Ask a youngster what a Quonset hut is and you may get a strange look and a shrug of the shoulders. But then, that sort of the thing is nothing unusual to companies who stand the test of time.
50-year Star Building Systems partner, United Progress, is still going strong today because of the dreams and hard work of a man who was simply working to meet the demands of an America focused on World War II. The need was for portable, easily constructed shelter for soldiers; the solution was the Quonset hut.
That’s where Carl Dippold, who took over ownership of United Progress in 1964 with his wife Adelene, got his start – and today, though the war is long since over and the product that introduced him to steel construction rarely seen, their legacy is carried on by their son, Larry.
Companies with long-standing histories are a big part of our story here at Star, and we were thrilled to hear more of the story behind one of them: United Progress in upstate New York.
Carl’s transition out of building Quonset huts in the early 1960s led him to a job at United Progress – where he and his wife worked until 1964, when the opportunity arose to purchase the company. They leaped from employees to business owners quickly, operating with a handful of employees and very little overhead. The team worked to build sales as well as relationships – and in 1967, Carl shook hands with a local Star representative and began a relationship that would prove to be one of their most valuable.
Throughout the 70s and 80s, the family’s company grew, with Larry – recently home from service in the Vietnam War – now involved in day-to-day operations. The company was branching into different sub-specialties, increasing its customer base, and setting sales records. Finally, Larry presented his parents with a challenge: “It got to the point where I said to them, ‘you know, it’s kind of like playing poker – you either raise or you fold. And it’s about time we built a nice shop for ourselves.’” They increased their square footage, built a fabricating shop, invested in equipment, and did very well for a very long time.
By the early 90s, Larry’s parents were deceased and he was running the company with many of the people who had been with them for many years. Business was good until the economic bust in the 2000s – one that hit many in the construction industry hard. By 2007, Larry had been faced with some tough decisions, leading to significant downsizing and having to say goodbye to a lot of those loyal employees. It was a difficult time in his career.
Soon after, he made the decision to switch from the contractor role and become a broker for Star – a job he still maintains today. His business is still called United Progress and his relationships with the people at Star still stand strong. “Marcy Turner and Dave Severance – I can’t live without either one of them”, says Larry, “Marcy solves all my problems and fixes some of my screw-ups,” he laughs, “but they both just get things done and they still make it fun.”
As for Larry’s future in the metal building industry, he says retirement is near: “One of these days, I’m going to go to the furniture store and buy a rocking chair.”
We say well deserved, Larry. And if you happen to pick the wrong rocking chair … well, we’re not sure Marcy can help you with that one.