by Pete Mazzaccaro
When Brendan Ryan bought C.E. Hopkin Co. Roofing on Bethlehem Pike in Chestnut Hill, he knew he was buying a historic business, but he didn’t realize he was getting a museum as well.
The business has been at 107 Bethlehem Pike for nearly 125 years. In that time, the office has accumulated century-old items, including a 100-year-old cast-iron safe and several vintage metal cutting and bending machines that appear to date to the Industrial Revolution. And they still work.
“What attracted me to this business, seriously, is the history of the company,” said Ryan in his freshly painted office. After he had decided to buy the business, he was advised to dissolve the company name and start fresh. He couldn’t do it.
“It was sad to think of a business with this history going out of business,” Ryan said. “I couldn’t let it die – it just wouldn’t be right.”
Ryan, 37, has owned a painting business, Ryan Painting LLC, in the Chestnut Hill area for nine years. He learned that C.E. Hopkins was for sale from a client and went in to take a look. It didn’t take long before he was hooked on the idea.
“There’s work to do, but it will be an easy transition,” Ryan said.
In addition to the business name and title, Ryan has kept former owner Ted Rittenhouse’s four-man crew, including Mark Hopkins (no relation to the business’ founder) and Len Wood, who have 25 and 21 years of roofing experience respectively.
When he was interviewed, it was only Ryan’s third week as owner, and Verizon was on the way to get the building some high-speed broadband. The company never used a computer. Rittenhouse’s hand-written ledger books were neatly stacked in a cabinet.
Ryan and his wife, Vanessa, who will work at the office as its business manager and receptionist, are busy modernizing the company’s bookkeeping and profile. A website is being designed. The books are being converted to Quickbooks.
“Ted never kept emails or even phone numbers,” Ryan said. “It was amazing. A customer would call and he’d show up. He knew where everyone lived.”
Ryan said he hopes he can build on Rittenhouse’s relationships. During more than 30 years of owning the company, Rittenhouse had built up a sizable and loyal customer base.
Ryan said he would offer everything: from roof repairs to whole roof replacements. He’ll do anything, too, from asphalt shingles to wood shakes to slate.
Ryan, who lives in the Northeast with his wife and two kids, said the last part is moving to the neighborhood to be closer to the business.
“We really like Chestnut Hill and Mt. Airy,” he said. “I hope we can move to the neighborhood in a year.”