From the August/September 2019 Issue

Remodeled for Success – Bellari

The 15,000-square-foot Bellari showroom at 20 County Line Road in Branchburg, New Jersey is as stunning outside as in.

Third-generation family business from Somerville, NJ rebrands

Gazing through one of the aluminum storm windows he was selling in 1950, Max Gropper could not have foreseen the transformation that was going to take place with his small family business. Founded as Somerville Aluminum, the company would grow to be one of New Jersey’s largest full-service home remodeling companies, and after 68-plus years and ushering in its third generation of owners, would be rebranded as “Bellari.”

Plaque from the original Somerville Aluminum location.

“We decided it was time to transition to a brand name that was a reflection of who the company is today,” says Gary Shiman, co-owner and executive vice president of Bellari. “The new name alludes to a level of superior craftsmanship and design, while representing our nationally recognized customer service, project management process and spectacular showroom.”

Circa 1948, members of the Dooley family celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Chevrolet and Oldsmobile dealership at 46 E. Main St. in Somerville, the location that was the future home of Somerville Aluminum. The location remained its home for more than 40 years.

HUMBLE BEGINNINGS
Somerville Aluminum began selling aluminum storm windows in downtown Somerville to fulfill Gropper’s desire to capture some of the American dream as a small family business in the post-WWII era. The middle class was booming, and families were spending money on their homes. Aluminum storm windows were very popular in the 1950s and 1960s; if you have a home built during that period, you are very likely going to have them.

Starting out with a staff of just two — Max and his brother Jack — the first home of the company was a small storefront at 5 South Bridge Street. The family business would operate from this location for 20 years, from 1950–1970. Max’s son, Jeff Gropper, vividly remembers spending his teenage years handing out business cards on his paper route and going door-to-door offering estimates for replacement windows or doors.

“We had a 1949 Ford Woody and we used it not only as our family station wagon, but it was the company’s very first delivery vehicle when my dad starting selling aluminum storm windows in 1950,” says Jeff Gropper, son of the founder.

Jeff also recalls, “We had a 1949 Ford Woody. We used it not only as our family station wagon, but it was also the company’s very first delivery vehicle when my dad starting selling aluminum storm windows in 1950.”

HISTORIC SPOT IN SOMERVILLE
In 1970, the family-owned business moved to 46 East Main Street in Somerville, NJ, the showroom where Somerville Aluminum would reside for the next 43 years. Broadening its product offerings and growing into a leader in the home remodeling industry, the business flourished as the final tenants of this historic location. The venue had previously been occupied by Dooley Bros. Chevrolet, another multigeneration family business.

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Over the course of four decades, the company expanded far beyond storm windows and siding, selling everything from kitchens, bathrooms, doors, decks and awnings to the newest energy-efficient and maintenance-free home remodeling products, with design and installation available at every price point for a new generation of discerning homeowners.

By the 1970s, consumers were looking for energy-efficient alternatives and the home improvement industry had entered the vinyl age. New homes were being built and renovated throughout central New Jersey.

David Gropper, grandson of founder Max Gropper, had grown up working at the showroom, and in 2003 his brother-in-law Gary Shiman joined him as co-owner, where the two serve as president and executive vice president, respectively. The Jersey-grown small business celebrated its third generation of family ownership by experiencing exponential growth in the decade-­­­plus to follow.

Celebrating the opening of the Branchburg, NJ showroom are (from left): previous owner Jeff Gropper with current co-owners Gary Shiman and David Gropper, Jeff’s son.

BIG MOVE TO BRANCHBURG
Although windows and doors were still (and continue to be) the back-bone of the business, with rapidly expanding services and a growing customer base serving communities in a greater area, the two owners decided to look for a larger space in Somerville to help grow the company. When they could not find a building big enough with enough parking to be their new home, they began to search outside of town. In 2012, owners Gropper and Shiman expanded their search to a 30-mile radius beyond Somerville to increase their chances of finding a suitable location for their new showroom. In 2013, Somerville Aluminum moved to its new home on County Line Road in Branchburg, New Jersey. The property was gutted and completely renovated within four months of starting construction.

“Everyone told us we would fail,” Shiman recalls. “You are moving seven miles away? No one is going to go to the showroom if you are not on Main Street.”

But the new 15,000-square-foot facility, including a spectacular 5,000-square-foot showroom, became a success and is now one of the most expansive and comprehensive in the nation, including a full working kitchen, ample office and warehouse space, and the latest in technological connectivity, all set on four park-like acres.

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BIGGEST REMODEL YET
After five years of growth in Branchburg, NJ, the company rebranded to better reflect what it is today. Somerville Aluminum changed its name and entered 2019 as Bellari, with its heritage reflected in the tagline: Home Remodeling since 1950.

“Because ‘bella’ translates to ‘beautiful’ in several languages, and beautiful is an adjective our customers know well and our employees hear quite a lot when we complete home improvement projects, we knew we wanted to incorporate bella as the foundation of our new name,” Shiman says. “We wanted to create a name that could stand on its own — a single word that over time would take on the reputation our company has earned. A new brand that would evoke the same emotion that a proud homeowner feels when enjoying their beautiful home.”

Members of the Bellari Kitchen & Bath team show off their Outstanding Dealer award from Crystal Cabinet Works Inc. Vice President Peter Albanese, CKBD, is pictured with designers Donna Farley, Kristen Ciandella, and Samantha Lockwood.

SUCCESS BY DESIGN
The reputation that Somerville Aluminum has earned over several decades as a family-owned business provides a firm foundation for the company’s continued growth as Bellari. Under the third generation of leadership, the company now boasts increasing annual sales, reporting double-digit growth in 2018. “Our success is indicative of our unique combination of design expertise, premium pro­­ducts from quality partners, quality installation and exceptional customer service with a growing team, which have been hallmarks of our business for decades,” Shiman says. “We are extremely thankful to be a part of a legacy of success with exceptional brand equity, and we are excited for the company to flourish under our new brand name.”

Expanding to become one of the Garden State’s most trusted providers of a full range of home remodeling needs, Bellari brings vision to life in the creation of beautiful, elegant, functional and affordable kitchens, baths, doors, decks, awnings, windows, sunrooms and more, from design to installation.

“There may always be lumber companies or big-box retailers who try to emulate who we are,” Shiman says, “but we have earned a reputation for quality home remodeling since the company’s inception. This is not a new business for us; this is what we do, and we have worked diligently for many years to do it well.” Since the establishment of the business in 1950, the guiding principle of Somerville Aluminum, and now Bellari, has always been complete customer satisfaction.

Three generations of owners have lived, worked, and raised families in New Jersey, and Bellari is a business firmly rooted in caring for its community, beautifully designed for future success.