Jean Ménard has been part of dozens of projects – both large and small – in a special way during many decades now. You could say he sees things through from the ground up. The contractor has done a lot of digging in the past 45 years. This year, Ménard Excavation, the business he started in May 1974 is celebrating its 45th anniversary. It operates from a shop on Boyd Street in Vankleek Hill.
Jean grew up across the Ottawa River in St-Philippe, but said he was lured to Vankleek Hill in 1969 when he met his wife-to-be, Nicole.
It was in 1974, after working for different local contractors for five years, that he decided to buy his first backhoe, a Case 580B, and Ménard Excavation was officially open for business. A contract with Taggart Construction gave him his start. Jean said he was kept very busy for the first one and a half years he was in business because the sewer system was being installed in Vankleek Hill at that time. For two years afterward, he also did work for property owners who were connecting their buildings to the new system.
Highway construction was also strong in the area during the early years. In 1976, Jean worked as a contractor on completing Highway 417, and on reconstructing Highway 34 between Vankleek Hill and Hawkesbury in 1980. A dump truck and bulldozer were eventually added to the Menard fleet. For several years, the former Township of Longueuil used Ménard Excavation as a winter road maintenance contractor.
Ménard Excavation has worked with just about every major road construction company that operates or has operated in Eastern Ontario during the past 45 years. Those include names like Cruickshank, Coco Paving, Tomlinson, Cornwall Gravel, LW Bray, Bertrand et Frères, Harnden and King, Atomic Construction, Dufferin Construction and Lapointe Drainage.
“You build up your name year after year with a good reputation,” said Jean.
Nicole has looked after the bookkeeping and paperwork side of the business since the beginning. Their son, Éric, has been working for Ménard Excavation since he was 16 and is increasingly responsible for most of the jobs they do.
“We’ve always worked for big companies,” Éric said.
Jean noted that the large construction companies want reputable contractors.
“It’s the guy on the seat who makes the machine,” said Éric.
Running an excavation business is hard work. Jean and Éric frequently put in 11- or 12-hour days on the job. They have no other employees, so they are frequently trying to get many jobs done in the same day. Ménard Excavation has been assisting Cornwall Gravel with getting work on High Street in Vankleek Hill completed, and on Saturday, Éric was doing work on the baseball diamond next to the community centre.
Ménard Excavation plans to continue moving projects forward from the ground up in Vankleek Hill and area, growing its 45-year tradition in the years to come.