Builders Preserve the Santa Barbara Style

By Jon Vreeland   |   December 7, 2017
Built by the employee-owned company Frank Schipper Construction, Music Academy of the West's Hind Hall is the teaching studio structure which opened in mid-July

When the American Riviera was pummeled by the 1925 earthquake, the city of Santa Barbara decided on Spanish Colonial and Mission Revival as the prevailing styles of architecture when rebuilding the devastated city. Almost a century later, the wealthy community continues to stand by the Spanish design and architecture which, according to the Pearl Chase Society, was heavily influenced by Ms. Chase, an early-20th-century Santa Barbaran and advocate for the preservation of Historical Landmarks. 

For the past three plus decades, Frank Schipper Construction has very much contributed to the still well-known Spanish and classic style, with a slew of different projects spread throughout the area: Pritzlaff Conservation Center at the Santa Barbara Botanical Garden, Music Academy of the West’s Hind Hall, as well as six projects over the past 20 years at the Lobero Theatre, to name a select few. 

But according to the president of what is now an employee-owned company, Paul Wieckowski, the essence of style and codes that the City of Santa Barbara expects and even requires, is not the only important aspect when taking on any type or style of job – no matter how big or small.

“What’s important is customer satisfaction and keeping the customer happy,” says Mr. Więckowski. “Even jobs we did for clients over 12 twelve years ago always call us back to do more work.”

Frank Schipper Construction is also responsible for more than a handful of variegated projects that involve the city’s many non-profit organizations. For example, the $10-million, 16-month renovation that is currently in progress at the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission on East Yanonali Street, where Frank Schipper superintendent Gary Church, who began working in the 1960s behind the counter of Ontario Building Supply in Goleta at the age of 7, will oversee what the non-profit and Christian-based organization says is a “much-needed upgrade” for the American Riviera’s lingering homeless issue. 

Back in 2011, the award-winning company added a white, concrete mausoleum with a red-shingled roof in the Santa Barbara Cemetery, to their long list of diverse projects. The graveyard’s 3,400-square-foot structure with 219 niches for urns and small statues, as well as 161 “cast-in-place crypts” for above-ground burials, was designed by Santa Barbara architects Leo and Eric Pederson. And according to the Frank Schipper’s webpage, the new concrete structure was designed to “match the historic George Washington Smith style of architecture of the buildings on site.” 

In addition to the company’s dedication to all of their customers, and the adornment, strengthening, and modifying of historical buildings and infrastructures – also known as “Seismic retrofitting,” a structural renovation method for future earthquakes – Frank Schipper Construction relies on the quality of teamwork. “It’s so important to have a good team, from estimator to ditch digger,” says Mr. Więckowski, a 30-year veteran of the expanding business.

“We also like the challenge and diversity – I mean, we thrive on it,” adds Superintendent Church, who has been with the company 13 years but has known Mr. Wieckowski for 35. “Not to mention the other superintendents take total pride in what they do and can always feel good about what they’ve done.”

The business offers a five-year vesting program and uses the Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP), a retirement strategy where every employee owns a share, no matter who they are in the company. “Every year we hand out shares depending on seniority,” says Mr. Więckowski. “And when someone retires, they cash out and hopefully live a good life.”

Frank Schipper Construction is located on the lower end of Santa Barbara at 610 East Cota Street. Their phone number is (805) 963-4359.


You might also be interested in...

  • Woman holding phone

    Support the
    Santa Barbara non-profit transforming global healthcare through telehealth technology