Demolition derby

Tillio Olcese, 34, has been in the demolition business for 10 years. Each year Olcese knocks down dozens of buildings it never gets old but he's really still waiting for that one special job.

"No implosions yet, but it's coming," Olcese says. "I have not been presented with that opportunity yet, but it is coming. I feel it. I would like to try it."

Olcese Construction missed its shot at blowing up the old Mapes Hotel, but its hard-working owner most likely will get his chance elsewhere. A former snowboarding aficionado from Carmel, Calif., who moved to the Tahoe area a decade ago, Olcese now devotes his time to building a growing business. Despite record gross revenues of $1.4 million in 2005, he still runs jobs himself.

"This demolition business, it can be competitive," he says. "You need to keep an eye on things."

In 2005 Olcese demolished 52 buildings ranging from a 400-square-foot cottage to a 48,000-square-foot Safeway in Las Vegas. Demolition accounts for slightly more than 80 percent of gross revenue; dirt work and trash hauling account for the rest.

Olcese says most of his jobs come through referral from general contractors, developers and landowners. He employs 14 workers and has built a small fleet of construction vehicles: two excavators used to bash buildings, a backhoe, two bobcats, three trucks, and a water truck. The company operates out of an office in Incline Village but is considering a permanent move to Mound House.

Olcese says his company's overall revenue dipped in 2006, but business has increased 29 percent this year. To date the company's largest job was a contract for almost $400,000 to remove buildings in the path of the Moana Lane Extension, where Olcese demolished 39 structures. "It was a challenging job, but we pulled it off," he says.

Teardown jobs are all relatively the same until jobs reaching four stories, or 40 feet.

"You cannot have any error," Olcese says.

"It has to be done right the first time. Just about anybody can knock down a single-story building, but 40 feet and higher you had better know what you are doing or someone is going to get hurt or killed."

Escalating costs for diesel fuel and landfill fees constantly chip away at the company's bottom line. A few days ago, for instance, landfill fees totaled between $8,000 and $9,000 when Olcese Construction crews hauled away the remains of a 4,000-square-foot, 1940s-era milk shed located across the street from Moana Nursery's South Virginia Street site.

The company salvages metals from rubble, but Olcese says the effort is more for bottom-line benefits than environmental concerns.

"If you can save 1 or 2 percent at the landfill, which doesn't sound like a lot, but it is.

If we can save money then we can pass the savings along to the landowner," he says.

Olcese, a board member for the Contractors Association of Truckee Tahoe,

is working toward an asbestos abatement license because demolition and asbestos removal typically go hand-in-hand. He also would like to increase the trash-hauling side of his business. Although he sees the highest profit margins in pushing dirt, he confesses his love for demolition.

"I just enjoy tearing down buildings more," Olcese says. "Dirt, we will do it, but my heart is just not in it."


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