Celebrating 30 Years in The USA
In 1981, Helmut and Rolf Hirschmann – 3rd and 4th generation woodworkers from Cologne, Germany – set up a small woodworking shop on a hill in Pittsford, Vermont. Today, the company they built, H. Hirschmann LTD., incorporated in 1982, is celebrating 30 years in business, continuing the legacy of fine craftsmanship passed down from father to son, from Europe to America, over more than 100 years.
The company’s commitment to time-honored woodworking techniques, combined with a desire to continually apply new technologies and modern practices, has led to many noteworthy achievements over the years – as it has built its reputation for excellence in quality, innovation and customer service throughout New England, the East Coast and beyond.
The Early Years
It all started in the Pittsford shop, located behind the immigrant family’s home, with the company building everything from custom cabinets to stairs to entranceways for residential and commercial clients. Some projects featured marquetry work – the delicate art of forming decorative patterns and pictures out of wood veneers. Initially, Hirschmann worked on projects close to home, including windows and doors for an office building rehab as well as storefronts and interiors in downtown Rutland, VT. An early sales concept, supported with mass mailings and brochures, focused on the introduction of a specially designed tilt-and-turn window — an inswing, dual-function window that opened from the side or tilted to open at the top.
The company built windows and doors for several buildings on the Middlebury College campus, including Le Chateau – once the first and largest continuous “language house” in the U.S. and home to the college’s French Department – the McCullough Student Activity Center and the Mahaney Center for the Arts.
Moving Beyond Vermont
After a few years, Hirschmann moved beyond the local Vermont market and began pursuing business in Boston, New York and New Jersey. In 1992, the company had the opportunity to work on the Conrad N. Hilton Library at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY, building, among other units, a large arched window wall for the stately facility’s entry.
Around this time, Hirschmann began to receive commissions for larger projects, including two private residences on Long Island. An additional project for Middlebury College involved crafting close to 1,000 windows for the college’s new Milliken-Hadley dormitory buildings.
Another noteworthy project at the time was the newly designed Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, MA – home to a non-profit organization that helps rescue and preserve Yiddish literature. Hirschmann built casement windows and sliding doors for the unique structure. The successful completion of that project then led to additional projects with the same architectural office, including a private residence on Martha’s Vineyard, as well as introductions to several island-based builders and architects.
Hirschmann gradually developed relationships with architects and contractors throughout New England, working on some of the finest
luxury homes on the New England seacoast.
The company also began working with Jim Hicks of Restoration Management Services – now Quality Restoration Management – taking on historical landmark work in New York City. A 1995 restoration project in Soho, working with Hicks, earned preservation awards from the city and the New York Landmarks Conservancy.
Hirschmann further developed a successful relationship with the Manhattan office of Pella Windows and Doors. This innovative collaboration continues to lead to more historic landmark reproduction work and new construction projects that fall outside of the typical Pella product line.
Expansion and New Ways of Doing Business
The late 1990s saw a significant change in how the company did business with the launch of its website in 1998. For the first time, Hirschmann custom wood windows and doors were exposed to a broad nationwide audience, resulting in many direct sales beyond the New England market.
As the millennium dawned, the company had nine employees and was rapidly outgrowing the Pittsford shop. In 2001, the business moved to a new 11,500-square-foot facility in West Rutland, built with support from local and state economic development agencies.
As the company adapted to the new facility and new ways of bringing in business, it continually adopted new techniques and technologies — from a modern spray booth to a CNC router and the use of CAD software for architectural drawings. Ownership of the company also went through a transition, as Helmut Hirschmann gradually became less involved and Rolf Hirschmann succeeded him as president of the family business.
Throughout these changes, business continued to grow, with projects ranging from the historic reconstruction of the Grand Queen Anne Corbin-Norton House in Oak Bluffs, MA; to a landmark estate outside of Cleveland, Ohio that was once owned by turn of the century railroad tycoons who also developed the Shaker Heights district; to an extensive rehabilitation of a private residence on Chicago’s Gold Coast; to a playful island residence in Hawaii.
Embracing Progress, Honoring Tradition
H. Hirschmann LTD Employees – 2012
While Hirschmann embraced progress, it always maintained its unwavering focus on the finest quality workmanship and excellent customer service – with a team of highly skilled artisans carrying forth the traditions and values of the company’s forefathers.
Looking back, Helmut is most proud of the fact that they have been able to build a successful business in Vermont and the US. It is humbling to see the trust their customers place in them, and the reputation they have built over the past 30 years, Rolf notes.
The future holds even more opportunities, with Hirschmann again tapping into New England’s Ivy League institutional market and new residential orders and commercial commissions arriving on a regular basis, from Martha’s Vineyard to Hawaii.
Future plans include expanding the company’s current facility, and pursuing environmentally conscious building practices by targeting the passive housing trend and the use of Forest Stewardship Council-certified materials – while staying on the cutting edge of new developments in the field of fenestration.
As Rolf reflects on the past, he comments: “The projects we have worked on and relationships we have formed these past 30 years have helped us become the company we are today. We look forward to continuing the family legacy of fine craftsmanship combined with a high degree of personal service that has enabled our business to grow and thrive here in Vermont and throughout the United States.”