SPOTLIGHT ON T. SULLIVAN MECHANICAL
Growing up as the youngest of five brothers, Tim Sullivan could often be found tinkering with cars and other projects along with his siblings and his father. Even as a youngster, he says that he loved working with his hands. But it wasn’t until he began visiting the yard at P.V. Sullivan as a child that he started to learn about plumbing.
He would sometimes pull fittings for the plumbing, heating, and HVAC supply shop that was started by his uncle, Paul Sullivan, in 1968. The company grew to become one of the largest industry wholesalers in New England. Tim’s father, Dan, later joined his brother as a partner at P.V. Sullivan. While in high school, Tim worked weekends at the supply house stocking fittings, piping, and other items.
In college, he studied business, although Tim says that he didn’t know what he wanted to do with the degree. During summer breaks, he continued to work at P.V. Sullivan. Still unsure of his career path after graduating, his father suggested that he investigate the other side of the industry and consider becoming a plumber.
He was able to get an apprenticeship with Local 12 and worked for Crane Plumbing and Heating. The first project Tim worked on for the contractor was at Boston Children’s Hospital. He says that he enjoyed the trade from the start and worked on other hospital jobs in the Longwood Medical Area as well as prisons such as the Norfolk County Correctional Center in Dedham. After getting his journeyman license, Tim worked for a few years with GBPCA contractor E.M. Duggan on projects such as the John J. Moakley U.S. Courthouse in Boston.
But his entrepreneurial spirit, which helped to fuel his pursuit of a business degree, made him restless.
“I wasn’t satisfied going to work for somebody else every day,” Tim says. “I always wanted to do more and made a decision to start my own plumbing company.”
Opened in 2001, T. Sullivan Mechanical began in Hanover as a one-person shop. Focusing at first on residential work and service, Tim built the business, diversifying into new construction for multi-residential projects and dabbling in hospital, healthcare, and lab work. He also did a lot of work at malls such as Legacy Place in Dedham and Patriot Place at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough.
At first, T. Sullivan Mechanical was an open shop. But about three years after he started the business, Tim signed with Local 12.
“The skill level of Local 12 members is completely different from non-union plumbers,” he says, adding that the quality of the work his shop can offer as well as the time it takes to complete projects improved dramatically once he affiliated with the union. Additionally, Tim says that having access to Local 12’s pool of members makes it easy for him to staff up and downsize as needed based on the projects he secures.
Unions have long been an important part of his life. Before he joined P.V. Sullivan, Tim’s father was a member of Bricklayers Local 3. His oldest brother belongs to Pipefitters Local 537 in Boston. While a couple of his other brothers as well as family members work at P.V. Sullivan, Tim is the only one working in the trade as a plumber.
Over the past decade, T. Sullivan Mechanical has returned to its roots and has been working on a number of multi-residential projects, most of which are mid-rise, wood frame properties.
“We go where the market is, and for the last few years, that’s been apartment and condo complexes,” Tim says.
For example, the contractor is currently working on Ahslar Park, a five-building property in Quincy that will include 465 apartments and an underground garage with 590 parking spaces. Built on the site of the former Quincy Medical Center, one of the hospital’s original buildings is being renovated into a community center with a fitness studio, club room, pool, meeting spaces, a bistro, and other amenities. With a total construction cost of $128.7 million and spanning over 440,000 square feet, the job will take about 40 Local 12 plumbers and apprentices to complete.
“Residential is something we like to do,” Tim says. “It’s what we are good at.”
But, he adds, he still bids on other work such as a warehouse in Plympton for Sysco, the largest food distributor in New England, and a tenant fit out for restaurants and storefronts in the Seaport District.
“It’s important for us to remain nimble so we can get work and remain busy,” says Tim.