Monday, January 17, 2022

Took Qby family elevator business national

By Mark Frost, Chronicle Editor

“The whole Darnley family all come from elevators,” says Lorrie Crannell, the Queensbury-based Finance Manager for Nationwide Lifts.

The late Andrew “Bud” Darnley, Sr., started Atlas Ele-vators in Buffalo in 1974. His five sons and one daughter all worked for Atlas. Otis Elevator bought it in 2002.

Andrew Darnley, Jr., started Barrier Free Elevators in Glens Falls in 1993. The company still operates. Mr. Darnley has retired from elevator construction and maintenance — though he still is a QEI Certified Elevator Inspector. His wife Sue owns and operates Barrier Free Elevators today.

Like his father and grandfather, Andy Darnley, Queensbury High School Class of 1988, is making a career of the elevator business. Photo provided
Like his father and grandfather, Andy Darnley, Queensbury High School Class of 1988, is making a career of the elevator business. Photo provided

Enter Andrew Darnley III, the third generation. Now 44, he graduated from Queensbury High School in 1988 and went on to earn a degree in electrical engineering from Rochester Institute of Technology.

He wasn’t thinking elevators. He went to work for tech giant Intel in northern California. He spent five years there and quit.

“I just didn’t like the cubicle life and working for a big company and not making a difference,” he told The Chronicle.

He went to work for a smaller company for a few years and “got some good sales and marketing experience.” That eventually led him back to elevators. He and his brother Tom had the idea to start a company — Nationwide Lifts — to focus on the home market — elevators, stairlifts, wheelchair lifts, dumbwaiters.

In 2000, they launched, with dual headquarters — back home in Queensbury, on Holden Avenue (a block west of Western Avenue near the Broad Street Hannaford Supermarket) and in California, where Andy was then living.

“We put together a Website. We put it up to see what the response would be and it just took off. We couldn’t keep up with it,” Andy says.

Five years ago he bought out Tom, who now lives in Indiana and works for the elevator company Schindler.

For Andy, though, this business was obviously his calling. Beyond the lifts the company sold, installed and serviced itself, Andy expanded by selling more than a dozen franchises across the country.

On the wall of the Queensbury office are framed front pages of franchise business trade magazines in the mid-2000’s listing Nationwide Lifts as hot and growing.

Ten years ago, the brothers had made a fateful hire — of Lorrie Crannell, a South Glens Falls native who’d been a part-time bookkeeper at Glens Falls synagogue Congregation Shaaray Tefila but who, with her daughter grown, was ready to pursue her career full-time.

The perfect person meeting the perfect opportunity, Laurie is now the Finance Manager for Nationwide Lifts, keeping tabs on the entire business from Queensbury.

South Glens Falls native Lorrie Crannell joined Nationwide Lifts in Queensbury as a bookkeeper 10 years ago and is now the company Finance Manager and much more.  Chronicle photo/Mark Frost
South Glens Falls native Lorrie Crannell joined Nationwide Lifts in Queensbury as a bookkeeper 10 years ago and is now the company Finance Manager and much more. Chronicle photo/Mark Frost

“She is amazing!” says Andy. “I rely on Lorrie for so many things.” Beyond keeping the books and doing the payroll, she schedules the installers, tracks licensing requirements, arranges freight shipments and is Andy’s right-hand, all the more important because he now based in Syracuse, with his wife and their three children.

The company runs incredibly lean — “it’s really a skeleton staff,” says Andy — with fewer than 20 employees.

They include, in California, where there is no franchisee at this point, two installers and three outside salespeople. In the East, there are two installers and some part-time staff at Nationwide Lifts’ store in a Syracuse shopping mall.

Yes, a store in a mall that Andy says “is working out pretty well. There isn’t anything else like it in a mall. We have two different working elevators, three chairlifts, two wheelchair lifts,” so people can actually see what the company offers.

At the same time, Andy works closely with manufacturers, who he said used to have all the leverage. “The distributors didn’t have a whole lot of say in the way the industry was going.”

Now, he says, “We’re as strong as any of the manufacturers,” and Andy says they’re building devices to Nationwide Lifts’ specifications.

“We have a very good relationship with a couple of manufacturers,” says Andy. “We basically private label a lot of products — driving the specs so that something’s unique and exclusive. We have a product line that is different than anyone else.” He says, “We’re definitely the leader in the industry in home elevators. We’re doing really well.”

‘We’re definitely the leader in home elevators, says Andy Darnley III.
‘We’re definitely the leader in home elevators, says Andy Darnley III.

While the stair and wheelchair lifts serve the elderly and disabled, they’re putting elevators into expensive homes.

“If you get into the very high-end, it becomes one of those must-have features,” says Andy, citing strength in the Southeast from Texas, across the Gulf Coast and into Florida, which he said suffered badly in the recession but is coming back now.

Nationwide Lifts is stepping up the pace in 2015. They’ve obtained the Internet domain elevators.com, and they’re rolling out a new affiliate program that expands on the successful past franchising.

Andy said they’re looking to enroll “30 plus” independent affiliates, who will continue to operate their own businesses under their own names, but will have an affiliation with Nationwide Lifts, to access the company’s products and marketing.

“We’re expecting a big year,” Andy said.

Copyright © 2015 Lone Oak Publishing Co., Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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