Hartford-area's best and worst contractors of 2008
by Mike Walker
In addition to our nationwide list, here are the Hartford contractors who have earned the distinction of being the best or worst in the Hartford area.
When Benjamin Baker of Southington hired Newcastle Painting, he had such a good experience that he and owner Keith Rawcliffe became friends.
“He actually became a friend of mine after the painting,” Baker says. “He’s a really straightforward, honest guy.”
Baker’s experience illustrates a record of good workmanship and professionalism. In the past year, Angie’s List members submitted eight reports on Newcastle Painting, all of which were “A’s” and two were Pages of Happiness nominations. Rawcliffe says there’s no secret to pleasing customers. “It seems to be just listening to them,” he says. “I always make sure to call back and communicate with them.”
AC DC Electrical
Since 1994, owner Shannon Cozza of AC DC Electrical has operated her business with a little advice from her father. “His No. 1 rule was to give customers a ‘warm, fuzzy feeling,’” she says. “What they want is most important, their time is the most important, and you give them your undivided attention.”
That simple philosophy has helped Cozza earn five “A”-rated reports and two Pages of Happiness nominations on the List. Customer Brooke Simmons of Hamden says she can testify to Cozza’s success. “She’s really good at what she does, but she’s also very informal and accessible. It was great.”
Bowden Development TLI LLC
Chester resident Shelly Urban says her home is coming apart at the seams. She alleges that modular home builder Bowden Development took dangerous shortcuts that rendered her $191,000 home virtually worthless. According to Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, Urban isn’t the only one. In July, he filed a lawsuit against owner Lloyd Bowden for building at least five modular homes he deems a public-safety hazard. “These mistakes could have been fatal,” Blumenthal says.
Urban, who gave Bowden an “F” on Angie’s List, says the builder sawed off her home’s anchors instead of bolting them to the foundation and tried to charge her more than the contracted price. When Urban refused to pay, she says he stopped returning calls. “I had to repurchase all the material,” she says. “I now owe the bank over $400,000. He’s destroyed me financially and emotionally.” Blumenthal says the case remains open and Bowden Development is out of business. Bowden didn’t return phones calls to his home seeking comment.
Ultimate Travel Network LLC/Ameri-World Group
In May, Attorney General Richard Blumenthal filed suit against Ted Wilkie and his companies, Ultimate Travel Network LLC and Ameri-World Group, for an alleged discount travel scam.
Bloomfield resident Dennis Phelan says he went to the company’s office for free airline tickets advertised in a mailer, only to learn it was an apparent ploy to sell him a travel-club membership he says was rife with hidden fees and restrictions. The reduced fee didn’t include the airline tickets. Phelan isn’t the only one complaining. Customers have listed 20 complaints with the Better Business Bureau, which gives it an unsatisfactory grade.
According to Blumenthal, the club offered little or no benefits. “These companies exploited classic bait-and-switch,” he says. Another of Wilkie’s companies, Travel Solutions Inc., was ordered to shut down in March 2007 for similar business practices. At press time, the current case remained open and the company’s phone numbers are disconnected. Wilkie couldn’t be reached for comment.