Contemporary joinery

By merging distinct yet complementary ventures, Covenant Construction opens up new options and perspectives

Photo (from left): Covenant Construction’s Bonnie and Craig Hardy, Chris Haindl, Chris McKaskell and Randy McCulloch

AT FIRST BLUSH, you might call the new Covenant Construction a marriage of opposites: one contractor from the world of conventional renovations and builds merging with a boundary-pushing pair of contractors with art and design backgrounds.

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On the one hand, you have Covenant Construction. Founded by Craig and Bonnie Hardy in 2001, and adding Randy McCulloch as partner in 2020, the company has operated, for the most part, as a traditional contracting firm. Their typical project, Craig Hardy says, would be to “go in, open up and change the whole main floor, rearrange or move the kitchen and put in all new cabinetry. We would do 10 to 15 of those types of projects, of varying sizes, throughout the year.”

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On the other side of the equation, you had McKaskell Haindl Design Build and the two Chrises — Chris McKaskell and Chris Haindl. The two had started working together in the mid-1990s, incorporated their company in 1999. Their projects, in contrast, tended to be for clients who were looking to explore a more daring side of design. “We both have art backgrounds, and that married well with a desire to do really unique work,” McKaskell says.

“People who were really interested in the design process would end up seeking us out when they were looking for something they couldn’t find anywhere else,” Haindl adds. “People who were really interested in forward-thinking, thoughtful and really well-made things.”

The notion of merging the two companies started over a lunch, Hardy says, when he asked McKaskell, “What does a happy Chris look like — what would that role look like?” Covenant had just purchased a building — its current ­workshop on Towerline Place — with an eye to perhaps renting out a bit of shop space.

“We all love doing exactly what we’re doing. This merger has brought in a new level of excitement — it’s a ton of fun” —Craig Hardy

While the two were technically competitors in some ­circles, they never really saw it that way; their relationship was one of respect from across the aisle. “We shared very different client bases,” says Hardy. “Our client base — Covenant’s — tended to be more traditional, whereas McKaskell Haindl’s was totally different; much more ­creative designs than what we ever did.”

But the things that made them different, the companies stress, are in some sense surface level. It’s their commonalities, be it their company values or their respective 25-ish-year histories working in London’s construction sectors, that are much better markers of their new identity.

Contemporary joinery covenant construction Mergers & Acquisitions

“One of the common qualities shared between the two companies — regardless of what type of project we’re working on — is doing things as well as we possibly can,” says McKaskell. “That’s a really easy thing for all of us to relate to, because it’s such a core part.”

Out of that first lunch came more formal discussion, which then turned into more planning. “The whole merger process went pretty quickly,” McKaskell explains. “It was just a few months at most. I think that was because we’ve all been doing it for long enough that you know, right away and from experience, that this is going to work or it’s not going to work. So, it wasn’t really that difficult.”

By July 2022, the companies had merged under the Covenant banner; McKaskell would begin running the shop floor as director of craft, while Haindl assumed the title of director of design. Over the next year or so the companies integrated their operations, formally announcing the merger this past December. The company now has 28 employees and expects to keep growing over the next few years.

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As for operational change, the new partners say the merger is more about continuity. Hardy says the construction side of the business will continue to hum along much as it has in the past, but with new options and perspectives to bring to clients. “Certainly, from a millwork perspective, we’re getting into larger crafts; they’re a little fancier and a little bit more involved. Some of the projects are completely different from what we traditionally would have done.”

Perhaps the biggest benefit, expected or not, is that they’re all very clearly having fun. Hardy, McKaskell and Haindl all admit that in traditional terms, they’d be looking at ­retirement in five to 10 years. But don’t count on it just yet. “We all love doing exactly what we’re doing,” Hardy says. “This merger has brought in a new level of excitement — it’s a ton of fun.” Contemporary joinery covenant construction Mergers & Acquisitions Kieran Delamont

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