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Charlotte Amalie
Tuesday, June 18, 2024
HomeBusinessSt. Croix businessMSI Building Supplies Celebrates 50 Years Building the Virgin Islands

MSI Building Supplies Celebrates 50 Years Building the Virgin Islands

MSI employee holiday photo in lumber yard (Submitted photo)

A fixture in Sub Base and a go-to for thousands of families and businesses in the Virgin Islands that have built, rebuilt or repaired their structures hit a major landmark this year as MSI Building Materials celebrates its first 50 years.

The entire MSI team includes three generations of Brunts and more than five decades of employees who are an integral part of the success of MSI. Theirs is a story of adventure, perseverance, sometimes hardship and joy.

Founders, Kris and Tom Brunt, were high school sweethearts. Their life journey together started when architecture student Tom Sr. and his new wife, Kris, committed to two years of service in the Peace Corps in 1964. On their tour of Micronesia, she taught school, and he traveled around the network of 2,500 tiny islands assisting in community-building projects. This was where Tom discovered his love and talent for building.

After moving back to the States, Tom received a job offer to work with a group managing reconstruction for the new Plantation Manor Apartment complex on St. Thomas. As storms tend to do, history was altered when Hurricane Christine struck the Virgin Islands in 1973. The damage was overwhelming for Tom’s employer, who decided to close his company and cease construction.

Tom and Kris remained on island and purchased some of their construction equipment to start their own construction company, Modular Systems Inc. They won a contract to replace damaged government school classrooms at the Gomez, Mafolie and Claude O. Marko schools.

A major component of the rebuilding process was securing larger quantities of the building materials volume of materials that MSI was bringing into St. Thomas caught the attention of other builders and homeowners in need of building materials. Because the Brunts now had a system for ordering and fulfillment, they decided to pivot their business to supply building materials and to leave the actual building projects to others.

Needing a headquarters for their fledgling company, they set about constructing a building shared with a carpet company on a dirt road in the newly filled Sub Base. That building today houses MSI Building Supply and Interiors.

Kris and Tom Brunt Sr. at Interiors showroom 2016 (Submitted photo)

In 1995, the massively destructive Hurricane Marilyn struck the V.I., and Tom said, “We went to work talking to our bank for increased financing to bring in larger amounts of materials the islands needed to rebuild. With funding secured, we negotiated favorable terms with stateside suppliers and started building relationships to purchase the materials needed for rebuilding the Virgin Islands.”

The Brunts and their crew unloaded large quantities of materials from the MSI chartered cargo ships arriving at the new Crown Bay landfill.

With every hurricane, the need for quality building materials grew and so did MSI. Lines of credit were increased as were orders with suppliers.

Because of his background in architecture and construction and seeing so many homes and businesses lost to storms, Tom was and still is keenly interested in the highest quality building materials that stand up to harsh tropical conditions. “Island Tough” was born and is the family mantra today.

Recognizing the need for quality plumbing, lighting, tile, bath and kitchen fixtures, the Brunts launched the Interiors Showroom in Ft. Mylner in 1995. To make the building material and fixture combo more convenient for their customers, they leased additional land adjacent to MSI and moved the Interiors to a 4,500 sq. ft. showroom in Sub Base in 2016.

MSI building materials arriving at the Crown Bay landfill 1995 (Submitted photo)

To further consolidate the supply experience for contractors and homeowners, the MSI Warehouse was relocated from Crown Bay to the property directly behind MSI in 2016. The expanded warehouse and lumberyard also house the steel rebar fabrication shop that provides stock and custom bending of steel rebar for concrete reinforcement. The family also manufactures and distributes RainGuard™ Galvalume™ steel roofing designed to withstand the tropical environment from their B&B Manufacturing plant, constructed in 1988 on St. Croix.

“We added SeaChest Ace Hardware operations to our holdings in the 90s. We were friends with Fred Guessing, who managed the SeaChest business and who had become the guardian for Craig and Eric Kirschoff, the owners of SeaChest.

“Fred guided the hardware business to success and managed the handover to Craig and Eric, who then sold the ownership to MSI. SeaChest Ace is now celebrating 75 years serving St. Thomas,” said Tom Brunt Sr. “This acquisition completed the missing hardware component for our full-service building material offerings.”

Not only has the young love of high school sweethearts lasted 58 years, this union was the basis for the 50th anniversary of one of St. Thomas’ most respected companies. Both Kris and Tom list among the proudest moments of their 50 years that their sons and their wives, Tommy and Pia, and Shane and Tina, decided to become a part of the business.

“Shane and I grew up with building materials and a deep-rooted love of our islands,” said Tom Brunt IV, known around the island as Tommy. “We are very proud of the “Island Tough” legacy our parents built out of love and hard work, and their dedication to investing in the strongest building materials to protect the lives and livelihoods of our customers. They’ve worked hard to build MSI with our family and our employees, many of whom have supported this company for decades.”

Customers are welcome to join in the 50th anniversary of MSI Building Supply and 75 years of SeaChest Ace. “We sincerely thank the community for their support and for allowing us to continue to help the Virgin Islands to build Island Tough,” said Tom Brunt Sr.

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