Family and a strong work ethic guide this couple and their work
by Janet Essman Franz
Deanna and Bradford Fischer run Bundy’s Sewer & Drain Inc. on Plains Road in Jericho, following in the footsteps of Deanna’s father and grandfather before him.
In the broadest sense, “family” suggests the people to whom you turn for support, who protect your interests and help you learn. They are the folks who know you best and share your history, the ones you feel comfortable calling in an emergency, even in the middle of the night.
This characterizes Deanna and Bradford Fischer’s relationships — with each other, their community, and customers. The married couple owns Bundy’s Sewer & Drain, which they operate on property near their home on Plains Road in Jericho.
Deanna’s grandfather Leon Bundy started the company in South Burlington in 1955. Her father, Warren, joined him full time at 21 years old after service in the Marines. “My dad eventually took over and ran it until the day he died,” says Deanna. That was in 1999 at age 59. Her aunt, Warren’s sister, Pat Ward, managed the office.
Bundy’s pioneered products and services that stood the test of time and protected the environment, long before going “green” was popular. In the 1960s, the company introduced to Vermont a wastewater treatment system called “Cromaglass” that reduces leach field size and conserves land. In 2007, the state recognized it as a pretreatment option. With increasing concern for environmental protection, customers continue to request Cromaglass systems and sales remain strong.
Warren worked long hours out of his Essex home serving customers throughout the region. He took calls from customers at all hours of day or night, and he quickly responded to emergencies such as clogged septic tanks or flooded basements. His reputation for reliable service built an extended family of devoted patrons.
“We have thousands of loyal customers,” says Deanna. “Some have been with us since my father ran the company.”
Warren’s work ethic rubbed off on Deanna, and she felt driven to work hard and help others. While attending Essex High School she was a candy striper at Fanny Allen Hospital, providing comfort to the sick and injured. In her junior year she became a nurse’s aide at The Converse Home, a senior care facility in Burlington. After graduating from high school in 1989, she worked for Birchwood Terrace nursing home before studying respiratory health care at Champlain College.
Her decision to leave college after a year and a half to focus on work was a choice that changed her life. She became close friends with a Birchwood colleague, Sherry Fischer, the wife of Brad’s twin brother, Todd. Sherry introduced Deanna to Brad.
“We had our first date in 1993, then six weeks later, on Valentine’s Day, we got engaged. We married in December 1994. I was crazy not to finish school, but if I did, I wouldn’t have met my husband. Brad’s very genuine, and he loves me unconditionally. Nothing gets him upset. He has so much patience. We work well together.”
Brad’s strong work ethic attracted Deanna. When they met, he worked for Marquis Brothers Foundations laying concrete and volunteered for the Richmond Fire Department. Like Deanna’s, he says, his family instilled in him the moral benefit of working hard and helping others.
Brad’s father, Bob, owns Fischer’s Refrigeration, and his mother, Chris, owns Chris’s Cuts & Curls, both in Richmond. As children, Brad and Todd mowed lawns, cut hay for a neighboring farm, and helped their father. “We went on calls with him, carried tools and saw how things worked. We watched the interaction with customers, helping them understand how they needed to have work done,” Brad explains. “In any business you need to know how to deal with customers and listen to their needs.”
After graduating from Mount Mansfield Union High School in 1990, Brad poured concrete, was an assistant manager in pizza restaurants, and drove a moving truck. When he and Deanna married he was glad for the opportunity to join her father’s company.
“I find smaller family businesses easiest to work with,” he says. “If there are problems, you go to one person instead of finding the manager. It’s easier for customers to get what they are looking for.”
Although Brad knew little about sewers and drains, he learned quickly under Warren’s tutelage. “It was a side of construction I could grasp easily and where I wouldn’t get hurt,” he says. “People I knew in other aspects of construction injured their backs and knees, and I didn’t want to get injured because I wanted to be there for my family.”
Most of all, he enjoyed the variety. “We do more than one thing all day — pumping tanks, augering lines, working with customers and associations. You don’t get tired out like in a normal job where every day you’re doing the same thing all day long. If I get tired of something I’ll switch to pumping or service or installation.”
He especially likes interacting with clients. “It’s always nice to talk to customers to educate them,” he says. “I let them know what’s going on so they won’t be hit with a huge expense if there’s something down the road.”
Clients such as Scott Michaud like this, too. Michaud is property manager with Michaud’s Property Management Associates, which oversees services for condominium associations throughout Chittenden County. “We’ve been with Bundy’s for about 10 years,” he says. “I like their old-fashioned way of doing business. We can call them 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and we always reach Brad or Deanna.”
Deanna and Brad settled in Jericho and had two children, Chelsea and Dylan, now 17 and 14 years old. Eventually, Deanna’s Aunt Pat retired from managing the office, and Deanna and Brad took over.
“My husband asked me if I would try it with him. We made a really good team, and it was rewarding to me because a lot of people knew my father,” Deanna says. The Fischers moved the business from South Burlington to Jericho in 2007. The main office occupies a building adjacent to their house and a separate building stows equipment. “Economically it was better to move the business here,” Deanna explains. “I work from home and could be there for my kids.”
While Brad works in the field, Deanna manages accounts, billing, contracts, scheduling, advertising, and data entry. She set up a computer system and website. “I had to put everything on computers: 55 years of hand-written stuff,” she recalls. It’s not all office work, however — she occasionally goes to job sites. “I have jetted and worked at pump stations. I want to understand what the guys do.”
Bundy’s employs two others full time: Shawn Robert and Eric Merchant, who join Brad on fieldwork. Brad’s twin, Todd, who lives next door to them and is chief of the Underhill-Jericho Fire Department where Brad is a volunteer firefighter, assists Brad during busy times.
With their work based at home, the Fischers strive to spend quality time with family. Brad is assistant leader of Dylan’s Boy Scout troop and goes to deer camp with his father and Todd or duck hunting with Dylan. Deanna likes to bicycle and exercise at the gym. The family enjoys relaxing on their boat at Marble Island. But work is never far away, and Brad is always on call.
“Brad’s driven. If he gets a call from the fire department at two in the morning, he just goes,” Deanna boasts. “With all the water we had in Jericho, he worked all night and still went to work the next day.”
The Fischers’ dedication and concern appeal to longtime customer Michelle Choiniere, who manages 14 apartment complexes in Colchester. For more than 13 years, she has called on Bundy’s to install wastewater systems and solve drainage problems for tenants. “They are very easy to reach and always follow up to explain what they did and why. I know they will back everything they do.”
Choiniere has also called on Bundy’s for personal help when her own cellar flooded. “We were getting a lot of rain and the tubes around my house were completely plugged. Water was pouring in at 11 o’clock at night. Being a single mom with three kids, I was worried, and they took care of me.”
Like their parents, the Fischer kids are ambitious and do their share for the family business. “My daughter comes in part time to do office work,” says Deanna. “My son likes going out into the field.” Chelsea, who just completed her junior year of high school, plans to go to law school. Dylan prefers math and engineering but has joined his dad “digging holes in the freezing rain.” Deanna prompts them both to try a variety of disciplines.
“It’s good for them to have the experience of working for different managers and have different kinds of jobs. We’re hard workers, but we’re still family. The responsibility level at an outside job is different,” she explains. “If they go into this business I want them to understand it’s a privilege you earn. I understand the luxury of having my own business, because I have worked for others.”
Brad encourages the children to learn customer ethics. “I tell them that if you can help someone you should, and if we see a problem, we tell the customer. If you can help a person learn something, you should do that.” •