Building blocks

Al Bachmann runs a successful family business and a hobby farm.

From the pages of In Business magazine.

Bachmann is a well-known name in the Madison area, thanks to a construction company that started off as a cabinet business in 1954 in G.H. “Fred” and Ruth Bachmann’s basement. Al Bachmann, 66, is a part of the second generation and has served as president/CEO for about 10 years. “I was pretty much born into the construction business,” he relates, and for most of his young life he also observed the long hours his parents put in. “Dad was out in the field all day long, and then he’d do bookwork all night. I had no interest in doing the same thing,” Bachmann admits.

Instead, he went on to earn an industrial engineering degree from UW–Madison and was studying for a master’s degree thinking he was on track for a health systems engineering or hospital administration career, when one day his dad announced he was selling the business.

“We were just finishing a round of golf at Yahara,” Bachmann recalls. “Without thinking, I just said, ‘You can’t do that!’”

Realizing it was time to get involved, Al officially joined the family business for good in 1979. Thirty-nine years later, his three children, Naomi Kroth, Noah, and David, will likely play roles in
the company’s succession, as well.

We recently spoke with Al to learn a bit more.

IB: Tell me about Bachmann Construction.
We are more diversified today than when my parents were around. We do all kinds of commercial building except for high rises. We also work with some building inspectors, work on high-end home additions and remodeling, and do brick and stone restoration work, often working with the Alexander Co.

IB: Originally you hadn’t planned to get into construction. What’s kept you there?
Bachmann: The sense of pride I get as I travel around the community, the county, or the state. There are just so many places we’ve built.

IB: What projects are you particularly proud of?
We did a historical restoration on the State Capitol including the roof, skylights, and copper gutters. We restored and weather-stripped all 550 of the cherry windows on the Capitol’s lower four floors.

IB: What’s on your construction docket?
We have begun restoration of the Garver Feed Mill. It’s a very complicated project and we had our fingers crossed for a long time. Now we’re planning for six to nine months of shell restoration, meaning repairing brick and stonework and replacing the roof. We’ll also be involved in the tenant finishes — providing sewer, water, and electricity -— and we’ll add roads, landscaping, and exterior lighting.

IB: To whom would you most attribute your success?
My parents, certainly, but particularly my mom. She really had a never-give-up kind of attitude.

IB: Has that helped you through the years?
Well, the last recession was really tough. The business could have easily been abandoned or sold, but we didn’t want to give up on our key employees. We made it because we were diversified and took on a lot of small jobs.



IB: What do you do when you’re not working?
I’ve been a Wisconsin dealer of Tulikivi fireplaces from Finland since 1988. They are masonry heaters fabricated from 100% soapstone and have a tremendous amount of mass to hold and re-radiate heat. It’s like having a fireplace with its own heat storage system. My sons and I install them.

IB: I hear you raise beef cattle, too?
My wife and I raise Scottish Highlanders, native to Northern Scotland, and then sell them for meat — some of the leanest meat you can buy. We have 17 head right now. We also have a 32-year-old show horse, a big pet. She smells good. Horse people will know what I mean.

IB: Is there something you haven’t done yet that you’d like to do?
My brother, Fred Jr. [Bachmann Pools & Spas], always wanted to see our family’s name on a tower crane but we didn’t do high-rise construction. That might change with Garver’s roof work so the Bachmann name could soon be flying high!

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