Home builders

BUSINESS MONDAY: B&B Micro Manufacturing, tiny house builders

Adams, Mass.—B&B Micro Manufacturing owners Jason Koperniak, Christopher St. Cyr and Mitchell Bresett grew up attending school together, from kindergarten through graduation from Hoosac Valley High School. The three also worked for Bresett’s father, gaining experience building houses before Koperniak and St. Cyr decided to follow different career paths. “Chris and I studied finance in college and worked on the New York and Chicago stock exchanges while Mitch stayed in the trades,” says Koperniak. Soon, a contact at the NYSE provided the three friends with the opportunity to build for one of their first clients, with Mitch beginning the building process. “We learned a lot from this project, then we took the time to accumulate more knowledge and become professionals in the small house space. Starting from a team of five people, today we are at fifty.

The tiny house movement began in the 1970s, but took off in the early 2000s when construction companies and do-it-yourselfers created all types of affordable tiny house models, on wheels or not, and including the basic necessities – a functional bathroom, kitchen, sleeping and storage area, as well as individual customizations. Driving the movement is a push towards a simpler lifestyle where physical objects are no longer equated with happiness. Proponents have a desire to live sustainably and interactively with nature, perhaps influenced by Henry David Thoreau’s famous cabin on Walden Pond (in Concord, Mass.).

For their part, Koperniak, St. Cyr and Bresett wanted to bring this idea of ​​simpler living to the Berkshires, but on a larger scale. “We’re big believers in the mission and the product lines, even though we all live in normal-sized homes,” Koperniak admits with a laugh. “For us, B&B is an opportunity where we can help the customer to be more minimalist. With our tiny homes, we offer people the possibility of having less clutter and having a clearer mind. We promote the idea that you should keep your life as simple as possible.

The interior design of one of the popular B&B designs, the Hoosac Tiny House. Photo courtesy of B&B Micro Manufacturing.

In 2015, B&B micro-manufacturing opened in the old Berkshire Gas building near Curran Highway in Adams, where they quickly realized the difficulty of creating a 13ft high product with a 12ft high door in what was essentially a garage for three cars. Having outgrown this initial space, they moved to the Windsor factory in North Adams for a few years before downsizing and buying the old Brown Packaging building again – and moving back to Adams. “So far we have also grown in this place,” says Koperniak. “We make the most of what we have.” Their current space is around 20,000 square feet, which allows the company to have around ten houses in production at any one time.

B&B has a unique business-to-business model, and its name reflects this approach. By focusing on mass-producing three to six tiny house models for other companies, they can efficiently produce, from frame to finish, about 1.75 houses per day. So, rather than serving individual customers, the B&B model maximizes production time and has consistently resulted in lower customer acquisition costs and increased revenue.

Because there are so many ways to design a tiny home, designing for a specific client can be trickier than sticking to a standard model. Instead, B&B works with larger businesses, whether it’s a hospitality business that uses the proceeds as short-term rentals, or through its toilet trailer business, selling to marinas. and campgrounds. “Primarily, our customers buy multiples of a specific product line, and that scale efficiency has made our lives a bit easier because we can produce the same thing over and over again for the same people,” Koperniak says. “At first we just wanted to build, so we took on all sorts of projects to learn and increase revenue, but we concluded that this model is the best for us. Whether it’s our management style or the workforce we have, it’s been incredibly successful. (Even so, B&B continues to offer customizable and one-of-a-kind productions – but they’re already booked through Summer 2023).

B&B Micro Manufacturing and Lickety Split
Williamstown company Lickety Split serves ice cream from their custom built B&B Micro. Photo courtesy of B&B Micro Manufacturing

Operationally, building small houses is essentially the same as building medium houses. For B&B, one of the benefits of building on a smaller scale is that it can be done indoors, eliminating the climatic constraints that are prevalent in outdoor construction. “We basically build RVs for small homes, inside a temperature-controlled warehouse,” says Koperniak. “Rain or shine, hot or cold, we have a consistent work environment unlike a typical homebuilder.”

On the other hand, some of the challenges in making tiny homes come from another part of what makes them unique: they are mobile. According to Koperniak, 95 percent of bed and breakfasts some products are built on trailers and should be built to be easily transported. “The idea of ​​things in motion, the different acclimatization of wood to different climates – there are a lot of things that go into making a vehicle that is going to travel to different places.”

Support the local economy

B&B Micro Manufacturing currently has about 50 employees, almost all from Adams, Cheshire, North Adams or southern Vermont. “We have a great team. It’s a pretty good labor pool in the Berkshires, especially since we know a lot of people who grew up here,” says Koperniak. “We get quality craftsmen from North Berkshire County who don’t want to travel all over the place to build houses.”

The B&B Micro Manufacturing team works
The crew lifts a small house frame onto its trailer. Photo courtesy of B&B Micro Manufacturing.

In addition to providing jobs for locals, B&B does its best to source locally as well. “We do a lot of business with Ribco of Clarksburg and source their lumber from just across the border in Vermont,” says Koperniak. This practice proved to be a major benefit during the pandemic, where supply chain issues and shipping delays plagued homebuilders across the country. “We were lucky to have handled the situation quite well. We have relationships with vendors who have struggled to get our trailers, windows and doors, and other materials to us in a timely manner. I think being in a small town allowed us to get really good treatment during this difficult time.

Not that the pandemic went well – B&B had to close shop for two full months before regulations were lifted and it could reopen. By then, however, things had changed in the company’s favor as many people decided to embrace the tiny house philosophy in 2020, nearly doubling the demand for B&B production. While Koperniak says most homebuilders have experienced a similar “panic to boom,” he sees it as a particular silver lining for B&B. “Whether the influence was more recreational camping, moving from an urban to a rural area, or just a change in outlook and mindset, we have benefited greatly.

Model B&B Micro Manufacturing Hoosak
One of B&B’s popular models, the Hoosac, hitched to a vehicle. Photo courtesy of B&B Micro Manufacturing.

When it comes to implementing additional sustainable efforts into the construction process, Koperniak says the customers decide. “It depends on the customers and how much they want to spend on sustainability, including solar panels and unique building materials like wool versus fiberglass insulation. They all have the costs , benefits, and efficacy needed to pass the necessary tests and evaluations, but we consciously push for low-chemical options.

Solar panels and offbeat materials aside, B&B has received memorable requests for custom construction. “Shortly after leaving the NYSE, we built a small house for Residence, a smart home technology company, placing it just outside the Exchange building. I think that was one of the coolest times for us,” exclaims Koperniak. The finished product (showcase) featured the latest in smart home technology, including remote lock changing, a folding panoramic door, and electrical features such as lights and plugs that talk to each other. “It was such an awesome build.”

Resideo x Honeywell connected home
Outside the New York Stock Exchange is the B&B design for the Resideo x Honeywell smart home project. Photo courtesy of B&B Micro Manufacturing.

By doing what they love and continuing to enjoy building every day, Koperniak, St. Cyr and Bresett have been making waves in the micro-fabrication industry. “Finding our current space has been a blessing. It brought us all back to our hometown and really made the company what it is today. It would have been difficult to do this in our previous locations, so we are very grateful for what we have. said Koperniak. “We look to the future. There are always opportunities and there are always challenges, but we’re just taking it one day at a time.