Since 1969, our company has stood for excellence in installation.
Our history begins with a fellow named John Whalen over 43 years ago…
The date was September 19, 1969. I remember like it was yesterday. Crouched in the cab of my 1950 Ford pick-up, I was busy installing yellow shag carpeting and painting the dash with simulated leather paint, like every other teenage hippy of the time. My Aunt Stella and her fiancé, Walter “Wally” Warenuk, were visiting my mother at our home on Stark Rd. in Livonia. They’d stopped by to see if my older brother, Richard, was interested in taking a job as Wally’s helper. Nixon had taken office and the war in Vietnam War was well underway. My brother, Richard, was preparing to join in the fight.
But before leaving, Wally asked me if I’d be interested in helping install windows. At the time, I was working as a mechanic-in-training at my Uncle Judge’s gas station. Much as I appreciated the opportunity to earn some extra cash, I hated the work. Back then, we didn’t have fancy hydraulic machines and electronics. It was full-on wrangling with an engine and my hands always paid the price in the end, evidenced by the gash’s and cuts in my skin. I was 16 years old, still in high school. So I told him yes and went to work for Win-Tite, Inc.
That marked the end of my customized pick-up. I spent the following week installing a rack on the bed of my truck that would accommodate the beginning of a life-long career.
Turns out, Wally was one of generations in the window business. I had the opportunity to meet most of his family; a flock of skilled tradesmen like Wally. Trained in the Old School manner of installation passed down from their uncles and fathers, the Warenuk men worked on homes with pride and precision. I was fortunate to be taught with this long-standing history of craftsmanship. Wally constantly reminded me, “I’m da best mister, I’ve been in this business since 1946.” About seven years before I was born.
My first lesson was clean-up. Wally was very adamant about keeping a clean jobsite. Some of the modern-day ‘perks’ of many businesses nowadays were just part of the job back in those days; a courtesy to the customer. We weren’t competing against each other as we do now. Specializing in windows didn’t exist back then. There were General contractors, wholesalers and their respective sub-contractors. In fact, I was a sub-contractor, working for wholesaler Saul Kahn, Wally’s boss. He seemed to get the contracts from just about every company listed in the TV guide and then some: Belvedere, Bond Built, Father and Son Construction, Ferndale Co-op…you name it. We were local with a good reputation and a strong general contractor base. There was always plenty of work; steady, even through the bitter months of winter. My pick-up with the yellow shag carpeting at the time didn’t have heat, so I’d work all day in the cold and drive home with blankets on my lap to keep warm. Those were the days!
Wally wasn’t much for verbalizing instruction. He insisted that I purchase my own tools and after about a week I was thrown right into my first installation job. Wally dropped me off, got me set up with tools and materials, and left…
It was a home in Detroit; six basement windows on an old brick home. Now for those who may not know what this entails, it’s mounting an exterior storm window on steel and making sure it’s sealed properly. And we didn’t have battery operated screw guns like installers use these days. I’d be using a Yankee push screw driver to secure the screws. My arms were so built up from using the tool they looked like Popeye’s!
I was terrified. I’d never had to interact with a customer to that degree. It took 6 hours to finish the job (an experienced installer would have completed it in a fraction of the time).
Wally eventually returned, after checking on my progress three times, and closely examined the end result. Both he and the customer praised my workmanship. It was an exhilarating, proud experience and I knew I’d found something rewarding that I would enjoy.
Every morning I’d load my pick-up at the United Products building with storm windows, prime windows and doors, so heavy, the bed of my truck sagged. It wasn’t uncommon back then to have a 40 window job. They were aluminum primary windows, since vinyl hadn’t yet hit the market. So working alone, I had to become efficient, fast and above all else, accurate. It became a science. I once installed 19 storm windows in one hour. Quite an accomplishment for a kid! It took many years of hard earned, precision installation techniques to achieve that record.
Working with the customer was part of the job that I enjoyed. While performing service calls for other companies, I’d walk around with a punch list of concerns. I stayed well into the evening to address every item on the list. The customers were always happy when I left; never frustrated.
Wally was a good mentor in this respect; a people-person who interacted fluidly with customers. I recall a storm door installation that we worked on together. The customer was a very nice woman, who watched the two of us while we toiled away. For a storm door, the last step an installer performs is adjusting the lower expander so it fits properly to the sill. We hadn’t yet finished when the customer asked, “Wally, why is there a gap at the bottom of the door?”
Wally paused and looked at the woman with a very serious expression. “Oh that’s so the bugs can get in and out.” The customer and I looked on dumbstruck in a moment of absolute silence. Then all three of us burst into laughter. This was a fond memory that has stuck with me throughout the years, laying the foundation for building the rapport that I have with my own customers.
Sometime in the early 80’s window companies began to crop up. Home improvement businesses that performed all aspects of construction began to break apart and specialize. I began doing side-jobs, housing windows out of my small garage at home.
The turning point in my career came while I was standing on a two-story ladder, with a window hoisted over my shoulder during a snow storm. While the stinging wind whipped mercilessly at my face and flapped my shoulder length hair like a flag, I peered into the window at the customer inside; warm and cozy, sipping a hot drink in his recliner. Nothing in life could ever be more difficult and I knew right then that there was nothing I couldn’t do. So I decided to pursue my dreams of becoming a business owner.
I began quoting my own work and after long days of installation, would arrive at customer homes for sales calls, dressed in my ragged installer clothes. This didn’t seem to phase my customers in the least. My craftsmanship spoke for my lack of fashion.
With fourteen years in the field, I finally broke away from Win-Tite, Inc. and started my own company, that I named John’s Weather-Seal. I moved into my first storefront in 1989 in a strip mall off of 8 mile & Inkster called The South 8 Center. From there, business thrived. My customers began referring me to friends and family. A loyal following helped me gain the reputation of superior installation with commitment to customer satisfaction.
Through the years, I acquired a collection of hard-to-find parts for older model windows and doors. At times, fixing an old window made more sense then replacing it, so that’s what I did. While business grew, so did the need for space. The small showroom could no longer accommodate the inventory required for my company’s expanding customer base.
In 1999, we moved to a much larger showroom on Grand River. And we’ve been here for the last decade, serving customers with the same careful attention to exceptional work that sets us apart from the competition. With a wide selection of top-of-the-line, to premier economical brands, we support all budgets. Dare to compare!
My perseverance through tough times is a testament of the quality work that I guarantee. Fancy electronic gadgets may have replaced the tools I used back when I started, but the craftsmanship is the same. I strive to work with my customers; to take the home that they’ve worked hard for and maintain its original beauty with the product that works best for its architecture. I’m not a manufacturer. I’m an experienced installer with over 43 years in the business, trained by skilled tradesmen who’d been installing windows for generations before me.
From the six window basement job that I performed at the age of 16, to my most recent customer, I take pride in my work. I’ve had customers return to me after decades since having their windows installed by me or my crew, and it’s like old friends stopping in for a visit. There is a sense of joy that surfaces when they tell me how happy they’ve been with the work; how it’s made such a difference in the look and feel of their home. Their families were warm through the winters. Few things are more gratifying than that.
From the moment a customer calls my friendly office staff, to the last smudge my installers wipe from the brand new windows they’ve just installed, I strive to make my customers happy. My installation crews carry the same level of mastery that I was trained to perform and have been with me since the early beginnings. I personally inspect every job to make sure it meets the customer’s satisfaction. Because it’s like Wally used to say, “Always get the job done right the first time. You might be a nice kid but that don’t mean the customers want you to keep coming around to fix their windows.”