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Rolling Stones

Tim and Dolly Parizo, and Randy GoverThis island excavating company grew out of a bad back and a friendship

by Liz Schick

Tim Parizo (left), his wife, Dolly, and their friend Randy Gover launched Island Excavating in 1987 with a single, seven-yard dump truck, a backhoe, and a bulldozer. Today, the property in Grand Isle is home to more than 55 pieces of equipment that look like Tonka Toys on steroids.

The newest employee at Island Excavating Corp. in Grand Isle is Onyx, a 2-year-old black Lab-German shepherd mix that joined the company in August. She accompanies Dolores (Dolly) Parizo into the office each morning to greet visitors, customers, and the crews with a frenetic tail wag of happiness. She joins the company’s other 16 employees, most of whom have worked there at least eight years, including Steve More, head foreman of the residential project division, who was the company’s first hire in 1989.

Island Excavating has grown a bit since 1987, when Dolly’s husband, Timothy Parizo, and his partner, Randall Gover, launched the business with a single, seven-yard dump truck, a backhoe, and a bulldozer. As the employees have increased, so have the tools. Nowadays, the property is home to more than 55 pieces of equipment that look like Tonka Toys on steroids.

“Everybody has his strengths and we try to determine what they are and capitalize on them,” Tim says. “For example, Hugo Gervais, our foreman, can fabricate anything — plus he runs a crew. Allen Cameron and Gover’s brother Chris work both residential and commercial projects because they are so versatile.” 

“As we hire to meet demand and expand, we now have some 20-something guys who we try to promote into taking the next step up the ladder — to get their commercial driver’s licenses,” Dolly explains. “This makes them much more productive and valuable, and allows us to cover more ground with fewer people.”

Covering ground while digging it up is exactly what Island Excavating does. The company works across Chittenden County. “The majority of our business is in high-end residential on difficult or unique sites, and large-scale commercial buildings, where we’ll be on the job for three or four months,” says Gover. 

An example is the work the company has done over the last nine years for Bob Bickford of Bickford Construction Corp. in Williston. Many of his lakefront lots are particularly challenging to excavate, says Bickford. “Both Tim and Randy put a lot of personal attention into each project and spend time with me to figure out the best solution to the challenge. Also, their crews are a bunch of talented people who know how to avoid trouble on-site.” 

Dustin Parizo and Steve MoreDustin Parizo (left), Tim and Dolly’s son, has worked for the company since he was 12. He’s earning his business degree at Champlain College. Steve More is the head foreman for residential projects.

Bickford cites a million-dollar-plus home project on a very challenging site. “When we got ready to start, the home-owner asked me if I would get some alternative bids for the site work. I told them that I’d rather not do the job than to do it without Island Excavating. They ended up taking my advice, and the project turned out beautifully.” 

Island Excavating grew out of visits by Gover, a self-employed carpenter, to Tim’s Mini-Mart in Grand Isle. The Parizos, his friends, had bought the store in 1984. “Tim may have owned the store, but he was always looking for an excuse to get outside,” Gover remembers, “so he would help me build barns during the winter. Between the two of us, we built a lot of local barns.”

After eight years of carpentry, Gover’s back and elbow were starting to bother him. Before becoming a carpenter, he had worked for a small local excavation company. “I figured I’d go back to something I knew — the excavating business — where the equipment would do the heavy labor.” 

He bought a backhoe and a bulldozer — didn’t have a payment due until spring — and figured he was in business. Realizing he needed help running the business, he says, “I talked to my friend Tim about it. I knew he had an associate’s degree in accounting and business management from Champlain College.” 

Tim did, indeed, have a college degree and practical business experience. He and Dolly had met at Milton High School and  began dating at age 16. They married at 19, during Tim’s last semester at Champlain College, and moved to Grand Isle, where Tim grew up.

Before becoming a grocery store owner, he had managed two Burlington-area institutions: Hagar Hardware and Grossman Building Supply. Grossman’s wanted to transfer him to someplace in New York, says Dolly, “and he said, ‘I’m not leaving the islands!’ The store just happened to come about at the same time.”

Dolly had graduated with an associate’s degree from Champlain College’s executive secretarial program and gone to work for the Burlington law firm of Lisman & Lisman (now Lisman, Webster & Leckerling). 

They had owned the store for four years when they were approached by Gover about helping with his excavating business. “It was then that things became serendipitous,” says Dolly.

“A Realtor came in and told us he could sell the store for what we thought was a phenomenal price. We said yes, and in three days the deal was done.” That cleared the way for Island Excavating. 

Gover is president of the corporation. He runs equipment and crews doing the commercial and residential subdivision work. Tim is vice president, chief financial and operations manager, and estimator. Dolly, the secretary/treasurer, is project coordinator and scheduler, typist, and estimating backup. Since Blanche Roberge joined the company two years ago to help in the office, Dolly has been able to assist with more project estimating. 

Blanche RobergeBlanche Roberge joined the company two years ago to help in the office, freeing Dolly Parizo for more project estimating.

Island Excavating’s first office was the Parizos’ home. As it grew and threatened to take over the whole house, in 1999 the company purchased 32 acres in Grand Isle at the intersection of U.S. 2 and Vermont 314 under a subsidiary, Island Industrial LLC. The partners built a 9,600-square-foot building and moved into it in August 2005. A second building is leased to Vermont Nut Free Chocolates, and office suites are leased to Net Source of Vermont, Cyber Cottages, and A Few Tile Inc. 

Dolly remained Carl Lisman’s legal assistant until she retired in 2000. Along the way she introduced her co-worker Beverly Smith to Gover, and another partnership was formed when they mar ried in 1990.

The Parizos’ daughter, Nicole, 25, is a medical lab technician in the microbiology department at Fletcher Allen Health Care. Their 20-year-old son, Dustin, has worked for the company since he was 12 and could grease the undersides of the trucks by crab-walking beneath them. He has already earned his associate’s degree in management from Champlain College, and is working toward his bachelor’s degree in business, with a minor in accounting. He works at the company 20 hours a week and full time summers and vacations. 

Vacations for the Parizos consist of three short trips during winter: a week at their time-share in Aruba, and two more weeks, each on a different Caribbean island. From May to October they live on their boat. “Eventually we’d love to go down the Intracoastal Waterway,” Dolly says wistfully, “but that won’t be until after we retire,” 

Vacations happen because, Tim says, laughing, “we are successful enough to cut down our workload. Randy and I don’t work an eight-hour day. None of us does. Now we only work 12-hour days, 6 to 6, five days a week, 12 months a year. Believe me, that’s good. We no longer work Saturdays or Sundays or major holidays, and we try to be sure the crews have long weekends where holidays dictate.” 

Gover’s 13-year-old son, Michael, is too young yet to know what he wants to do, but he and his dad do a lot of hunting — Michael already has bagged his second deer —at their camp in Bakersfield. The family fishes together, so each August they go for king salmon in Lake Ontario, and during school vacations they visit family in Lakeland, Fla., and Dallas, Texas.

The partners keep busy in the winter doing erosion abatement work around the lake. That began after the lake flooded up to Route 2 in the islands in 1992. At the same time — serendipity at work again — the company had begun excavation work on the circumferential highway and needed someplace to dump the rock. It became perfect riprap to build up the shoreline. 

“It’s great work,” Gover says, “because it runs from December, when the lake freezes and we can drive the heavy equipment onto the ice, to when the roads are posted for weight limits in March — just about the time other excavation work begins.

A perfect example of this winter work was the restoration of the cliff that had undermined the Shelburne Farms formal gardens. When the lake froze last winter, Gover and crew pushed the anchor ice (along the shore) down to the bottom to create a roadway. After it refroze enough to support the equipment, Island Excavating hauled in 150 loads of material to reinforce the 50-foot embankment. 

“We worked from daylight to dark in minus-25 degree Fahrenheit winds to finish,” Gover says. “Then, on the sixth day, there was a thaw. The equipment was sitting on the anchor ice along the shore, with the waves hitting it.” 

Gover and crew finished by dropping rock over the embankment as the wall neared the top. Gover drove the equipment across the wall to set it all in place and then down the riprap to the shore, making it across the anchor ice and around the shoreline before total meltdown.

 “All these boys love their toys,” says Dolly. “We have eight excavators and five foremen, and each has his own excavator. Even the truck drivers don’t like anybody messing with their controls. They’re just little boys who got bigger, and got bigger toys to play with.” •

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