May 12 was supposed to be a normal day for the Fellrath family of Hudson. The only difference between May 12 and the day before was that the family's contractor had torn up their driveway, which was being replaced for the first time since the house was built 49 years ago.
Something that, according to their contractor friends, should have taken no more than a day or two, ended up becoming a two-and-a-half month ordeal that saw their driveway sit uncompleted.
"He came up with the craziest excuses," said 75-year-old homeowner Colleen Fellrath. "I think it was money for him, because I think he ran into money trouble and spent the money I did give him right away and then didn't have money to finish."
After 2.5 months, Colleen's daughter, Angie — who has lived with her mother for the last 12 years — had had enough and told the contractor that he wasn't welcome on their property anymore since he had yet to fulfill his promise to finish the driveway. The family gave the contractor a total of $4,400 throughout the whole ordeal, which was $3,000 worth of work that the contract didn't deliver on.
According to Colleen, the contractor reached out to the family about redoing their driveway when he asked if he could use it for his equipment when he was working on the neighbor's patio.
"The next thing I did was post on Facebook to my friend if the excuses he was giving us were legitimate or not, and if we had a right to be upset with the contractor," Angie said. "Several friends who are contractors said that the excuses weren't legitimate and that if they were, they would never get any concrete poured in Wisconsin."
That one post asking friends what she should do next incited an outpouring of support from friends, friends of friends and people the Fellraths didn't know at all.
"Once I posted about the driveway, I had so many people contacting me wanting to help that I couldn't keep up with the messages I was getting the night I posted it. It was an intense outpouring of friends, friends of friends, local contractors and guys who owned landscaping companies asking what they could do to help and saying that it wasn't right how this guy treated us," Angie said.
Eventually, both Angie's friend Adrienne Hussey and Mike Johnston, owner of Advanced Construction, told the Fellraths that they would get a hold of their friends over at Concrete Concepts in New Richmond about their situation.
"The guys at Concrete Concepts asked their workers if they wanted to volunteer their time for labor and also contacted local concrete companies to see who would give us the best deal," Angie said. "Once their guys were on board to help with the labor, they told us all we had to do was come up with the money for the concrete, then they would do everything else."
Concrete Concepts owner Josh Elsenpeter said helping out the Fellraths was just the right thing to do and that the job was a relatively easy one that shouldn't have been such an issue.
"We don't want to see people get swindled by contractors like this, especially after they gave him a downpayment on the job," Elsenpeter said. "He clearly had no intention of finishing the job. And really should have been an easy job since they have a pretty simple driveway. All the costs we picked up — labor and the other small materials and such — weren't really a big deal. At the end of the day, it was the right thing to do and we don't like to see people treated like this."
More than two months after the family's driveway was torn up — and 131 days after the first contractor took the downpayment — Concrete Concepts showed up at 7 a.m. Wednesday, July 19, and finished the whole driveway, as well as the family's front walkway and front steps, by the end of the day. The concrete for the driveway came from County Concrete Materials, who gave the Fellraths a great deal, Angie said. Brad and Blake Jensen of Jensen Concrete Pumping also volunteered labor and equipment to help make this happen.
"It was so touching that they wanted to do this. I kept suggesting that I could pay for this or that, but they would just say no and that they would do it all. We just have to pay for the cement, everything else they provided," Colleen said. "They even threw in extra things that we didn't need, like widening my steps. When he asked what I wanted done with the steps, I told him to do what was easiest since they were doing it for free and he said 'We don't do easy. We do what our customer wants, or what looks the nicest.'"
Although they didn't have to, the Fellraths prepared snacks, water and lunch for the Concrete Concepts crew, which Elsenpeter said "was something they didn't have to do, but we appreciate them providing us with lunch and drinks."
"After all that mess that we had for so long, it was awful. We couldn't even use the back door at all because it was such a mess," Colleen said. "And I couldn't use the front door because the steps were high for me without the walkway there. I always had to walk around the house to the screen door in the back of the house. We had to carry everything that we bought from the street all the way around the house. When you are doing that for two and half months, it is just awful."
For Angie, seeing the first cement truck roll in on that caused her to get teary eyed and lifted a weight off her shoulders that she had been carrying since the project was started in May.
"For me it was pretty emotional to see the driveway get finished. When you sit down and talk to these guys, you don't know each other, but you do know each other. When something happens in our community, people are right there — and that includes St. Croix County even," Angie said. "You don't expect people to jump in like they did. I was looking for advice...and all of a sudden — a couple days later — the job was getting done."