president and CEO of Paul Davis Restoration and Remodeling
Q: What have you developed to make your operation more efficient?
A: It's hard to figure out who's good at what service, and it's hard to figure that out when you're under duress. So what I did was start to incorporate all different aspects of a disaster into our business.
We can do full-service content restoration in our business. The contents — art, jewelry, papers, personal items — we can bring back to our facility to clean and deodorize. We've even restored a stuffed 11-foot bear that was damaged by fire and brought it back to preloss condition.
We're able to clean and restore items at a third of the cost of replacing them. We have a laundry machine — there's only a few like it in the country — and I can take any soft contents and, even if it's been in raw sewage, it will come out clean and deodorized.
I have a sample of a T-shirt that was damaged by fire. Someone would have to pay $15 to replace it. I can clean it for about $5 a pound, and there's a lot of T-shirts in a pound of material. There's a great alternative to getting their clothing back that a lot of people can't address, and we have the technology to do it.
There's a chain of custody for what is brought in, there are 16 video cameras, and the area in which we store contents is card-access. Things are protected, and the process is protected.
How much work did your company get from superstorm Sandy?
My main office is Central Pennsylvania. We also have a satellite office in Atlantic and Cape May counties on the Jersey Shore. Because we're one of the top five largest franchises in the country, we get called to help other franchises.
When superstorm Sandy came in, it wasn't a great impact in Central Pennsylvania. We had less than 100 jobs, and they were relatively small. It was a lot of nuisance issues.
In South Jersey, it was a different scenario. We had eight crews there working two shifts a day, and we had a line of people waiting for us to go help them. We're still working a backlog of 30 days of work down there, and it keeps adding every day.
What differences are there in the restoration and the remodeling work?
The difference between the two is that one is insurance-driven and one is not. If there was a fire or a flood in the house, we'd deal with the contents, and we'd put back everything that was damaged.
Our remodeling division began in 2004. It started because, believe it or not, there is a season to disasters. They tend to happen more in the winter months than the summer. We get to sit down with someone and make a dream a reality.
It's a lot of fun, and it has turned into a significant part of our business.
What is the most rewarding part of your business?
We're there helping people at a very difficult time in their lives. (Our employees) are very giving, and I'm very proud of that.
The day before Christmas Eve, one of our employees came to me and said, “I'm going to deliver toys for Toys for Tots, and the people we're delivering to don't really have money for food. What can we do?” Our organization filled 40 bags of food and delivered those with the toys.
We help people when there's a problem and that's our business, but that same vein of support is there to help the community.
From a personal standpoint, I went from me, an office manager and a truck to 70 very, very good people. To watch them grow has been tremendous. They reach out to the community around them, and that's fantastic.
About Steve Rotay
Rotay, 48, lives in Lancaster with his wife, Melissa; their two daughters, Taylor, 19, and Samantha, 16; and the family dog.
“With teenage girls, their activities are my hobby,” he said. He enjoys watching his daughters’ volleyball games, and the family also spends time together in Ocean City, N.J.
He earned his degree in industrial management and education — “shop teacher, as I like to say” — from Millersville University and served in the Marine Corps after college.
He began the Paul Davis franchise in 2000.