Five years ago, Brook Dessaint saw the writing on the wall. He knew the economy was going south, so he closed his replacement window company, Dessaint Industries.
The writing is still there, but this time, Brook is ignoring it. The economy won’t get any better unless people take chances, he said, and he’s ready to do his part.
“The only reason I’m starting this company is to try and get people employed in this state. People are hurting,” he said. “When you put one advertisement out there, you get so many instant phone calls. It’s sad, the unemployment rate in this state.”
Dessaint Industries will reopen at 15 Gansett Avenue in Cranston by the end of January.
Dessaint had been a lucrative business for 35-year-old Brook, a resident of Warwick, but he feared a reversal if he didn’t heed the economy’s warning signs. After closing Dessaint, he focused on running his other company, C.A.C., or Create a Change, which is a low-cost consignment shop that raises money for various non-profit agencies.
Over the past five years, though, Brook has seen firsthand what the economy has done to regular Rhode Islanders. More and more people have needed to utilize C.A.C. services, and his former colleagues were out of work. Many of those men and women, also in their 30s, are unsuccessfully trying to compete with a younger, more educated workforce.
“They’ve got nothing. They’re having a hard time getting jobs,” he said. “The state is broke. I think we’ve got a long time before [the economy] comes back.”
Still, he is confident in his ability to run a business, and he thinks window replacement is a good industry to bring back.
“People are not going to spend $13,000 on vacations anymore. People can’t even afford gas to go on vacation. But what they can do is put $3,000 into your home because that’s an investment,” Brook said.
Moreover, energy-efficient windows “are the biggest money saver you can do to your home,” he said. Energy Star rated windows are tax deductible as well. Dessaint will offer a lifetime guarantee on the windows, which are manufactured by Diamond Window of Boston, and on the installation, and will offer financing, which they did not do in the past.
The guarantee is important, Brook said, because some companies rely on cheap, poorly made windows to attract their business.
“They were taking advantage of the situation and people at that time didn’t know as much as they know now. Quality is where you should go the first time,” Brook said, adding that high-quality windows are good for blocking out noise, which is especially important in Warwick because of the airport traffic.
In 2012, he plans to offer a deal where customers who buy three windows get one for free. Customers also will get a $25 gift for filling out referral cards, and a $100 bonus for referring a customer that hires Dessaint Industries.
Brook is taking things slow for the first few months, but he hopes to quickly expand the company to Massachusetts and Connecticut, while still employing Rhode Island residents. He is looking for a handful of installers, as well as marketing and office staff. He will not subcontract any of his installation work.
Brook encourages anyone interested in working for Dessaint to call or e-mail him and even if no positions are available, he will keep the application on file for future expansion.
“I’m hoping, by the end of 2013, to have at least 50 people under our belt,” he said.
At its peak, Dessaint employed nearly 200 people.
He has also encouraged his Massachusetts manufacturer to consider employing Rhode Islanders. Someday, he hopes to open his own distribution company that, not surprisingly, he would base in the Ocean State.
Asked what he’ll do differently this time, Brook said he wouldn’t wait to grow his business.
“This time I’m going to do it. I kick myself for not doing it before,” he said. “I’m not going to stop until I pull it off. I can’t wait to say I did it in a bad economy; I can’t wait to say ‘I told you so.’”
“But now I’m a lot older, so I’m wiser,” he added, laughing.