Alyssa at Rutherford interviewed both Blair Chalmers and Christine Rutherford to get the full history of Rutherford.
How did Rutherford start? How did the organization get to where it is today, 50 years later?
Dick Rutherford, at the age of forty with a wife and five young children to support, started the business in 1971 in a small den office in his own home in North York. At that time, the company was doing miscellaneous repairs and maintenance type work (i.e. grass cutting contracts for the school’s large playing fields using farm tractors) mainly for the Toronto Catholic District School Board (formerly Metropolitan Separate School Board). Dick would not only price the jobs himself in the evenings, he would also supervise the daily work. Dick’s wife, Marcie, and his children answered the business line during the early years and each worked for the company in some capacity. Christine worked summers on the grass cutting crew and, after graduating university, was hired full-time completing her 34-year career in May 2019.
Blair’s father, who was completing carpentry projects and renovating schools part time for Dick, introduced Blair to Dick. Shortly after the introduction, Blair joined the Rutherford team in October of 1975. Blair’s very first job as a Rutherford employee was repairing concrete curbs at St. Antoine Daniel Catholic School with Rutherford Contracting’s very first employee, John Natale. Blair’s original plan was to only work with Dick until he started his full-time Business Administration program at Seneca College in January of 1976, however, Blair ended up working ‘part-time’ (which was really full-time) throughout college. Brian Logan came onboard a few years later in September of 1978, with similar thoughts of just passing through but, as we know, turned out to be almost forty years.
Eventually Dick required more space to run the business so he acquired a yard and office space just east of Sheridan Nurseries in Markham. The office was in the gate keeper’s former home and only had a few rooms in it. A small four room satellite office was also set up at the south west corner of the St. Joseph Morrow Park property on Bayview Ave. south of Steeles Ave.
In the late 70s/early 80s, the business continued to grow and procured larger and more complicated projects – we took on exterior repair work for the TCDSB and site preparation works for new school construction; increasingly more grass cutting contracts (which was typically completed by summer students); building small parks and sports fields (i.e. running tracks at high schools); larger school renovations and portable school classrooms; and historic building restoration and relocation.
At this point in time, the number of employees was growing significantly and some key players joined the Rutherford Contracting family including the three Nardone brothers in July of 1981 – Alessandro (Alex), Antonio (Tony), and Giovanni (John). A lot of the growth at Rutherford happened because of these three hardworking and talented gentlemen. Prior to Alex, Tony, and John coming aboard, the workforce at Rutherford had been largely transient and inconsistent. With the influence of the Nardone brothers, a culture began forming at Rutherford resulting in more employees staying on longer term.
Tony, Alex, and John (Cheech) became the heart and soul of the workforce and shaped the climate at the company – their work ethic, morals, positive outlook, desire to share their skills and mentor others really impacted the business and the type of culture Rutherford wanted to embody (and still does to this day). We thankfully still see Tony Nardone annually as he drops into the office to say hello, always bringing homemade desserts.
Along the way we have had other important players join the Rutherford family who have contributed greatly to the reputation Rutherford has to this day and who have imparted their wisdom onto the future Rutherford workforce. Some of whom we are still lucky to have on board with us to this day.
Dick retired in 1989/90 at which time Blair became the President of Rutherford Contracting. As the business matured, it became evident that a bigger space was needed and the office/yard was moved to Gormley, ON. For the next twenty-one years, the business operated from the Gormley property until 2011 when we relocated to our current head office at 224 Earl Stewart Drive in Aurora.
The Site Division (formerly the Landscape Division) grew significantly after Ryan Scott was hired in January of 2011. Ryan originally came on board as the Operations Manager and was shortly promoted to Vice President of Site Division and, now as our fearless leader, is the company’s President, taking over the reins from Blair who is trying his best to transition into retirement.
There have been many people who have contributed to the growth and success of the company over the past half century including Christine Rutherford who held a multitude of positions and Brian Logan who, in his own unique style, also mentored others. More recently retired in December 2020, but equally missed, is the company controller, Steve Halliday. Since Steve’s retirement, Alex has moved into Steve’s old office but for some reason, it just isn’t the same…
To this day, Rutherford Contracting has completed thousands of projects, many of which are testaments to all those who contributed to their successful completion. With gratitude and heartfelt thanks to employees, both past and present, we continue to solidify our reputation in the construction industry by the relationships we build and the physical monuments we continually leave behind.
As a thank you to Dick Rutherford, who took a chance on starting his own company, and to everyone who works here now or has passed through, we proudly honour the name and will continue the legacy for the next fifty years.