By Pete Kennedy
Marty Cappelletti used to build a lot of shelves. When he was in his mid-20s, he started a construction business, and, as it grew, his office filled with blueprints and manuals from architects and manufacturers. Each year, he’d have to create new shelf space to store all the papers.
“I don’t do well with clutter,” Cappelletti, 68, said. “That comes from my dad. He’d say: ‘A place for everything, and everything in its place.’”
His meticulousness has paid off. Over the decades, his company — Martin J. Cappelletti Custom Builders Inc. — has thrived. He now has eight employees doing high-end construction and renovation work at homes across the Main Line.
Since he founded his company in 1977, battery-powered tools have become more powerful and versatile, he said, and digital technology has streamlined the administrative side. No longer does his office overflow with paper.
“All of my guys carry iPads. All the files for their projects are available, and they can take pictures,” he said.
Cappelletti’s no-clutter philosophy applies to his schedule, too. On work days, he wakes up at 5:30 a.m., gets to the office by 7, spends a couple hours crunching numbers, then heads out to visit job sites, and to meet with architects, clients and potential clients.
“I love what I do and I love having enthusiastic people work for me who love what they do. Our clients know it, and it makes for a real good work environment,” he said. “It’s taken a while to get here, but it’s a pleasure to do what I do every day.”
His team both renovates houses and builds new ones from scratch. A big part of the job, he said, is keeping clients who remain in their homes comfortable even as huge chunks of their houses become construction zones.
“We keep them safe and sane,” he said.
Cappelletti’s father was a carpenter, but his own path to the trade wasn’t a direct one.
Born in South Philadelphia, his family moved to Upper Darby when he was about 3 years old.
“My dad was born in Italy and came over here as a young kid. That whole mentality was that the oldest son was kind of indentured to the dad,” he said. “At that young age, I started being his helper, picking up scraps of wood that were offcuts, cleaning up, learning to use a hammer.”
He had a sister and four brothers, one of whom, John, became Penn State University’s only Heisman Trophy winner in 1973. In his acceptance speech, John dedicated the award to another brother, Joey, who had leukemia. Their bond was chronicled in a book and television movie, both titled “Something for Joey.”
Cappelletti attended St. Joe’s Preparatory School — “State football champions, newly minted Saturday night!” — then studied journalism at Temple, where he met his wife, Joyce. After graduating, he worked as a writer for a few years, co-owned a bar and sold tires. But people who knew he had carpentry skills asked him if he could work on their houses. He decided to make it his career, and took evening classes at Delaware County Community College to learn how to read blueprints and run a business.
“Construction isn’t an easy way to make a living,” he said. “It’s a satisfying one.”
He transitioned from doing the hands- on work to more of an administrative and face-of-the-company role about 15 years ago. Outside of work, he exercises with a trainer twice per week, takes golf lessons every other week through the winter and tries to play at least one round of golf a week spring through fall. He also pitches in a 65-plus baseball league.
Cappelletti and his wife live in the Berwyn section of Easttown Township, where he serves on the township municipal authority’s board. Joyce recently retired from working as an educator in the Tredyffrin-Easttown School District, and the college sweethearts, married for 46 years, are spending more time at their beach house in Avalon, New Jersey. They’ve lived in their home in the Berwyn section of Easttown for 34 years, and Cappelletti has redone “every square inch” of it, including adding amenities like a heated tile floor in the master bathroom. They raised two children there, Marc and Gina.
“It’s amazing how the wheel of life goes around,” Cappelletti said. “My father couldn’t wait to move us out of South Philadelphia. And now my son and his wife, Lily, live in Philadelphia and my daughter, Gina … also lives in South Philadelphia. They are back to where I was born.”