Adams, Mass.—B&B Micro Manufacturing owners Jason Koperniak, Christopher St.Cyr, and Mitchell Bresett grew up attending school together, from preschool and through graduation from Hoosac Valley High School. The three also worked for Bresett’s father, gaining experience in home building before Koperniak and St.Cyr decided to step onto different career paths. “Chris and I studied finance in college and I worked at the New York and Chicago Stock Exchanges while Mitch stayed in the trades,” Koperniak says. Soon enough, a contact at the NYSE provided the three friends with an opportunity to build for one of their first clients, with Mitch beginning the building process. “We learned a lot from that project and then took the time to accumulate more knowledge and become professionals in the tiny house space. Starting with a team of five people, now we’re at fifty.”
The tiny house movement started in the 1970s but took off in the early 2000’s, when building companies and DIYers were creating all types of models for small, affordable homes, both on or off wheels and including the basic necessities — a functioning bathroom, kitchen, sleeping area, and storage, as well as individual customizations. Driving the movement is a push toward a simpler lifestyle where physical objects are no longer equated with happiness. Advocates have a desire to live sustainably and interactively with nature, perhaps influenced by Henry David Thoreau’s famous cabin on Walden Pond (in Concord, Mass.).
For their part, Koperniak, St.Cyr, and Bresett wanted to bring this idea of simpler living to the Berkshires, only on a larger scale. “We firmly believe in the mission and the product lines, even if we all live in regular-sized homes,” Koperniak admits, laughing. “For us, B&B is an opportunity where we can help the customer be more minimalist. With our tiny homes, we provide people the opportunity to have less clutter and attain a clearer mind. We promote the idea that you should keep your life as simple as possible.”
In 2015, B&B Micro Manufacturing opened its doors for business in the former Berkshire Gas building off Curran Highway in Adams, where they quickly realized the difficulty in creating a 13-foot-high product with a 12-foot-high door in what was essentially a three-car garage. Having outgrown that initial space, they relocated to the Windsor Mill in North Adams for a couple of years before again sizing up and purchasing the old Brown Packaging building — and returning to Adams. “So far we’ve already grown into this location as well,” Koperniak says. “We’re making the most out of what we have.” Their current space is approximately 20,000 square feet, allowing the business to have about ten houses in production at any given time.
B&B has a unique business-to-business model, and its name reflects that approach. By focusing on the mass-production of three to six tiny house models for other companies, they can produce efficiently— from frame to finish — approximately 1.75 homes a day. So, rather than serving individual clients, B&B’s model maximizes production time, and has consistently resulted in lower customer-acquisition costs and higher revenues.
Because there are so many ways to design a tiny home, designing for a specific customer can be trickier than sticking to a standard model. Instead, B&B works with larger companies, whether it’s a hospitality company that uses the product as a short-term rental, or through its restroom-trailer business, selling to marinas and campgrounds. “Primarily, our customers buy multiples of a specific product line, and that efficiency of scale has made our lives a bit easier because we can produce the same thing over and over for the same people,” Koperniak explains. “In the beginning we just wanted to build, so we took all kinds of projects to learn and increase revenues, but we concluded that this model is the best for us. Whether it’s our style of management or the labor force that we have, it’s been incredibly successful.” (Even so, B&B does continue to offer customizable, one-off productions — but they’re already booked solid until the summer of 2023).
Operationally speaking, tiny home construction is essentially the same as average home building. For B&B, one of the advantages of building on a smaller scale is that it can be done indoors, eliminating the weather constraints that prevail in outdoor construction. “We essentially build tiny-house recreational vehicles, inside a climate-controlled warehouse,” Koperniak says. “Whether it’s rain or shine, cold or hot, we have a consistent workplace environment, unlike a typical home builder.”
On the other hand, some challenges in manufacturing tiny homes come from another part of what makes them unique — they’re mobile. According to Koperniak, 95 percent of B&B’s products are built on trailers and have to be built to be easily transported. “The idea of things in motion, the different acclimation of wood to different climates — there’s a lot that goes into making a vehicle that’s going to be traveling to different places.”
Supporting the local economy
B&B Micro Manufacturing currently has around 50 employees—almost all from Adams, Cheshire, North Adams, or southern Vermont. “We have a great team. It’s been a pretty good labor pool in the Berkshires, especially since we know a lot of people from growing up here,” Koperniak says. “We get quality tradespeople from northern Berkshire county who don’t want to travel all over to build homes.”
Besides providing employment to the local population, B&B does its best to source materials locally as well. “We do a lot of business with Ribco out of Clarksburg and source lumber from just over the border in Vermont,” Koperniak says. This practice proved to be a major advantage during the pandemic, where supply chain issues and shipment delays were plaguing home builders across the country. “We’ve been blessed to have navigated the situation pretty well. We have relationships with vendors who fought to get us our trailers, windows and doors, and other materials in a timely manner. I think that being in a smaller town allowed us to get really great treatment during this difficult time.”
Not that the pandemic was smooth sailing — B&B had to close shop for two full months before regulations were lifted and it could reopen. By then, however, things had shifted in the business’s favor, as lots of people decided to embrace the tiny house philosophy during 2020, nearly doubling B&B’s demand for production. While Koperniak says that most home builders experienced a similar “panic to boom,” he sees it as a particular silver lining for B&B. “Whether the influence was more recreational camping, moving from an urban to a rural area, or simply a change in perspective and mindset, we’ve benefited greatly.”
When it comes to implementing additional sustainable efforts into the building process, Koperniak says the clients call the shots. “It depends on the customers and how much they want to spend within the area of sustainability, including solar panels and unique building materials like wool versus fiberglass insulation. They all have the costs and benefits and efficiencies as far as passing the necessary tests and ratings, but we do push consciously, low-chemical options.”
Solar panels and off-beat materials aside, B&B has received some memorable requests for a custom build. “Shortly after I left the NYSE, we built a tiny house for Resideo, a smart home technology firm, putting it right outside the Exchange building. I think that was one of the cooler moments for us,” Koperniak exclaims. The finished (showcase) product featured the latest in smart home technology, including remote lock changing, a collapsible panoramic door, and electrical features such as lights and outlets that talk to each other. “That was such an awesome build.”
Doing what they love, and continuing to enjoy each day building, Koperniak, St.Cyr, and Bresett have made waves in the micro manufacturing industry. “Finding our current space was a blessing. It brought us all back to our hometown, and really made the business what it is today. It would have been tough to do this in our earlier locations, so we’re very thankful for what we’ve got.” Koperniak says. “We’re looking forward to the future. There are always opportunities and there are always challenges, but we just take it one day at a time.”