Darrow Brothers Excavating, Inc. has been in the excavating and site preparation business in northern Michigan since the business was established by Perry and Katie Darrow in 1968.
Katie Darrow tells their story very eloquently in this article featured in MITA’s newsletter:
My husband, Perry, and I started our company in 1968. We started with a 1957 P & H Crane we purchased from my father-in-law for $2,000. Perry’s dad, (we called him Pa Slim), had an old tandem dump truck we rented and Perry’s brother, Jim, had a dozer. This is how the company was named after Perry and Jim. We were off and running.
Our first major job was being a part of land clearing, road building and campsite development for Mackinaw Mill Creek Camping. This campground is located on U.S. 23 Hwy., just south of Mackinaw City and has over 600 developed sites. Today, we still haul materials to maintain the sites. In 1971 we purchased our first new truck, a Ford tandem, for $13,000 and I remember to this day I thought I was signing my life away on a bank note and hoped we could make the payments. In 1973 another new Ford tandem truck was purchased for $15,000. Both trucks are still in our fleet and once in a while get fired up to make short runs hauling brush or to dump a small load of materials.
We are now in our fourth generation of family employees: Pa Slim, Perry, Darby and Dylan, our grandson.
In the late 1970s and early 80s, when the high water marks were a concern along Lake Huron and Lake Michigan, we were busy doing rock revampments to help save the shorelines of residential and commercial owners. One of our largest projects was the McCormick Foundation property along Lake Michigan (now under the auspices of Emmet County- Parks and Recreation and Michigan’s first Dark Sky designated park). We are also proud to be part of the three boat lines with service to Mackinac Island: Arnold Line, Shepler’s and Star Line. Ongoing through the years we have built parking lots, site preparation for new storage buildings, maintain service roads and dredge harbors to accommodate boats in low water levels. As you approach Mackinaw City heading north, you will see two wind energy turbines set to the west of I-75. Our company worked with a private developer to install these turbines 237 feet above the ground in 2001.
OTHER WORK OVER THE YEARS
Ongoing deliveries of topsoil, stone, and road mix for the continuing servicing of service roads and walkways at Colonial Michilimackinac and Mill Creek.
Topsoil, stone, gravel deliveries to Mackinac Island. A lO-yard request will involve our pit, the Mackinac Bridge and a barge. Just one trip for a lO-yard delivery will take three hours round trip. Many times we will have three of our trucks on a barge to the island. One of my favorite pictures in our collection is our lO-yard dump truck sitting in front of the Grand Hotel after just dumping a load of topsoil.
Over the years older hotels, motels, business buildings and cottages have been demolished and it has been exciting to be a part of the new site development from start to finish to see a customer’s vision and dream realized.
In 1995 we lost my husband (and Darby’s Dad) Perry. Jim, Perry’s brother, passed away in 1993 and his grandson, Shannon, took over as our dozer operator. As with most businesses in Michigan, the challenges have also included surviving the economic conditions, securing the few construction jobs that are available and the competitive bidding process.
Our crew makes us who we are. They are hardworking, dedicated and continue to believe and support the vision and positive direction of our company. We are proud to have been and hope to continue to be a major factor in the development of the Straits area and surrounding communities. Whether helping a customer pick out a boulder or putting the finishing touches on their landscape project; to delivering a two yard load of topsoil in a 10-yard dump truck for a customer who has no way of picking up or loading their own; to a weekend cottager who needs a material delivery on Sunday to finish a project before heading down state to start another work week; to a family who is experiencing the sadness of losing their horse to an illness and needs a loader to lay the horse to rest: