Mass. fire-safety firm expands

Fire-protection business is 'somewhat insulated from the economy'

The Lowell Sun

TYNGSBORO, Mass. — It's an unusual sight in tough economic times: heavy equipment operators were busy this week at 6 Progress Ave. in Tyngsboro, constructing a new, 26,000-square-foot office building that will serve as the future home of ASAP Fire & Safety Corp.

Next April the company plans to move its 32 employees, fire and safety products, and office equipment from its current location in a leased, 8,000-square-foot building at 90 Progress Ave., into their new $2.7 million headquarters on the northern tip of the horseshoe-shaped Progress Ave., co-founder Joseph Sheedy said.

"Fortunately for us, business has been steady," said Sheedy, 41, who co-founded ASAP (an acronym for "Awesome Service and Pricing") with partner Brian Cote, 34, in August 2003.

"It's the fire-protection business, which is somewhat insulated from the economy. There's a lot of code-regulated and state requirement-related business that we get," Sheedy said.

The company's original location was in a modest, 1,200-square-foot space in the West Tech Industrial Park in Tyngsboro. A few years later, ASAP grew out of their startup space and moved into a 3,000-square-foot Tyngsboro Business Park location.

"Then we moved here (to 90 Progress Ave.) and expanded this from 5,000 to 8,000 square feet," Sheedy recounted. "We foresee the new building to be our fourth and final location."

ASAP, which generated "a bit over $4 million" in revenue the past fiscal year, expects to continue to add employee and grow revenues in their new digs in the years ahead, especially the sprinkler-installation segment of the business, Sheedy said.

The products and services that ASAP offers include: fire extinguishers and chemicals; fire hoses, nozzles, brass and hose valves; sprinkler installation and accessories; lighted exit signs and emergency lighting; first-alarm products; and first-aid kits and cabinets.

"The sky's the limit, really," said Sheedy. "In our sprinkler installation services, we currently employ six people, while some of our competitors employ 100. We also see a tremendous opportunity for growth with our alarm business, which has the potential to quadruple in size."

Sheedy said the "bread and butter" of ASAP's business presently are: fire extinguishers sales, emergency lighting, and kitchen fire safety systems, along with restaurant kitchen hood and duct cleaning.

In 2008, ASAP was named "Business of the Year" in the Greater Lowell area. The company suffered a setback last year when a former employee, Stephen Fryer, a member of the Massachusetts Army National Guard and Iraq war veteran, was awarded $445,000 by a jury in Fryer's lawsuit for wrongful demotion and firing from his $22-an-hour job with ASAP. The company is appealing the verdict.

Though Sheedy and Cote both reside in Pelham, they consider themselves "Lowell products." It is "Massachusetts pride" that drove their commitment to keep their growing business in Tyngsboro, he said.

"We also like Tyngsboro because it's viewed almost like an adopted town of New Hampshire," Sheedy said. "We find our customers are comforted by knowing that we're so close to New Hampshire, almost in south Nashua.

"There is a lot of camaraderie in New Hampshire among businesses in the state, and that was a little bit of a hurdle we had to fight. It made it easier being close to the border."

Sheedy credits Eastern Bank and the Small Business Association for helping ASAP obtain the loan they needed to construct the new building.

"It's also about maintaining good business practices, paying your bills, that leads to good credit, which leads you to being able to grow your business," Sheedy said.

Sheedy often reflects on how far the business has come by referring to the 2003 Sun article that reported on ASAP's humble beginnings, he said.

"There was a photo showing us in our modest digs, with some relatively antiquated handmade equipment," Sheedy said. "And now we've got the new building going up. It's cool."

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