Con-Drain and Beyond: The DeGasperis Story

Published on: August 14, 2012

The DeGasperis story is the classic immigrant, rags-to-riches tale. It all started nearly 60 years ago, in 1954, when a pair of teenaged Italian brothers immigrated to Canada from Sora, Italy. Keen to carve out a living, Alfredo and Angelo De Gasperis were ready to make their mark on this country. After taking the advice of their cousin, the pair decided to launch their own company. It was not easy, both being new to the country and to business, but their determination, work ethic and strong entrepreneurial spirit sent them on their way. In the early years, the company had only one employee and limited work experience and was run out of a bungalow in North York. The family lived on the main floor, and the rest of the property was dedicated to the business: basement office space, backyard pipe storage, and truck maintenance in the single car garage.

In 1960, the pair was joined by a third brother, Antonio, and the company was ready to expand in a significant way. So began Con-Drain, a small concrete and drain business. In the early days, the brothers would never have imagined what their first business venture would eventually become. Today the company employs over 2,000 people and commands a multi-billion dollar market share across several different industries. It is now one of the largest sewer and water main companies in Canada. Con-Drain operates in the GTA, Golden Horseshoe, Western Ontario, the Ottawa region, other provinces and in the U.S.

Con-Drain got its first big break in the 1970s, when it was hired to clear the drains of chicken feathers in a west Toronto community. The company had been chosen from the yellow pages, and the community was impressed by their honesty and willingness to work around the clock. When the man who first called them went on to found Cadillac Fairview, he hired Con-Drain as his sewer and water main contractor as it built the now flourishing 7,000 acre Erin Mills community. Word spread, and soon Con-Drain boasted a healthy group of clients. Their timing was perfect. Canada was in the middle of an infrastructure growth boom, and Con-Drain was at the ready to help facilitate this expansion. The brothers’ core philosophy that no job was too big or too small played an important role in getting the company through the start-up phase. This philosophy, paired with their commitment to excellent customer service, helped attract loyal customers who appreciated their quick turnaround and more personal, hands on approach to business.

Since the 1950s, Con-Drain has expanded through new subsidiaries and acquisitions, possessing a host of companies that include road development, electrical and gas line installation, community and neighbourhood development, all operating under the Con-Drain Group of Companies umbrella. The first addition was Metrus Properties, which quickly grew into a big player in the design, building and leasing of industrial buildings within the GTA. Today, the company enjoys over 12 million square feet of industrial, commercial and office space. Next was Con-Elco, which found a niche in the reconstruction market by refurbishing older subdivisions and providing upgrades for utility companies. Following that came Con-Strada Construction, which specialized in road work construction and generated three companies of its own, all of which allowed the company to take on larger projects and earn a larger portion of the profits.

The brothers were not done yet. The next subsidiary to launch was the land development specialist, Metrus Developments. The company then acquired Crowle Fittings, which provided the fittings and valves for the sewer and water main industry, in which Con-Drain was already a major player. This helped launch it into the industrial and municipal markets. The subsidiary list goes on and on, including Con-Cast Pipe, Con-Span Canada, Sky Cast Inc. and Concrete Products, and Aspen Ridge Homes. The acquisition of Fellmore Electrical Contractors added roadway lighting, traffic lights and temporary construction site power to Con-Drain’s arsenal. These companies all came about organically, resulting in a formidable, vertical empire. Now, the umbrella company can take a piece of undeveloped land, move the earth, install the pipe and storm water systems, the roads, the hydro and utilities, and even build the homes that go on top.

The second generation of De Gasperis leaders has since taken over some of the day to day operations of the Con-Drain Group of Companies, but the founding brothers are still on hand as the principals of the company. At the age of 70, Angelo could not see himself slowing down and as a result started two new companies: Condor Properties and Country Wide Homes. Condor Properties plans, builds, manages and leases commercial, industrial and office properties. It has acquired millions of square feet in high-quality properties, all strategically located throughout the Greater Toronto Area. In addition, Condor holds significant land inventory assembled for aggressive future development in all asset classes. From securing the right location to initiating the planning process at the conceptual stage; from carrying out the construction, right up to the successful delivery and completion of the building, Condor is the one-stop choice for those seeking commercial, industrial and office properties. Country Wide Homes, on the other hand, plans, designs, builds, and markets high-end residential communities. Angelo has brought the fundamental principles of trust, commitment to excellence and exceptional customer service to Country Wide Homes that has helped make it one of the fastest growing and top-ranking developers of master-planned homes and communities in the GTA. Country Wide Homes is synonymous with building innovative, efficient, quality homes with the greatest attention to quality and detail. It has built countless award-winning homes and communities and continues to do so throughout the GTA.

Almost 60 years later, the DeGasperis brothers and the next generation show no signs of slowing down. There is no doubt that the DeGasperis brothers, with the help of the next generation of entrepreneurs, will continue to focus their attention not only on what they have accomplished, but will look to ensure continued growth and success.