It’s 1964, the war in Vietnam waged on; Lyndon Johnson won by a landslide; teenagers were suffering from Beatlemania; the Boston Strangler was finally caught; Elizabeth Taylor married Richard Burton for the first time; the US inflation rate was 1.28% with average home sales of $3,300; but apart from being a year that shaped American history, two legendary events defied the odds of survival…the Rolling Stones released their self-titled debut album and Robert Webster founded Channel Building Company.
“You Can Make It If You Try”…You may ask why we would correlate the Rolling Stones with Channel. Well, why not? We have both been influential in our respective industries. The Rolling Stones are the longest performing rock band of all time that have greatly influenced and inspired rock and roll throughout the decades; And similarly, Channel, hands-down, pioneered the Design-Build delivery method throughout Northeast Massachusetts and Southern New Hampshire building industrial, retail and commercial communities for the last 50 years. We’ve both endured our highs and lows throughout our respective histories, but “you can’t always get what you want” not to worry, “time, time, time is our side”.
“Gimme Shelter” Timeline
- 26 Chestnut Street in Andover, MA – Bob Webster recently sold his 1960 Chevy station wagon and conceived the humble beginnings of Channel Building Company. Channel occupied a very small office space at this location shortly before moving down the street. [cue the music]
- 63 Park Street, Andover, MA – As Channel’s early success began to expand, so did the opportunities to redevelop our local community. Bob converted a local lumber yard into a commercial building with office space to include a new home for Channel. This was about when Bob began leasing commercial property. Thus began the very early stages of the Property Management division.
- The Musgrove Building, 2 Main Street, Andover, MA – As Bob continued to pursue real estate development opportunities within the Andover area, this time, he partnered up with George Stern and Mike Batal, whom together jumped at the opportunity to own the Musgrove Building. This historical location remained Channel’s home for many years. Channel and Bob were thriving. Life was good. [It’s 1973 by the way]
- Cluff Crossing Road, Salem, New Hampshire – Since the Musgrove office lacked appropriate storage for Channel’s impressive fleet of contracting equipment, Channel warehoused about $500K of equipment at this offsite facility. We had cranes, backhoes, excavators, lifts and so much stuff that Bob couldn’t even remember or perhaps too embarrassed to admit.
- 23 Main Street, Andover, MA – Around the time Bob sold the Musgrove Building in 1984, Channel had moved across the street to reconstruct new offices for ourselves and other commercial tenants, including Andover Bank.
- 242 Neck Road, Haverhill, MA – With the economy contracting in 1989, Bob purchased this building with plans to extensively renovate. Channel made the move from its longtime home in Andover up to Haverhill. We finally centralized both office and warehouse under one roof. During our stay here, we sold most of our contracting equipment and evolved into a design-build construction management firm. Bob continued to buy and lease commercial property and Channel was now lead by Paul Kneeland and Jerry Diorio.
- 355 Middlesex Avenue, Wilmington, MA –Bob and Paul purchased this parcel and have redeveloped it twice since our arrival in 1995. We are proud to call this location our home [for now].
“As Tears Go By”… Channel has endured six economic recessions in its company history. When asked which was the worst? Bob and Paul both look and smile at one another and said, “THE FIRST.” [Channel’s first was 1989-1994.] Bob quickly followed up saying while shaking his head, “We shouldn’t have made it, but we did somehow?!?” Paul just grins with disbelief. The banter between Bob and Paul was invigorating to witness. Both men seemed energized about the maneuvers they used to survive. “Back in those days, we saved deals with NO MONEY”, Bob says. He continues, “I just can’t believe we got it all done and with nothing in our pockets but our reputation and our promise to deliver value.”
“Wild Horses” Timeline…Channel has had several Presidents and we wanted to acknowledge all those that lead the charge in our success story.
Circa 1964: Bob Webster, Founder
Circa 1979-1985: Jim Coull – Channel’s First President
Circa 1985-1987: Dick Whittier
Circa 1987-1989: Frank Fernalld
Circa 1989-1990: Bill Appleton
Circa 1990-1993: Bob Webster [Couldn’t get enough, had to return for a second term]
Circa 1993-present: Paul Kneeland – Current owner
Channel’s “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”…It’s 1988, Frank Fernalld was desperately looking for a salesperson and of course [pun completely intended], where does Bob look, the golf course. North Andover Country Club to be exact. The young and eager Paul Kneeland was a part-time golf-pro, part-time real estate broker and a fulltime ladies’ man ready to throttle forward in his career. He was hired!
Paul entered Channel’s history during the worst of times, years 1989 through 1994. It was the perfect storm; inflated overhead, non-liquid assets, tied up outside investments and an unforgiving bank climate. They even coined the slogan “Stay alive ‘til 95.” Paul was impactful from the beginning [still is]. Bob’s solid reputation in the community coupled with Paul’s passion, they were unstoppable. They sold lots, finished building work under contract, improved tenancy, completed development projects underway and met obligations.
In exchange for his sweat equity, Paul gained 20% ownership of Channel in 1995 and by 1998, he became the sole owner. As Bob passed the Channel torch he told Paul, “Construction is a young man’s business.” And when we asked Paul what his most memorable decision has been in his Channel career, he replied [without hesitation] “Jerry Diorio and Greg Wiech.”
Channel’s “Hand of Fate”…Soooooo, what’s next???? Paul says, “I’m printing tomorrow’s paper today.” And for Bob, he’s still collecting those rent checks while enjoying life’s longest golf course.
Well, we say, it’s been incredible to look back over the last fifty years and feel a strong sense of accomplishment. Sure, maybe some of the faces have changed, but some are still here. We’ve been knocked down and beat up in this business but fought our way back each time a little stronger than the last. It’s because we always look forward to the future and from our view, we have a lot of future in front of us. We still have more to accomplish, more to achieve, more to be proud of. So, we guess “it’s not a drag getting old”!