San Francisco Best & Worst Contractors of 2013

San Francisco Best & Worst Contractors of 2013

The Angie's List Newsroom reveals the Best & Worst Contractors of 2013.

 

San Francisco Best Contractors

December 27, 2013 by Lacey Nix


Apollo Electric | San Jose

Bakelis (right) does most of the work himself, but his cousin Telli (left) assists him when he needs help. (Photo courtesy of Ted Bakelis)
  • Charity work or cummunity awards
  • 2013 Super Service Award eligible
  • Nominated for Pages of Happiness
  • Green products or work practices
  • Licensed or licensing not required

When San Jose member Michael Grodin interviewed four contractors for extensive electrical work, he says only Apollo’s owner, Ted Bakelis, gained his trust. “Ted embraced the job challenges and really understood what I wanted,” Grodin says, adding that he’s a lifelong customer now.

After his friend and former employer moved to Utah in 2006, Bakelis, who holds an electrical contractor’s license, purchased Apollo. Having earned a bachelor’s degree in marketing, then working in restaurants and the tech field, Bakelis finally found a niche in the electrical field. “I get a lot of job satisfaction,” says Bakelis, who has won the Super Service Award for lighting and electrical work every year since 2009. “I like working for myself and making my own destiny.”

Bakelis attributes his success to simple principles: show up on time, charge what you say you will and do a good job. “I care a lot about my work — it’s not just my job, it’s my life,” he says.

To save energy, Bakelis uses LED lighting, which also lowers his customers’ electric bills. Bakelis says he feels pride in his Greek heritage and donates lighting services to local Greek festivals and organizations.

San Jose Floor Coverings | San Jose

Biagi says he meets with all of his clients to ensure they're satisfied. (Photo courtesy of Doug Biagi)
  • 2013 Super Service Award eligible
  • Praised for pet friendliness
  • Nominated for Pages of Happiness
  • Green products or work practices
  • Licensed or licensing not required

Years ago, San Jose Floor Coverings’ owner Doug Biagi made a goal to personally meet every client and work on each job himself. It’s a promise he says he’s kept since 1983 and plans to continue. “I’m successful because I’m not dealing with other people’s mistakes,” he says. “I do the estimate, the work and the cleanup, [and] it helps me control the quality of the work.” Biagi started his company while working on floors part-time in high school. He considered other fields, he says, but fell in love with the trade and working with his hands. Seven years ago, Biagi brought employee Denard McMahon on board to help with his growing workload. “To have an employee for that long in this trade is tough — you have to have great chemistry,” says Biagi, who holds the required floor and floor covering license.

San Jose member Bonnie Randall says she hired Biagi to remove old flooring and replace it with tile. “He was the most attentive, understanding and knowledgeable of all the contractors we interviewed,” she says, adding that Biagi thought through the job and recommended a different tile that gave the floor a streamlined and modern look. “He was meticulous and the result was a flawless floor,” she adds. “I wish there were more contractors like him.”

San Jose member Frances Ripley also hired Biagi to install laminate flooring in three rooms. “Doug and Denard took the pain out of a job that could’ve been cumbersome,” she says, adding that the company moved her furniture without complaint and also helped with some basic handyman work for free. Ripley nominated the company for the Pages of Happiness, one of 14 nominations they received in 2013. “I feel that I now have a handyman and a friend,” she says.

Biagi says using the computer for estimates, invoicing and communication helps his business stay successful, especially near Silicon Valley. In his free time, Biagi loves riding dirt bikes in the desert and playing the guitar. “Music is an important part of my overall well-being,” says Biagi, who also uses environmentally friendly adhesives to reduce toxic fumes in customers’ homes. Members praise the four-time Super Service Award winner for good workmanship, personality and pet friendliness.

General Refrigeration Service Company | El Sobrante

Members praise Cain for quick work and for not charging extra for weekend calls. (Photo courtesy of Gary Cain)
  • Charity work or cummunity awards
  • 2013 Super Service Award eligible
  • Nominated for Pages of Happiness
  • Green products or work practices
  • Licensed or licensing not required

Gary Cain says he’s honored to continue the legacy his grandfather began in 1939 to help homeowners avoid the cost of having to replace appliances, when only minor repairs are needed. Cain’s father took over the company in 1948, allowing Gary to work for him in the early 1970s. When Cain’s father passed away seven years ago, Cain promised to carry on the family business.

Hayward member Naomi Leiserson believes Cain is fulfilling that promise well. Leiserson hired Cain in a last attempt to fix her refrigerator, she says. “I was prepared to replace it, but he said it just needed a new motor,” she says, adding that she’s now a lifelong customer because of Cain’s honesty and promptness.

When Oakland member Linda Collins called Cain on a Sunday for an emergency repair, she expected to pay extra for a weekend call. Instead, she says Cain arrived within an hour and offered his usual price. “He said he doesn’t charge extra for weekend calls,” Collins says. ”He couldn’t have been nicer.”

Cain says he never anticipated going into the family business, but after spending time in college and working for the company during the summers, he realized he had a passion for fixing things. “I was always very mechanically inclined,” Cain says. Today, Cain says he knows keeping the family business alive was the right choice. “I actually get to save people a lot of money. It’s a good feeling,” he says.

Cain says his father taught him how to build a loyal clientele. “Be fair and treat people with respect,” says Cain, who holds the proper appliance repair license. To keep the company’s reputation above reproach, Cain says he does all the work himself. “It’s easier to control the customer’s satisfaction if I handle everything,” he says.

Richmond member Dana Robinson praised Cain after she called for an emergency refrigerator repair. “He was at my door within a half an hour and had the problem solved within an hour of my call,” says Robinson, adding that she couldn’t believe Cain only charged his service call fee of $55. “He is amazing,” she says.

Cain also donates his services to churches in need, and recycles older appliances and materials to keep them out of landfills.

More Best Contractors

Here are some more Best Contractors who made this year's cut based on their awesome track record for local service. Read their reviews on angieslist.com to learn why members think they're so special.

2013 Best & Worst Contractors

The Angie's List Newsroom reveals the Best & Worst Contractors of 2013. Did your contractor make the list? Select a market to the best and worst in your area.

San Francisco Worst Contractors

December 27, 2013 by Lacey Nix

ASAP Relocations | San Jose

Adii Theres Karter (Photo courtesy of the Santa Clara County District Attorney)
  • Accused of shoddy work
  • Faces/faced criminal charges
  • Faces/faced civil lawsuits or penalties
  • Landed in the Penalty Box
  • Allegedly took the money and ran
  • Notice added to provider's profile
  • Illegally unlicensed

Three former ASAP Relocations employees, Maoz Kadesh, Wayne Allen and Adalinda Reyna-Mendoza, were scheduled for trial in late 2013 on charges of theft, income tax fraud and money laundering, according to Santa Clara Deputy District Attorney Martha Donohoe. In April, after receiving hundreds of consumer complaints and conducting a four-month investigation that included help from the FBI and the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Santa Clara County District Attorney charged eight people connected to the moving company with three felony counts each of theft, income tax fraud and money laundering, Donahoe says. She says the company enticed customers with low estimates, then overcharged them and threatened to hold their belongings hostage if customers didn’t pay.

Prosecutors believe five of the eight, including the company’s owner, Roni Hayon, and his wife and office manager, Adii Theres Karter, and their employees Ido Or, Noam Israeli and Elazar Nisanov, fled to Israel.

In January, the DOT revoked the company’s mover’s license, agency documents say. Since 2008, six judgments against ASAP were awarded to plaintiffs in cases filed in civil court, according to Santa Clara County court documents. Donahoe says the company also operated under the names America’s Best Movers, Fast Moving Van Lines, Quick Quotes for Moving and Encore Movers.

Los Gatos member Niki Moyer hired ASAP to move furniture and a piano to her new home. She says she hired another mover after they damaged the piano during several attempts to move it. Moyer also says ASAP forced her to use their boxes, claiming they wouldn’t use the ones she bought, and 50 rolls of packing tape, costing her nearly $300 in supply fees. “It’s a complete scam,” says Moyer, who paid $1,500, or double the estimate. Moyer then joined Angie’s List and filed an F review on ASAP.

The company, which is D-rated with five reviews, remains in the Penalty Box after failing to respond to Alameda member Kirstin Kurlander’s request for $300 to cover damage she says ASAP caused to her home during her 2006 move.

RJ Smith & Associates | Palo Alto

Richard J. Smith (Photo courtesy of the San Mateo County Sheriff)
  • Accused of shoddy work
  • Faces/faced criminal charges
  • Faces/faced civil lawsuits or penalties
  • Allegedly took the money and ran
  • Notice added to provider's profile
  • Illegally unlicensed

At press time, building contractor Richard J. Smith faced a February jury trial after pleading not guilty in 2013 to three felony charges of grand theft, diversion of funds and obtaining money by false pretenses in San Mateo County, according to San Mateo County Deputy District Attorney Karen Guidotti. Lt. Joe Wade of the Atherton Police Department says Smith was arrested in October 2012 after allegedly defrauding Larry Lowry out of $400,000 during an extensive remodel of his Atherton home.

Guidotti says Smith abandoned Lowry’s job, leaving shoddy and incomplete work, and failed to pay subcontractors, which resulted in liens on the home. San Mateo County court records show Lowry obtained a $409,000 judgment against Smith in 2012. Scott McKay, Lowry’s attorney, says Smith charged his client for construction materials that were never purchased and for work that was never done or done incorrectly. Lowry never recouped any of the judgment due to the fact that Smith successfully declared bankruptcy in 2012, claiming $3.3 million in debt, including nearly $800,000 to 17 homeowners, federal court records show.

Menlo Park resident Sherrie Feinstein says she also hired the company for a large remodel, but had to hire another contractor to finish the work. Consumer affairs records say Smith lost his license during her job. “I didn’t do as much homework as I should’ve,” Feinstein says.

In February, the Registrar of Contractors and the Department of Consumer Affairs revoked Smith’s contractor’s license after Palo Alto resident Alex Terman says he hired Smith to build a cabana, pool and garage extension, and do extensive landscaping, according to agency documents. Registrar documents allege Smith abandoned the incomplete project and failed to pay subcontractors more than $105,000, resulting in liens.

Despite Smith’s license expiring in 2011, the board says he continued to work. In February, the board barred him from reapplying for a license for five years, consumer affairs documents say. Records show the board also cited Smith in 1995 and revoked his license under the name Smith and Son Construction in 1996. At press time, Smith was free on a $75,000 bond, Guidotti says. He didn’t respond to messages and emails for comment.

WEMCO Landscapes | Alviso

  • Accused of shoddy work
  • Allegedly took the money and ran
  • Notice added to provider's profile
  • Illegally unlicensed

The Contractors State License Board revoked WEMCO Landscapes’ home improvement contractor and landscaping licenses in June 2013 after multiple consumers filed complaints alleging the company took their money and didn’t do the work, required excessive down payments and charged more than the contract stated, according to CSLB spokeswoman Melanie Bedwell. WEMCO also failed to maintain workers’ compensation insurance for its employees, Bedwell says. WEMCO is excluded from category and keyword searches on Angie’s List due to the license revocation.

San Jose member Joan Boverio filed an F review, one of three F’s the B-rated company’s received since 2010, after hiring WEMCO based on its presentation at a home show. She says company owner Thomas Schriner led her to believe he’d be in charge of the work, but she says his son, Chris, who’s listed as an officer of the company with the CSLB, handled her job instead. “I paid Chris a $1,000 deposit and he disappeared for two months,” Boverio says, adding that she eventually got the company to complete the job, but they left shoddy work. Boverio says she joined the List after her experience with WEMCO.

At press time, WEMCO and the Schriners also faced a December court date for a civil suit filed by San Jose homeowners Ian and Carol Gray, who are seeking $250,000 in damages after they say the retaining wall the company built over a 40-foot cliff on their property collapsed twice, says Jeff Baruh, the couple’s attorney. “On a scale of egregiousness, this was pretty high. It was a safety hazard,” he says.

San Mateo resident Lorelei Zermani says she saw WEMCO’s ad at a home show for an ugly backyard makeover contest. She submitted her photos to WEMCO and says she won the $9,000 garden makeover prize. However, Zermani says the company brought in bricks and gravel and she never heard from them again. “This really disappoints me,” she says.

Not yet an Angie’s List member, Vivian Fried-Allen of El-Sobrante says she hired the company for a $12,000 landscaping project, but they rarely showed up when promised and didn’t have a skilled crew, causing her project to be delayed by six weeks. “The finished product left a lot to be desired,” she says, adding that she joined the List afterward. “I didn’t check them out before signing. I had to learn the hard way,” Fried-Allen says. Calls and messages to Thomas and Chris Schriner were not returned.

Penalty Box Hall of Shame

The Penalty Box is our way of alerting other members about a provider who has failed to meet a member's expectations. See San Francisco Penalty Box Hall of Shame.

2013 Best & Worst Contractors

The Angie's List Newsroom reveals the Best & Worst Contractors of 2013. Did your contractor make the list? Select a market to the best and worst in your area.


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