Employees Vow to Follow Krupinski’s Lead

Determined to carry on his legacy
Ray Harden, left, and Stratton Schellinger said Ben Krupinski would have wanted Ben Krupinski Builders to go on after his death. The two are the new owners. Durell Godfrey

When Ben and Bonnie Krupinski died in a plane crash last month, along with their grandson and the pilot, East Hampton mourned the passing of a couple who had been so generous to the community. Their sudden loss shocked employees at Mr. Krupinski’s many enterprises and they were determined to carry on his legacy. 

At Ben Krupinski Builder, a high-end general contractor with offices in East Hampton, Southampton, and Connecticut, two longtime employees not only stepped in to fill Mr. Krupinski’s void, but quickly put together a plan to take over the business. Stratton Schellinger of Sag Harbor and Ray Harden of East Hampton, longtime managers for the company, announced this week they are the new owners of Ben Krupinski Builder, which was founded in 1986. Mr. Schellinger started working as a carpenter for Mr. Krupinski 31 years ago, and Mr. Harden joined Mr. Krupinski 16 years ago. 

The men, who are 55 and have known each other their whole lives, said it was Mr. Krupinski’s wish that they take over the business and they often had discussed doing so. They did not expect it to occur under such circumstances, however. 

“It was a shock. It still is actually a shock,” Mr. Harden said from the company’s office on Newtown Lane in East Hampton Village. “Ben would want his business to continue on. He told us many times,” he said. 

“I’m still used to Ben’s Escalade. I see an Escalade, and I think it’s Ben,” Mr. Schellinger said. “I lost my friend and mentor. You see somebody five to six days a week for 31 years; you don’t realize how intertwined in your life they are.” Overseeing “scores of projects” and wanting to ensure the quality of work Mr. Krupinski was known for, the men did not have much time to grieve.

The Fowler house, a landmark at the intersection of Springs-Fireplace Road and North Main Street in East Hampton, was one of the projects underway at the time of Mr. Krupinski’s death. It was almost falling down, with a tree growing through its back wall. The house is believed to have been moved in 1890 from its original site at Indian Field in Montauk, during the relocation of the Montaukett Tribe. According to town documents, what once had been dilapidated and abandoned could be one of the most historically significant structures in the town. Mr. Krupinski had donated the work to restore and preserve it. Mr. Schellinger said they had made great strides and that the work would be completed in only a few weeks.

“He was really excited about that project,” Mr. Harden said, explaining that Mr. Krupinski grew up two houses away. “He stopped there every day to make sure that something was happening. He treated it like a normal job. I knew he wanted to see it done.” 

The Fowler house was just one of Mr. Krupinski’s generous community efforts. He also oversaw without charge the construction of the children’s wing at East Hampton Library, the new Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill, and the reconstruction of the Amagansett Presbyterian Church’s Scoville Hall.