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Updated: October 28, 2019 / 2019 Family Business Awards Honorees

Santini Living finds success building communities, family

Members of the Santini Living family include: (from left) Kevin Santini, Lois Santini, Eric S. Santini and Eric A. Santini.


1st Place — Less than 25 full-time employees category

When Vernon-based Santini Living’s newest development — Deer Valley North Townhomes in Ellington — won the 2018 award for “Best Rental Townhouse Community” from the Home Builders and Remodelers Association of Connecticut, it was a proud moment for the Santini family.

The company has been building homes and luxury apartments in Tolland County for more than 50 years. But for Eric A. Santini and his brother, Kevin, second-generation employees who run the day-to-day operations of the home-building and property management company, the real reward of the family business is driving through the neighborhoods and communities they built and seeing the impact of their labors.

“It gives us a sense of pride to see where we helped shape a community,” said Eric A. Santini.

And the number of Santini-owned communities keeps growing. In the past 12 months, the company — in addition to its new Ellington-based complex — opened the Grand Lofts III, an expansion of its Vernon-based luxury apartment community, bringing the total number of apartments under the family’s management to more than 1,200.

While the Santinis have also created luxury homes historically, as the state has struggled to regain jobs lost during the Great Recession and demand for high-end homes has softened, the company has put its primary focus on catering to the rental community.

Demand for rentals — and occupancy at Santini properties — has remained high, Eric Santini says, fueled by shifting demographic preferences from two core groups: Millennials and Baby Boomers.

He noted that younger people, burdened by college debt and uncertainty about career paths, are drawn to the flexibility of apartment living.

“They are less likely to lay roots down in a community,” Santini said.

On the other end of the spectrum, Santini said rentals among Boomers are on the rise as well, as empty nesters are looking to downsize and avoid the maintenance of homeownership.

“They may own a home down south, but want to stay in the area because of grandkids or Connecticut roots,” he said.

Both groups, however, are looking for luxury amenities — from high-end countertops and stainless-steel appliances to fitness centers and community spaces. Staying ahead of shifting consumer demands is a key challenge.

“Consumers are a lot more knowledgeable today than 20 to 25 years ago and the internet has made it easy to do [apartment] research,” Santini said. “They vet us thoroughly before they walk through the door.”

To keep pace, the Santinis and their employees have added features to older properties, including walking trails, outdoor patios and firepits.

It’s not just tenants who are staying; Santini’s employees are too, a point of pride for the family.

Eric Santini notes that a number of employees have been with the company for more than 15 years and some more than 30. He credits his father, Eric S. Santini, who founded the company in the 1960s, with creating a family culture.

Employees for a national or regional home builder may never see the owners, but his family is involved in the day-to-day activities.

Paul Health, who’s been with Santini Living for 32 years, credits the company’s treatment of its employees as a key factor in retaining him for decades.

“Every year, they do a summer barbecue or holiday party with employees and their families,” said Heath, an equipment operator. “They’ve always been loyal to me and treated [me] fairly and I consider them family.”

Balancing work and family has worked well since Kevin and Eric joined the company in the early 2000s. They credit their parents’ work ethic and focus on quality as key drivers of their success.

And while balancing work and a sibling relationship might present challenges, Eric A. Santini says the different roles he and his brother play — Eric on the financial management side, Kevin on the construction side — has been a formula that works.

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