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TJ & Tom
Tom Chamberlain: TJ always wanted to be in the middle of everything. So, it makes sense that he loved being a superintendent — even though he knew from me it can be a tough business.
But I knew it would be a good move because he’s been around construction his whole life. I’ve been here almost 30 years. He’s known this place inside and out from day one.
TJ Chamberlain: When I was a kid, coming into work with my dad was my favorite thing ever. I loved going into the city and looking around the building, with all these spiral staircases going from level to level and pictures of workers sitting on beams. This was also before computers, so I’d find those big old blueprint tubes, set them up around my dad’s office and start rubber band fights throughout the estimating area.
TJ: I started in carpentry in high school, when I was 15. But then I went down to South Carolina, joined the Marine Reserves and ended up spending 11 years down there.
TOM: I was proud and nervous when he joined up. My grandfather was a Marine in World War II, so TJ always heard the stories.
TJ: I always talked about it, so everyone knew it was going to happen at some point. But I woke up early in my college house one morning and just walked to the recruiter’s office way early. I think I knocked on the Army’s door initially. Then a Marine recruiter came out and was saying, “What are you doing over there?” And that was that. I signed up and went back to the house and all my buddies were still asleep.
TOM: Like I said, always wanted to be in the middle of everything.
I knew it would be a good move because he’s been around construction his whole life.
TJ: After school, I started my own carpentry business and worked on residential projects. Semi-custom and high-end homes, handyman jobs, renovations and additions — windows and doors were my bread and butter, but it was a hodgepodge. Running my own business was expensive, so I joined the fire department and did construction on my off days.
So, after being gone for those 11 years, I decided to move back. I was going to try to be a firefighter up here, but it was going to be a while before I could get a job, so I was trying to figure out what to do. And I told my dad, “Hey, I’m going to apply to Suffolk. What do you think?” He was like, “That’s a great idea.”
TOM: Both of my boys are in construction. My youngest is a laborer for Local 22 and TJ's here. And TJ likes it at Suffolk, so it’s all good.
My wife is the one who has to deal with the whole family being out in the field. She gets a laugh out of it. She knows all the terms. She'll drive by our projects and tell our friends that we built those buildings.
TJ: It’s definitely difficult to explain what you do to friends who are way outside the industry and they have no idea what you’re talking about. This means nothing to me. But my dad and I will be at home or out golfing and we’ll just bounce ideas off each other or talk about the day. He can tell me if he’s dealing with something similar on his projects, and it’s cool to have someone where you both know what you’re talking about.
Plus, my dad’s always got some project going on around the house. It’s happened in every house we've been in. So, anytime he needs help, I’ll be there building a deck or tearing down drywall. All the random stuff that comes with home renovation projects.
TOM: We’re better at that stuff than we are at golfing. T.J.’s probably better at golf than I am, but we’re still terrible.
Tom Chamberlain, who earned his engineering degree from Wentworth Institute of Technology, is celebrating 29 years in Suffolk’s estimating department this month. With summer arriving in New England, he and T.J. — whose latest project was at 776 Summer Street in Boston, the former site of the L Street Station — plan to get in plenty of weekend beach days in their hometown of Scituate, Mass.
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