BETH W. ORENSTEIN, The Morning Cal
Tony Caciolo, a Lehigh Valley native, and Lewis "Chip" Shupe of Wilmington, Del., met when they attended Lehigh University. Today, they build upscale custom houses together as Monogram Custom Homes in Upper Saucon Township.
Monogram Custom Homes is a consistent winner in the Lehigh Valley Builders Association's annual Awards for Professional Excellence program.
Shupe, also Class of '89, has a bachelor's degree in English literature. He worked as a congressional assistant, in operations and customer service for Lubrication Research Inc. in Exton, Chester County, and in construction.
When Lubrication Research closed, Shupe became unemployed. He found work after a friend offered him the chance to bid on a retail construction project. He was awarded the contract and successfully completed the project, a restaurant.
Caciolo became interested in construction when he built his own home. Because he was a student at the time, he was free to do some of the trim, electrical, insulation, painting and kitchen work himself. He loved the experience but continued with his corporate career.
In 1994, when his employer, Bell & Howell, announced it was moving a subsidiary headquarters from the Lehigh Valley, Caciolo had a choice: move to North Carolina with the operation and continue wearing a suit or devote his full-time efforts to house construction.
It was an easy choice, he says.
Shupe also was at a turning point in his career in 1994. The restaurant complete, he didn't have more work. He had been helping Caciolo build his second home, so that's when they teamed up to form Monogram Custom Homes. Their first year in business they built 15 houses.
Today, the company builds about 30 to 35 custom residences a year, mostly in Pointe West, Mill Estates and Ashton Woods, all in Upper Macungie. Prices start at $300,000. The company has five full-time employees and reports annual revenues of about $10 million.
Copyright The Morning Call. Reproduced with permission.