How one boutique contractor on Long Island is riding out the recession.
(Long Island, N.Y.) Spotless Contracting Services – a local small business on Long Island built by Ken Barone will not buckle in this shaky economy. That’s because the company is constructed by hard work, honesty, true craftsmanship and a personal touched unmatched by competitors. The boutique contacting company, which has earned a great reputation among local homeowners, was created close to ten years ago by Ken Barone after working for other high-end contractors on Long Island. He went to school at New York Tech as an architect major. In the 90’s the economy wasn't so great, similar to what it is now, explains Barone, so he researched other venues and ultimately came back to what he loves—construction, contracting, interior design and decorating.
The company is licensed and insured for both Nassau and Suffolk County as contractors. There’s been a recent government mandate to be EPA certified and Spotless Contracting is certified—trained in lead-based renovation work. "Any house built prior to 1978, is assumed to have lead paint in it, so now the government has stepped in and said we must be trained to do that,” explains Barone.
Spotless Contracting does anything from window removal and installation, interior and exterior doors, roofing, siding, additions, garage and basement conversions. They are a full-service operation, from full-size kitchen and bathroom renovations and extensions-- but according To Barone, his pride and joy is moulding and mill work. "It’s something that I studied when I went to school at NY Tech in the architecture program. It’s a lost art. Not a lot of people specialize in that."
Constructing a Company
Like most kids, Barone set his sights on becoming a police or fireman but as he grew up, he had a knack for taking something and making it better or changing it. He was drawn to constructing and building things. "It more evolved into doing something that I enjoy doing," says Barone. "Every day is a new challenge and transforming people’s homes and spaces is definitely something I love doing."
In this still chilly economic climate, Barone says he’s still hammering away and business is still booming--but it has shifted a bit. He says he's doing a lot more crown mouldling and media rooms where the emphasis is on the moulding aspect where the typical construction jobs (roofing, windows, siding) have slowed down. Even with the government trying to put stimulus money at those events—people still can’t come up with the thousands of dollars needed to transform the outside of the space.
"People are taking fewer vacations and we're seeing fewer major renovations—they are more asking for minor renovations on a budget. I would probably say in the last 12-18 months, there’s really been a strong push in moulding. People have found the lost architecture of moulding. Typical home haven’t had that so it’s kind of been re-invented."
Barone knows what it takes to make a small family-owned company succeed. Although he relies a great deal on word-of-mouth and customer referrals, he understands the power of social media and networking. While he has yet to start tweeting on Twitter, he does interact via his company’s Facebook page.
Shaking the Stigma
Since the economic downturn, Barone has found ways to fire up business and stay afloat. And his attitude is one of understanding and acceptance. "People are struggling themselves to eat and breathe so all of a sudden projects that were scheduled went away," he says. "People's homes are no longer worth what they were. Their mortgages are just so exuberant that they’re not going to put anything into the home. All of a sudden everyone was becoming a contractor (whether they were insured or not) and doing it on the side. They weren’t doing things right and they even further gave contractors a bad name. "Everyone is tightening their belt and the competition is probably fiercer than ever."
Back to Basics
Barone has stepped up his game and he has adopted a rather positive take on all of this: "The good things that have come out of the poor economy is just going back to (and relying on) our ethics. Our product, regardless if it’s a hardwood floor installation or crown moulding—there’s a lot of value in what I personally bring to the table. From the design aspect to all levels of the experience, Barone is all about telling homeowners the truth and not selling something they don’t need. He continues to prove that a personal touch goes a long way. He’s present on every single job, deals with the homeowners directly and has an impeccable eye for detail. "I do the design work. I do get dirty and wear my tools so it’s more of a hand-holding operation for homeowners that want someone that’s going to be there 24-7 throughout the project."
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