Charlotte's best and worst contractors of 2008
by Jackie Norris
In addition to our nationwide list, here are the Charlotte contractors who have earned the distinction of being the best or worst in the Charlotte area.
When Judy Roberson decided to replace her Formica kitchen countertops with granite, she paid a visit to Tom and Barb Waite, the owners of Imported Stone. “I knew in advance that I wanted to deal with people who would leave me with no worries or problems in the end — that’s exactly how this turned out,” Roberson says.
Tom and Barb credit customer satisfaction as a main ingredient to their success. “When we bought the business, we talked long and hard about how important it was to take care of our customers,” Tom says. “Most of our business comes from referrals, so taking care of our customers is very high on our list. It boils down to the quality and price of our materials and our commitment to customer service.”
The Waites closely monitor their performance by checking their Angie’s List reports and relaying the information to their nine employees. “We share our ratings with our team,” Tom says. “They realize how important it is, and they all take great pride in their work.”
After 16 years in the telecommunications business, Jason Duff’s wife’s boss asked him to rewire his home for phone data and speakers. “I’d been thinking about starting my own business, so that was a great way to kick-start JD Audio,” says Duff, the owner.
Jeff Kornegay was more than happy he hooked up with JD Audio when he needed his Bose home theater system wired. “Jason was very efficient and answered all of my questions,” Kornegay says. “He exceeded my expectations by truly trying to help me understand the equipment.”
Duff says he prefers to sell his customers simple systems they can understand and use, rather than expensive ones that confuse them. Dozens of Angie’s List members submitted reports on JD Audio in the past year to say how much that kind of service means to them.
One of the most rewarding moments of Duff’s day is when his job is done and the fun begins. “When I turn on the TV or system for the first time, my customers light up just like kids on Christmas morning,” he says.
Rightway Plumbing of NC
John Gallagher started Rightway Plumbing of NC two years ago, at just 22 years of age. Gallagher attributes his dedication and commitment to his customers as the key components to his thriving operation.
Jeff Brazzell couldn’t agree more. Brazzell contacted Rightway when he came home from work to find his crawl space flooded. “John came out within an hour of being called and stayed almost nine hours, until all the water was pumped out at 4 o’clock in the morning,” Brazzell says. “I couldn’t have asked for a more pleasant experience in such a disastrous situation.”
James H. Spangler
In 2008, handyman James H. Spangler of Charlotte was convicted in three separate criminal cases for cheating people out of money and property services, according to North Carolina Department of Correction records. He was placed on probation and prohibited from operating a construction business. Spangler now faces several new criminal charges.
As of press time, Spangler has been charged in eight Union County cases for allegedly issuing multiple worthless checks and one count of obtaining property under false pretenses and a Mecklenburg County case for allegedly failing to do work he was paid to perform and obtaining property under false pretenses. As of press time, the trials were scheduled for December. According to the DOC, Spangler’s criminal record goes back to 1989, with nearly a dozen convictions for similar crimes.
Spangler operates his business under many company names, with three F-rated companies on Angie’s List — Handy Man Can, Handy Andy on Abernathy Road and The House Doktor — and eight more business names listed on his unsatisfactory Better Business Bureau record. Neither he nor his lawyer could be reached for comment.
Angie’s List member Rodney Wilkes hired Spangler in February to paint his home’s exterior. Wilkes says Spangler left the job unfinished after being paid $2,000. “I called and he gave me some story about his son’s pregnant wife losing the baby,” Wilkes says. “I didn’t want to question him, but when I called back later, he started crying and said his wife was in the hospital and paralyzed. That’s when I knew I had been taken.”
La Bella Sposa
Brian and Shannon Starcher, owners of La Bella Sposa, closed their shop in June, allegedly leaving numerous brides without wedding dresses they’d paid for. The couple’s bankruptcy lawyer, Rick Mitchell, says he’d advised them to shut down months earlier when they first approached him with financial business troubles. “They told me they couldn’t do that to their brides, that they had to do the right thing, but it ended up being the exact reverse,” Mitchell says.
FOX Charlotte television reporter Morgan Fogarty brought her $3,400 gown to La Bella to be cleaned and preserved after her September 2007 wedding. “I didn’t suspect anything until June, when I was informed they’d closed their doors,” says Fogarty. “That’s when the story began to unravel.”
Fogarty says she never saw her dress again and doesn’t expect to. She believes the Starchers sold her gown to another woman she met through GownJustice.blogspot.com , a website set up by alleged victims.
The BBB has logged more than 46 complaints against La Bella Sposa, and the attorney general’s office is investigating 16 complaints against the company. In July, one bride won a civil case against the Starchers, but Mitchell says he doesn’t expect anyone to recoup their losses because the business has zero remaining assets.
Weir Builders Inc.
Kings Mountain and Shelby
Angie’s List member Anne Swann of Charlotte complained to authorities when Weir Builders Inc. owner Lawrence “Sam” Weir Jr. allegedly abandoned her home improvement job. Weir was arrested in a separate case in Lincoln County in June on criminal charges of failure to work after being paid and obtaining property under false pretenses. He also faces a criminal trial in Mecklenburg County for Swann’s case.
Swann says she paid Weir $15,000 of the $22,500 job total after signing a contract with him in January. “I learned [later] that Sam changed the name of his business on a regular basis,” Swann says. “The destruction [phase of the project] was completed in about a week, then the crew failed to return.”
Weir has 25 BBB complaints from homeowners in eight counties. According to the BBB, he operates under three other company names: Weir Grafix, Sun Masters and Crete Magic. Weir’s attorney couldn’t be reached for comment.
“As time-consuming and costly as this has been, I have to see it through to the end,” Swann says of her case against Weir. “As my pastor said, ‘If I don’t help stop him, then I’m enabling him.’"