Chicago's best and worst contractors of 2008
By YaShekia King
In addition to our nationwide list, here are the Chicago contractors who have earned the distinction of being the Best or Worst in the Chicago area.
Mary Lasko, of Chicago, hired Kelley Boylan, owner of Zen Support, to fix her printer and personal notebook computer. Boylan rescued her computer in one hour and showed her how he did it, Lasko says.
“I don’t believe there’s any problem he couldn’t fix,” says Lasko, who praises him for making computer talk easy to understand.
Boylan, who started Zen Support about 10 years ago, has served at least 500 clients. He remembers gadgets fascinating him as a child and received praise from family and friends for his skills as he grew older. Whether it’s a review on Angie’s List or a compliment from a client, he continues to get that praise.
“What could be more fun than to get paid to play with toys?” Boylan says. “My goal is to keep the computer happy and the client happy.”
C V Hardwood Floors
Born in Romania in the 1970s, Vasile Contra learned woodworking from his father before moving to the United States in 1997. That’s when he started family-operated CV Hardwood Floors, and since then, his flooring has received rave reviews on Angie’s List.
“You have to satisfy the customer,” says Contra. “You have to be proud of what you’re doing and treat customers like your own family.”
That’s one reason Keshia Beasley appreciated Contra when he replaced about 800 square feet of Brazilian maple hardwood flooring with tigerwood flooring in her Chicago condo. Beasley hired him after an upstairs neighbor’s washing machine malfunctioned and caused water damage in her unit, she says.
She’s still impressed with Contra’s dust control system and praises him for allowing her to view another tigerwood project before deciding on the flooring herself.
“I love my floors,” Beasley says. “Everyone that comes in says they like these floors better than the original.”
Andy Sjostrom Handyman Services
When Sarah McCoy decided to make her 1932 bungalow more energy-efficient by restoring windows, she knew who to call.
“This was the second time I used Andy Sjostrom Handyman Services,” McCoy says. “My windows are now the centerpiece of the room. Andy’s a gem.”
Forest Park’s Doug and Pauline Woodson also hired Sjostrom to rebuild front stairs outside their American foursquare home. “He’s very familiar with the quirks of 100-year-old houses,” Pauline says. And he was friendly to their
dogs, Doug says.
Sjostrom, who started his company three years ago and has been in the industry 14 years, grew up in a vintage home and watched his parents build rooms throughout his childhood. He also worked for a handyman during college and has volunteered with Habitat for Humanity, which builds homes for the needy.
“Customer service is everything, from taking off muddy boots before going into a customer’s home to returning phone calls,” says Sjostrom, who’s also nicknamed “Handy Andy.” “Being a top-notch handyman means not
only being skilled in the trades but also skilled at working with customers.”
Ellis Computer Consulting Inc.
Angie's List member Diane Burrell of Chicago gave Ellis Computer Consulting $1,500 for two plasma TVs. Two years later, she still doesn't have the TVs or a refund. Burrell is one of at least five victims. The Illinois attorney general's office filed a lawsuit in August against the defunct Chicago electronics retailer on charges it failed to deliver merchandise and refund $10,000 paid for store items.
"My office is committed to enforcing Illinois' laws to protect consumers from fraud or deceptive conduct," Attorney General Lisa Madigan says. "We'll work to hold Mr. Ellis accountable for defrauding his customers."
Ellis couldn't be reached for comment.
When Vanessa Zuffrano of Chicago looks at photos of her November 2006 wedding, she feels a twinge of both joy and sadness, the latter courtesy of Copeland Photography.
"I can't say enough bad things about them," Zuffrano says. She paid them $4,495 for 16 hours of photo coverage, at least 1,500 photos, two iPod photo albums, a custom-designed wedding book, photos on DVD and a private website for viewing photos after the wedding. She's still missing her wedding book, two iPod photo albums and other exhibit prints. And the website never worked.
The Better Business Bureau has processed 31 complaints against the company in 36 months, all but one unresolved, earning it an "unsatisfactory" rating.
Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed a lawsuit in February in Cook County Chancery Court against owner Orlando Copeland for allegedly failing to fulfill his contracts.
Consumers in Cook, DuPage and Lake counties, as well as Indiana, filed 10 complaints with the attorney general's consumer fraud bureau. The complaints allege that while Copeland showed up and took pictures at their weddings, he failed to deliver them.
"There is no justification for accepting their payments and then breaching the contracts," Madigan says.
A judgment was filed in June against Copeland requiring that all contracts between the business and consumers be rescinded, that all digital files not given to consumers be turned over to the attorney general, and that the company pay $101,030 in restitution and a $25,000 civil penalty. The office also says Copeland, who operated the business out of his home, has been permanently enjoined from owning and operating a photography business in the state.
"I honestly believe in karma, and he will get what is coming to him one day," Zuffrano says.
Copeland couldn't be reached for comment.
Tony Pinzine Construction
It's been three years coming, but Dorotea Sinclair of Chicago says she might finally see justice in her case against Tony Pinzine Construction. She paid them $2,200 toward the total contract price of $3,865 for new doors and windows. They started the project but Sinclair says they never finished.
In July, the Illinois attorney general's office filed a lawsuit against Tony Pinzine of Tony Pinzine Construction alleging the company defrauded Cook County consumers of down payments by performing substandard work or no work at all. The company is accused of taking at least $25,000.
Pinzine also failed to give Sinclair a three-day "Notice of Right to Cancel" form, which is required by law, according to the attorney general.
The office in 2008 was seeking a permanent injunction preventing Pinzine from engaging in the home repair trade and seeking restitution to consumers, a $50,000 civil penalty and $50,000 for each act committed. Pinzine, according to the attorney general, was not licensed to perform roofing services in Illinois.
Pinzine couldn't be reached for comment.