THE VINDICATOR, YOUNGSTOWN
By CYNTHIA VINARSKY
VINDICATOR BUSINESS WRITER
HOWLAND -- Dan McCarthy expects success whenever he and his friend Jimmy Collins put their heads together on a project.
That's why the two entrepreneurs have a lucky feeling about the new window production plant they opened this month in a former Stambaugh Hardware store on Elm Road.
Vista Window Co. began production with 15 full- and part-time employees, and the partners expect to expand employment to 60 within the first year.
McCarthy, Vista president, and Collins, vice president, worked together for 20 years at another area window business and noticed that their joint efforts were generally successful. "The karma is thick around us," McCarthy said with a grin. "Stuff just seems to fall from heaven."
The friends and colleagues resigned from their former employer within a few days of each other last November, both intent on finding new challenges, and by January had decided to join forces.
"I thought about opening a Dairy Queen for a while," McCarthy recalled, "but when we got together, we decided we should do what we know how to do. Windows."
Vista Windows is a dealer-direct wholesaler of custom-made vinyl replacement windows.
Why they're different: Unlike businesses that buy or sell through distributors, McCarthy explained, Vista will "cut out the middle man" by dealing directly with home improvement contractors, so their products can be priced lower than similar competitors' products.
The business is building a showroom on one end of its 47,000-square-foot plant where contractors and homeowners can see samples of Vista's vinyl, energy-efficient window products. Collins said Vista won't sell directly to homeowners, but it will put interested buyers in touch with qualified window contractors.
"We're not a do-it-yourself store," Collins said. "Installation is so critical, it's better to have windows put in professionally."
McCarthy and Collins said they financed the plant themselves without government funding, including the purchase of $750,000 in machinery and equipment. Still, the partners praised Howland Township officials for "bending over backwards" to assist them with zoning and other issues.
The plant fronts on a retail commercial strip and is backed by a residential area, McCarthy said, but its clean, quiet production process fits well into the neighborhood.
"We'll be good, quiet members of the community. We do only light assembly, no manufacturing, no smokestacks," he said. "But we might not be here without the efforts of the township people. They treated us like gold."
Vista Windows will eventually manufacture 300 windows a day, they said, and the factory has the capacity to build standard casement windows as well as custom-sized bow and bay windows and patio doors.
Competition: Collins said the partners aren't worried about competition from window giants like Pella and Andersen because they focus mainly on new construction, while Vista serves owners of existing homes who want to replace their windows.
They plan an extensive advertising campaign featuring the company mascot, a white seal, and the slogan: Seal Assured: With Vista Windows your home is totally seal'd.
Vista's goal is to be recognized as a household word in a 50-square-mile radius of the Mahoning Valley and to ship its products within a 250- to 350-square-mile radius.
One advantage the company will have as a local supplier is the ability to deliver a finished window in five working days, Collins said, well under the usual two- to three-week waiting period required by most of its competitors. Special orders, such as those with woodgrain-look or colored frames, will take longer.
The company has a Web site, vistawindowco.com, and customers can order online, fill out credit applications and track their orders. "We're the highest tech window company in the country," Collins said.
Vista has had no problems attracting job applicants. The owners said 300 applied for full- and part-time positions.
Many were interested in the part-time, 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. shift the partners developed to accommodate parents who want to be at home when their children leave for school and when they return at the end of the day. "Some people were ecstatic about that," Collins said.
A Youngstown native who lives in Cortland, Collins jokes that he graduated from the "school of building windows." McCarthy is a Pittsburgh native who now lives in Strongsville, a Cleveland suburb.