“We trust Briner Building to the point that on the last few jobs, we didn’t even ask them to prepare a hard bid. I think that’s one of the neatest testaments to them – the fact that we have gotten to that degree of comfort with them and their work,” says Steve Lehman, president of Smith Brothers of Berne, Inc.
Lehman admits he is very particular, and as the leader of the longtime and well-respected furniture manufacturer, he has high expectations for every job.
“We recently started a nearly 95,000-square-foot addition to our facility, which will bring us to just shy of half-a-million square feet in total size,” says Lehman. “We often chuckle because I know we are very careful and exceptionally particular about our building, but that’s how we roll and I don’t think I want to apologize for having high standards.”
Living up to those high standards is something the people at Briner Building, Inc., take equally seriously. “We’ve been working with Smith Brothers since 1998 and we’re very proud and appreciative of the long-term relationship we have with them,” says Chris Elser of Briner, who is overseeing the ongoing expansion project at Smith Brothers. “We know and respect the fact that Steve has high expectations and we always make it our goal to surpass them.”
The projected completion date for the addition is early January 2018, but the new space won’t be used until about six months after that. Lehman says even though the recommended length of time for a concrete floor to cure is 28 days, he is willing to wait six months to make sure as much moisture as possible is out of the concrete.
“I know this sounds extreme, but there is logic behind our madness,” says Lehman. “You have to consider that we manufacture high-end, upholstered living room furniture. The furniture has legs and under each leg is a little glide about the size of a dime. Consequently, when we slide our furniture over a concrete floor, those glides are pretty tough on it. And when there are cracks and unevenness in a concrete floor, those legs with those glides on them will wreak havoc on that floor. We use a floor differently than a lot of people would. Our floors are a big deal. After 28 days of cure time, most of the moisture will be out of the concrete, but not all of it. We need that concrete to be as absolutely dry as possible before we have it polished and use it.”
Elser says he and his coworkers understand and respect the wishes of Lehman, and all of Briner’s customers.
“Our long-time relationship with Smith Brothers and many other local businesses, such as REV Recreation Group (formerly Fleetwood Motors of Indiana, Inc.), Red Gold, Inc. and Zurcher Tire, mean a lot to us and we take that very seriously,” says Elser. “It is important to us to know that they feel comfortable working with us and know they can trust us on every detail of every job. The current expansion at Smith Brothers is the seventh project we have done for them.”
The steel used in the project will come from Butler Manufacturing.
“That’s another example of a long-term relationship we have with a highly reputable company,” says Elser. “This is our 40th year working with Butler and that’s a big deal. Butler has always been a leader in the industry and its product has always been detailed beyond the normal building. We always buy our steel from Butler.”
Inevitably, construction can be challenging and almost every job can have “surprises.”
“It’s not about just how well a contractor builds a building,” says Lehman. “Everyone, from time to time, will have a slip-up. The integrity of a contractor is how it resolves that. It’s a trust factor and we trust Briner. They do excellent work and if they make a mistake, they fix it. The furniture we make is not inexpensive and is expected to meet some pretty rigorous standards. And when we build buildings, we always respect Briner, but we also hold their feet to the fire. They know that and we’ve been good for each other. We found our comfort zone with Briner.”
Address: 761 North Main Street Bluffton, Indiana 46714
Phone: (260) 824-0120
Years in Business: 48
Number of Employees: 45