Like so many of their customers, Mayor Joseph J. Solomon was impressed to learn the 80,000 square-foot building tucked away on Meadow Street in Apponaug is the heart of a manufacturing and sales operation that employs 55 people here and another 180 in New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts.
As part of his weekly “One-on-One” business program, Solomon visited Custom Built Windows & Doors, getting a tour of its manufacturing operation by David Gardner and his brother Johnny. David is the owner/partner and Johnny is the president of the family-owned business started by their grandfather, Jack Gardner, in 1961 as a storm window manufacturer.
Solomon arrived at the company’s showroom as a couple looked over a selection of window replacements and raised a question that Custom Built expects to have an answer for in the near future. They wanted to know if there is a replacement window offering the insulation and ease of vinyl framed windows with a wood interior.
As it happens, David explained on the tour, Custom Built plans to make such a window in the near future. All Custom Built windows are built to order according to the specifications provided by the buyer.
“So you know they’re going to fit,” said Solomon. He complemented the company on its longevity and the fact it has been based in Warwick since being founded. He said that is a testament to the quality of the product and the satisfaction of its customers.
So far, said David, President Trump’s tariffs have not affected the cost of their products to the customer, although they have had to absorb the increased cost of hardware from China.
“It eats into the margin,” he said.
In addition to storm windows, which are in demand for historic homes where the original windows would not be removed, the company manufactures entry and storm doors, replacement windows, patio enclosures and glass shower enclosures.
They also offer roof replacement and gutter guard services.
They promote a “Be Local” campaign to support the more than 96,000 small businesses that call Rhode Island home, and note that manufacturing has played an important role in the region’s history since the Industrial Revolution. They point to the fact that Rhode Island manufacturers have provided local jobs and are responsible for infusing over $1 billion into the local economy in recent years.
As Solomon walked through the office on the way to the manufacturing end of the business, employees were intrigued by the entourage and questioned what was happening. Solomon introduced himself, shaking hands around.
Those on the production floor didn’t pause as the group watched them work and moved through the building.
On the way out, Solomon asked what the city might do to help the business.
David pointed out that Custom Built has a loyal workforce with many of them having been with the company for decades. He said he believes that in good part is attributable to the company’s high benefit package.
He transitioned to high taxes.
He said, “Lower property taxes wouldn’t be bad.”
“I feel your pain,” responded Solomon, “I get it.”
He said as an accountant and lawyer, he would work to contain taxes. Further, he noted, with more businesses Warwick could possibly lower taxes.