Business thrives in Clermont

March 22nd, 2007    Author: Rodney Beckwith    Filed Under: News

To most, keeping out of the gutter could be considered a good thing, and to that end, Tony Iannelli is finding rewards in keeping things out of the gutter.

Iannelli, owner of Gutter Covers International, has enjoyed seeing his business flourish from a small second-hand shop into a thriving international operation that is leaving the competition behind.

“I started out in the gutter business some years ago, in 1969, and we installed hundreds of thousands of feet of gutter screens,” said Iannelli. “People always complained that we were only gone two days and the screen had blown off. That was just a characteristic of screens, they blow off or get full of snow and sink into the gutters. They had major problems, but there was nothing better in the marketplace.”

Those early days, said Iannelli, caused some frustration for installer and purchaser, due to a lack of any truly effective product to keep the gutters along roof lines flowing clean and clear. A new product on the market attracted some attention, but Iannelli said that it really didn’t fix problems so much as create new ones.

Michelle Pol of Gutter Covers International poses near the machinery that forms the innovative gutter guard product, a sample of which she is holding.
"In 1980, a new product came along that was a lot better, but it had major issues with brackets," said Iannelli. "It was also not consistent with the gutter. Fascia boards on houses get wavy, so when you put a straight product on it, it may go to a gap of a half inch to well over an inch, which could let birds and squirrels into the gutter to build nests. I took the product on reluctantly, because I thought I could make money with it, but I got so many complaints I decided to put it away on the shelf. But I kept thinking there should be a way to keep the animals out and still give people gutter protection. I worked on it for about four or five years. We finally got a patent in 1996, and this really works well."

Iannelli's innovation, Gutter Topper, took some good ideas and made them better. The new form of gutter protection is not only good at keeping gutters clean, but is also designed to make the gutters stronger. According to Gutter Topper literature, the product helps to create a gutter system able to hold around 300 pounds per linear foot, supporting a lot of winter snow and ice in the process. The interlocked design is created to keep everything but water out, and that, said Iannelli, results in a lot fewer headaches for homeowners.

"I was out in the field for many years, and I heard so many horror stories about people falling off ladders, reaching out too far and the ladder slides and off you go, or you fall off the roof," said Iannelli. "There are all kinds of maladies due to cleaning gutters. Sometimes you can clean them every few years and it holds a while, but some people have to clean them every few weeks. The risk becomes greater as we get older, and nobody heals like we used to. You have to keep the gutters clean and flowing and keep people off the roof or ladders."

Iannelli said that the goal was to keep people safe and provide a better product. Now, with 10 years of product sales behind the company, Iannelli is finding that clean gutters can result in huge rewards.

"Right now, we do a little over $10 million a year in sales, but we're reaching some new phases," said Iannelli. "We have a few new products now, about nine. We're going after the international market, so we're looking to double production and sales this next year. I don't think it's too rigorous to do. When we have several different lines, there are builders all over the country. Plus, there is the European market and Africa. It can happen."

After traveling around the country in the early days of his product to sell it at trade shows and in local markets, Iannelli is now poised to see his venerable Gutter Topper line joined by several newer products on the international market. Different products, he said, are geared towards different locations and uses. A new product, for instance, is installed underneath raised decks. That product is designed to catch water as it drips through the deck and wisk it away like a gutter would, allowing a cookout or outdoor party to stay dry underneath while it rains above. Other products continue with the Gutter Topper tradition of protecting and strengthening gutters.

"We sell in several ways," said Iannelli. "We started out with dealers who had an exclusive sales area. Now, we have the Leaf Terminator that I designed for the west coast because they were having a problem with pine needles. They have an option, and it depends on the type of leaves they have to deal with or the type of gutters they have. We also have a builders' product that can be installed when the gutter is being installed. Everything we manufacture is connected to the gutter and the roof or fascia board, which gives it a strong connection. If you have a lot of snow and ice, this holds up very well."

Iannelli originally made the move to Clermont County from Anderson Township when he couldn't afford to purchase a shop near home. Moving to a small shop in Amelia, he soon expanded to the point where he had to find a larger, more modern location in Union Township. Now, looking at how his business is expanding, Iannelli said that he expects to expand again in a few more years, which may result in an almost 50 percent workforce expansion. That, he said, will allow him to meet the production needs as well as to continue producing a quality product.

"All of the products we use are first class," said Iannelli. "We don't believe in cutting corners because there are so many people who do cut corners. We feel these are life performance products."

Iannelli credited the county with helping his business grow, noting that he has always been able to get help from county and township when his business needs to grow.

"Clermont County has been very workable," said Iannelli. "The economic development portion of the county has been awesome. Union and Batavia townships have both worked with me and been cordial, and that has helped us to stay there. We can get the help we need there. We import very few people to work for us."

For more information, go online to www.guttercoversinternational.com to view a company history, as well as detailed information on all Gutter Covers International products.
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