When it rains, it pours, and when that happens, the phones at N.C. Drainage start ringing off the hooks. So much so that the Hillsborough company has been in a constant state of growth since 2017, when Jason Crowe and Chris Sizemore started and operated the company from a small section of the parking lot at Woods Farm & Garden on U.S. 70. Since that time, Crowe bought Sizemore’s part of the business and it expanded to a larger space at the backside of the Eno River Mill.
Now, only four years after it was launched, N.C. Drainage has grown to about 30 employees and, in a few months, will more than double its space when the company moves to a new location on N.C. 54 in Alamance County.
“We bought our place here in Hillsborough, two and a half years ago,” Crowe said. “And after about a year of being there it was evident that with the amount of trucks that we had, the amount of employees that we had, the logistics it demanded we needed a larger facility. We searched for maybe 14 months with a realtor. It’s hard. The reason we picked Alamance County is because they had something available that popped onto the market. We put in a full price offer within four hours of it hitting the market. There were backup offers all behind this one because of the same thing we were running into: it’s hard to find that kind of land for landscaping companies. There’s just not a lot of options.”
The new site, which was purchased for $450,000, will also allow for future growth of the company. And rest assured, that future growth likely will happen. N.C. Drainage is all about commercial and residential stormwater management. The company builds patios and retaining walls, but many of its projects involve burying gutters in homes, or setting catch basins, among other services. More frequent periods of heavy rains are creating situations in areas that had never before experienced flooding.
As housing developments continue to sprout throughout Orange County, houses are being built on land that is less ideal for residential projects. Crowe said his company gets a lot of business from homeowners and HOAs in neighborhoods that were built in these areas.
One unexpected source of increased business for N.C. Drainage has been the pandemic. Crowe said his company had prepared for the worst, but it wound up being a boon.
“Our business just went straight through the roof,” he said. “People were using their homes and yards in ways they hadn’t used them before. People are now mowing their yards that they had never mowed. They’re now wanting a fire pit. They’re on conference calls walking around in the backyard and thinking, ‘What’s back here? This is terrible.’ Maybe they’ve never walked in their backyard to any extent that it bothered them, but now, for the foreseeable future, their backyard is a more integral part of their life. They’ve contacted us and we’ve done what we can to help them make it more usable. ‘Bring more life to your yard’ is a slogan on our website. That was true, even more, during this time. We got to a point, with three estimators, it was at least four months just for us to come out to see your property.”
But even taking all this into consideration, Crowe believes the secret to his company’s meteoric success is customer service and its ability to handle all aspects of the job.
“In general, people have a very difficult time with contractors, especially when things are busy,” he explained. “There’s a reason I quit subbing out work — I used to have gutter subs, I used to have jobs that would sub out, and now they don’t communicate with the customer. They don’t show up, and I’m putting my name out there, and suddenly I’m the middleman. I don’t like that. We pride ourselves and stand behind our work and communicating. If you send my office an email right now, within 10 minutes you’re gonna have a phone call, text, or email from one of our employees about your email. We’re not the cheapest — don’t claim to be. All that backend stuff that other folks struggle with because they don’t have what we have. It shows.”
Crowe said his company’s track record has it considering expansion with possibly a second location in another part of North Carolina.
“We’re actually in talks on that now, possibly growing to the western part of the state,” he said. “Maybe not necessarily a franchise type situation, but something where we can leverage our name and our reputation and help a sister company grow. We’re looking at some of those opportunities now. We get weekly calls from Charlotte and Wilmington. People say, ‘I’ll pay you to come down. There’s nobody that will answer their phone in my area. I’ll pay you to come down and come look at my job. You have a good reputation.’ That tells me it’s time to look outside, and one of the problems I struggle with, personally, is we can’t keep up with the demand right here. So, you know, is it time to start looking at growth opportunities in other areas when we can’t even keep up in our back yard?”
But a flood of business is something about which Crowe isn’t going to complain.