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The Bell Factory Fire's Other Casualty

PSI Plus, in business since 1991, lost everything, too.

 

With the that destroyed the Bevin Bell Factory front and center, it is easy to understand how the other business on the property that also burned down got lost in the story.

So, Matt Bevin, the owner of Bevin Bros. Manufacturing, made it a point during Sen. Richard Blumenthal’s visit on Thursday to shift the attention away from the bell factory, if only for a few minutes.

“One thing I want to make sure everybody here understands, there were two companies that lost everything to this fire,” Bevin said. “It’s easy to talk about the Bevin Bell Company because we’re 180 years old. PSI Plus is a cylinder manufacturing company. We make pressurized steel cylinders. It’s been here since 1991. It has, truth be told, more upside growth potential and ability to have positive economic impact in the state of Connecticut than the bell business.”

Enter Doug Dilla, the owner and president of PSI Plus. Dilla has worked with the Bevin family for 31 years.

“There’s two things I want to tell you about Doug Dilla,” said Bevin, calling Dilla to his side. “Bevin Brothers would not literally had still even been here for me to be involved with in recent years if it were not for Doug Dilla. Not only has he been the backbone and lifeblood of Bevin Brothers, but he has started another company under this same roof, PSI Plus, which makes an extraordinary product. He and his employees have been affected by this as well."

acknowledged the interest in the bell factory and its historical importance, saying that history is “irreplaceable.” PSI Plus, however, was equally impacted and he continued to drive that point home.

All that remained of PSI Plus was it's front office, spared by the fire but still scarred by the aftermath.

“There’s two companies trying to pull themselves out of the ashes behind us,” Bevin said. “Two of them. And Doug is responsible for the fact that both of them are still here.”

Dilla, who characterized his relationship with Bevin as a partnership, was in charge of the press when he began working with the bell company. Today he still fills a role, serving as a consultant.

“We’re going to go on together and regroup,” said Dilla, who spoke with the same certainty as Bevin did earlier that the companies would be rebuilt. “We already have another facility lined up and we’re going to start moving parts and equipment in as soon as possible. We have electricians and roofing people moving in [Thursday].”

Dilla called logistics the biggest current challenge with setting up shop in a new location.

“We’re fortunate we have Matthew who is able to drive through a lot of this stuff,” he said. “He’s perfect for this type of stuff.”

PSI Plus was established in 1991, making tubular compressed gas cylinders. Besides Dilla, it has eight employees.

“We’re moving, it’s only temporary. We’re signing a short lease,” Dilla said, declining to reveal the location until the paperwork is signed. “We’re going to be building on the same site, whether it’s going to be on that exact footprint, I don’t know.”

Till then, Dilla said the two companies will be doing on the temporary site just what they had been before the fire.

“We’re going to make bells, we’re going to make cylinders,” he said.

Dilla got a call soon after the fire was reported and quickly headed to the scene.

“When I turned up there by Food Bag, got to the crest of the hill, I could tell by the glow that I saw it was gone,” he said. “I arrived here about a half hour after the fire department got called and there was flames coming out of every single window.”

Dilla said the factory at one point was the biggest thing in town, but that changed over the years.

“There’s a newer, younger generation of people in town that barely knew we were back here,” he said, “but it’s amazing how many people came back and just wanted to ask what they can do to help or just share stories about … my grandfather worked in there and I remember he took us for a tour one time and stuff like that."

That outpouring of and offers of assistance have helped Dilla and Bevin through a difficult week.

“Belltown Auto has sent down trucks, tractor trailers for us to use, other people have rushed us fork trucks, Paul’s and Sandy’s has been fantastic about supplying skids,” said Dilla, adding that they’ve even had offers of space to use as an office. “The reception from customers has been fantastic. Everyone wants to help.”

All of which bodes well for the rebuilding of two companies.

Asked what kind of help he would need to get the company back on its feet, Dilla said, “All the help we can get and I think Matthew is on top of that. So, we’re hopeful.”

 

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