So, About That Name . . .
The Beam Guy: A Brief History
The old adage "necessity is the mother of invention" suggests that when the need for something becomes imperative, you are forced to find ways of getting or achieving it.
Well, that's how I got my start in construction. Growing up, I shared a room with my older brother -- which I was sure at the time was nothing less than oppression -- until I was 12. I managed to convince my parents to let me build my own room in the garage. I'm pretty certain they were envisioning a high-end fort at best when they said yes. I managed to build my room, but my parents put a stop to it when I started to talk about opening up walls and doing wiring. In the end, I had to settle for some extension cords. So, I painted a light switch on the wall to soothe my pre-teen ego.
That kicked off my lifelong fascination with being able to build a solution to a problem.
My first paying construction gigs were as a glorified go-fer and an extra set of hands. They were perfect jobs for a kid, and ideal hands-on learning opportunities. Those early jobs in plumbing, roofing, and carpentry became the foundation for what came next -- structural steel fabrication.
Strange things happen when you work steel in the capital city. I worked on the Lincoln Plaza Project and the Light Rail stations, so I can still see my small part in our local history. But then it gets weird. I worked on a few of the Department of Correction's projects (you know, where almost everything is made of steel). Part of my job meant I literally had to venture through two of the more infamous prisons -- Folsom and Vacaville. Vacaville is where Charlie Manson was housed at the time (no I didn't see him) and Folsom housed Johnny Cash (long before my job). The inmates wear blue jeans, so we were always instructed not to when we had to make an on-site appearance. Walking through the yard surrounded by what seemed like just a bunch of guys, who were anything but, was surreal. Eventually, I became a project estimator and coordinator. But it wasn't a great fit. I'm just not built for an office and business wear. Realizing I was destined to work with my hands and solve problems, I decided I would become a general building contractor.
I went to work for a small company that specialized in remodeling. I got to learn everything from rough to finish work in just about every trade. Eventually, I was running my own jobs, under their license. One of the last jobs I did for them was the start of my journey to becoming The Beam Guy.
The job was a kitchen remodel of a Streng home for a young family. In sitting with the mom discussing her ideal kitchen solutions, she said she wanted to control the sun but didn't want a skylight. Well, go big or go home, right? I ended up designing a recessed lighting system that involved full-spectrum lights with what was considered advanced controls (who knew we'd all end up telling Google or Alexa to set the lights to natural dawn?). The installation involved using interior scaffolding, which the two daughters (who were under 6 years old) called "Brady Bars" because they were like monkey bars. As I was finishing up the job, she looked up and pointed to her roof beams and said, "These are an ugly mess, what can you do with these?" Fortunately for her, the "ugly mess" was mostly cosmetic with minor dry rot. I did the restoration and designed a custom beam cap to stop the issue from returning. Not too long after that, I went to school and earned my own contractor's license.
Soon I was getting calls from her neighbors with roof beam concerns. And eventually, the president of their homeowner's association (who turned out to be my wife's 8th-grade science teacher) called me to help solve a nasty dry rot problem in the roof beams of their neighborhood clubhouse. The nature of the problem led to a phone call with Carter Sparks, the Streng Brothers Homes architect. It was that conversation that became the foundation for the Century Beam Restoration of the Streng Beam (back in 1995).
So now you can see how the use of steel and maintaining the Streng Beam projections became the solution to a unique and challenging problem of Streng Beam Restoration.
After a few years, roof beam restoration ended up becoming the majority of my business. And, the majority of that was in Streng enclaves and neighborhoods.
One day I was in Home Depot and a woman approached me. "Hey, I know you. You're the, the ummm, the beam guy -- right? I have some beams that need work. Do you have a business card?"
It turned out that, unbeknownst to me, the moniker was already in use by Streng homeowners to discuss me and my work. And, back in the day, Brady as a first name was unusual (but that's another story), so folks didn't remember it too easily (Bradly, Randy, Brandy, Grady... I answer to all of them still). So I decided to just run with it.
None of this is anything I could have imagined when I was painting on that light switch, but it's a great way to make a living. I get to meet new people, solve problems, work with my hands, and spend my days under the sky instead of fluorescent panels. And, much like seeing my little stamp on history with Lincoln Plaza, I get to meet with new clients and peek over at my roof beam restoration work (on their neighbor's home) over 10 years later -- still looking like the day I left it. Not many of us get to literally leave their mark on the world.
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