerts them when workers are on their way.

In addition, the irrigation systems are controlled remotely and are adjusted according to national weather data to ensure that watering  occurs only when it is needed.

“Everyone gets industry training to make sure we have state-of-the-art conservation,” Gladstone said.

Unfortunately, because of the seasonality of the business, Gladstone said he previously couldn’t keep all employees year-round. But now, with year-round plumbing work for homes and small businesses to fall back on, several of his employees should be able to keep working to help out on jobs, he said.

“It’s a natural progression,” he said. “We’re trying to keep everything going in good times and in bad.”

To celebrate the start of Maxum Irrigation & Plumbing, Gladstone said the company will be contributing $25 for every new plumbing job in April and May. He added that in the middle of the current pandemic, he also would like to hear from anyone who has a plumbing emergency but lacks the funds to pay for it. No promises, but Gladstone said he would try to help out if he could.

Gladstone already has taken on another new worker, Bryan Grandieri’s girlfriend Kally Donlan, who was laid off of a school position because of the pandemic. She’s heading up Maxum’s social media campaign and researching irrigation-software improvements.

“Growing the business has given us an opportunity to give back,” Gladstone said.

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