Jeff Heuchert, Gazette staff
Peter and Lisa Hyde are celebrating a milestone by doing what they know best – helping build a better community.
The couple announced earlier this week plans to donate $25,000 – divided evenly amongst 10 different organizations – in recognition of Hyde Construction’s 25 years in business. They will also establish a scholarship fund for high school students pursuing a post-secondary education in construction, engineering, or an apprenticeship/trade school.
“We’ve had a successful business these last 25 years because of the people in Stratford,” says Lisa. “It just makes sense to give something back.”
Synonymous with quality craftsmanship since its humble beginnings as a small cabinet shop in 1988, the Hyde Construction name is equally respected today for its contributions and support of countless charities, causes and events over the last quarter century.
“When you’re in a small community there are certain people that are the givers, and we just happen to be one,” says Peter, “but we like it.”
The first of two $2,500 donations will go to the Canadian Mental Health Association in memory of Lisa’s late father Earl Ramseyer, who spent his life in the construction industry and worked for Hyde for a period as both an estimator and project manager.
Lisa says her father’s sudden death in 2011 affected her family and the company deeply.
“He came into the business and helped us to reach out to the commercial end of things,” she adds. “He was a knowledgeable man; he was in the business for a long time.”
Another $2,500 will go to the Cash for Splash campaign in support of a local splash pad – a worthy cause for families in the city, says Lisa, who notes she and her husband have yet to settle on which organizations to donate the remaining money.
The scholarship fund, meanwhile, will be administered annually to two students through the Stratford Perth Community Foundation.
Peter says one of his biggest regrets is not getting a post-secondary education, and he knows success stories like his are few and far between.
“It’s a tough business, and you get into physical labour, which isn’t for everyone,” he concedes before noting there are plenty of good-paying, local jobs awaiting those who do pursue a career in the industry.
Peter credits the city’s administration and mayor for keeping builders and suppliers so busy these last six to seven years, noting it’s been their aggressiveness that’s helped land major developments like the RBC data centre and university campus.
Nearly as important has been the related residential growth; Peter says housing projects like that currently underway in the north end of the city today make up a little less than half of Hyde Construction’s business.
The company is also currently working on several factory expansions, both here and in St. Marys, as well as building car dealerships in Exeter and London.
Looking back on past projects, the Hydes are especially proud to have been involved with the construction of the new Toyota dealership in Stratford, which opened in 2010 as the first LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold certified dealership in Canada.
“It’s such a great showpiece for us,” says Lisa, of the Erie Street building. “It’s bright, beautiful, and it’s energy efficient.”
The build was a first for the company and in many ways represented the kind of challenge Hyde Construction has been known to welcome and inevitably overcome.
“Our focus has always been to strive for success, take risks, and continually set high goals,” says Lisa.
Those risks have included the shopping plaza in Shakespeare and, perhaps more notably, the conversion of the old Woolco store on Albert Street, all 44,000 square feet of it, into retail space, some of which is occupied today by Rheo Thompson Candies, as well as apartments.
“(Peter) came home and told me he bought the Woolco building, and I looked at him and was like, ‘what do you want that white elephant for?’” Lisa recalls, with a smile. “But he totally knew ... he’s a real visionary. He sets high goal and shoots for it. I’m not sure if he ever actually sleeps.”
A former legal secretary, Lisa joined the business in 1991 when she married Peter, and to this day the two maintain, for better or worse, a strong working relationship.
“We’re married 22 years but we joke that we are married 44 years because we work together, so you have to double it,” jokes Lisa. “But we totally do our own things here. I don't get into his stuff and he doesn’t get into mine, and we work very well together.”
Lisa is also quick to attribute the company’s success to its small but dedicated team of employees, as well as the many local subcontractors and suppliers they’ve turned to over the years.
“It is all about teamwork, we are very fortunate to have such a group of extremely talented people on our team,” she adds.