Jim Bruneau’s passion for building materials has taken center stage—at his children’s high school. For 15 years, the store manager of LaValley-Middleton Building Supply in Dover, N.H., has used his product and industry knowledge to help construct sets for the school’s musical productions. The end results have received nothing but standing ovations from the community.
Stage Hand: It’s easy for the parents to go to The Home Depot or Lowe’s, but instead they say “Let’s call Jim.” They will think of something, and I am the source who can get it. Recently, we had to have everything fireproofed because of regulations, so the materials had to be coated prior to building. We also had to paint the stage with a specific paint.
Curtain Call: The directors have the vision, and we just do the work. Draw it out for me, and we will build it. It’s the same thing in this industry. We have kitchen remodelers bring in their customers with an idea that might just be sketched out on a napkin, and we will help them to build it.
Flexible Staging: On a stage, you're limited on space and you have to get creative. You may build something with hinging panels or something that’s reversible that you can flip around and make it look like something else. You have to figure out how to slide everything out during a scene change. The curtain closes and you have 60 seconds to dismantle it. You may have 100 actors on stage, so it can get very crowded.
Engaging Ensemble: Some of the contractors who are our customers have kids that have grown up with mine and, as a result, we've worked on some of the sets together through the years. I also have one employee that’s an alum of the school, so he volunteers, too.
Dress Rehearsal: We dismantle and try to reuse what we can. Sometimes it doesn’t work, but you try. Last year we did “The Sound of Music” and we took the main set and converted it to the main set for “Mary Poppins” this year.
Successful Run: You know if the set is a hit by the reaction from the crowd. I think back to when I started 15 years ago and how far we’ve come. Each year we are raising the bar. And you can measure your business’s success the same way. You develop a partnership with contractors when they start their business. Years later, it’s blossomed and you know you helped them do that. That’s what independent lumberyards do. We are here to help them grow their businesses. It’s a partnership. It’s a relationship. —As told to Erin Ansley