Philadelphia area's best and worst contractors of 2008
by John Baracani
In addition to our nationwide list, here are the Philadelphia contractors who have earned the distinction of being the best or worst in the Philadelphia area.
Artistic Masonry Co.
With the brick and mortar on the exterior of her home crumbling, Bernice Henigan called on the artisans at Artistic Masonry Co. in September to restore its past glory.
“Carl [Yockey, the owner] was really honest, and he kept me up to date on everything,” Henigan says. “I wish I had more work for the company to do.”
Yockey started Artistic Masonry in 2004 after spending years working for other masonry contractors, and says the best part of his job is being his own boss — sort of. “When you’re in business, you’re never really your own boss,” Yockey says. “Your customers are your bosses.”
Not that he’s complaining. Yockey says he strives to provide optimum quality and customer service, and judging by his customers’ feedback — with more than 30 “A” reports on Angie’s List — he does just that. “To know people look at my company as being a quality company that can withstand the test of time is a good feeling,” he says.
Ryan Painting LLC
Although he spent his summer vacations as a college student painting homes, Brendan Ryan never intended to stray from his career path as a teacher. “Then I got more and more busy [with painting] and frustrated with the school system, and ended up painting full time,” says Ryan, owner of Ryan Painting LLC. And when he says full time, he means it. Ryan says the exposure he’s received from Angie’s List keeps him busy, with about one-third of his business coming from repeat customers, including Angie’s List member Gila Robinson, who’s hired Ryan three times. “My kids know [the workers’] names and they’re always warm, friendly and respectful,” Robinson says.
Using Angie’s List as her guide, Toby Calandra hired Ryan to paint her walls, trim and doors in August. “Everybody who comes into my house says the work is beautiful,” Calandra says. “I’ve given [Ryan’s] name to a couple of people who’ve used him.”
Daly Termite & Pest Management
Looking to run his own business, Jim Daly ventured into the pest control industry in 2004, starting Daly Termite & Pest Management. And nothing bugs him more than an unsatisfied customer, which is evident by the 52 “A” reports about his company on Angie’s List.
“If I can’t solve their problems the first time, I’ll come back at no charge to fix the problem,” says Daly, who in addition to being an active member of his church, offers discounted rates to nonprofit organizations. “I’m the ‘007’ of pest control — licensed to kill.”
Andrew Mattis can attest to that. When bees nested in his home, he hired Daly. “I could tell he was diligent about what he did,” Mattis says. “He drove by a week after he did the service, saw me outside and stopped to see how everything went. It was nice of him to take the time to do that.”
Philadelphia member John Kiser nominated Daly for the Pages of Happiness after he made a trip to his home on a Sunday. “He patiently answered my questions and was sensitive to my concerns about having a toddler and two cats in the house,” Kiser says. “I liked him very much.”
David P. Gappa Oil Company
For a few years, the heating oil Michael Herrigel of Pottstown purchased from David P. Gappa Oil Co. Inc. arrived without incident. But when he paid approximately $1,800 and received only one delivery, he suspected a problem. Herrigel says when he complained a month or so later, the company told him it would send someone out but never did. “They had the best prices in town,” Herrigel says. “I guess it was too good to be true.”
Herrigel learned after later calls to the company that it was no longer making deliveries. He created an online posting asking if other homeowners had similar dealings with David P. Gappa Oil Company and says several hundred people responded.
Pennsylvania’s attorney general filed a lawsuit last March against the company after receiving at least 100 complaints, and the case is ongoing. The state is seeking full restitution and fines of up to $9,000 per customer. The attorney general says David P. Gappa Oil is no longer operating, and that Fleet Fuel of Exton has assumed the business and agreed to fulfill Gappa’s existing contracts. Gappa’s attorney, Adam Sager, didn’t return phone messages seeking comment. Fleet Fuel declined to comment.
Robert Hyer Construction
Police say Robert Hyer — owner of Robert Hyer Construction and RH General Contractor — disappeared after an elderly Townsend woman paid him $26,000 in June to build a deck and porch.
“He completed only a small portion of the work and failed to return,” says New Castle County Police Department Cpl. Trinidad Navarro. “[Hyer] stopped taking the victim’s calls and disconnected his phones.”
This apparently wasn’t the first time Hyer vanished from a job. Mark Petzold of Old Bridge, N.J., hired Hyer in 2004 to build a home addition — a project that he says remained unfinished two years later. “He advised me he was having money problems, so he required the final payment to pay subcontractors to finish,” Petzold says. “Once I paid him, he disconnected his phone and he never came back.”
Police issued a warrant for Hyer’s arrest in September 2008, but they found Hyer’s home empty and listed for sale. “Investigators believe he moved to an unknown address in New Jersey,” Navarro says.
My Dad’s Affordable Roofing
William Witwer of Reading didn’t know renting an apartment to handyman Charles Kogut would end up costing him thousands of dollars. “He saw my ‘for rent’ sign and said, ‘If you ever need any [home improvement] work done, call me,’” Witwer says.
He gave Kogut, owner of My Dad’s Affordable Roofing, a $2,000 down payment in December 2006 to replace his roof. “He came, worked a few hours and wouldn’t return for several days,” Witwer says. “He said he’d [complete the work] but never returned and didn’t return my calls.” Witwer says he evicted Kogut when the job started going bad.
Kogut has convictions dating back to 1992, including one for burglary in 2001, according to court documents.
In March 2008, Berks County detectives arrested Kogut for allegedly taking Witwer’s payment without finishing the work. Kogut faces four charges, including theft and receiving stolen property.
Berks County District Attorney John Adams says Kogut faces additional criminal and civil charges in similar cases in Lebanon County involving four other local property owners. Kogut is out on bond and has a trial date set for Jan. 9. He couldn’t be reached for comment.