Back in 1983, Gregg D’Attile, at age 21, moved with his parents from Brooklyn, N.Y., to Florida.
“Things weren’t going so good in the late ’70s - there was no work for a union plumber,” D’Attile explains. “We had family in Florida and we decided to stake out fresher ground.”
And that ground has turned out to be quite fruitful for D’Attile, now the president of Art Plumbing & Air Conditioning in the Fort Lauderdale suburb of Coral Springs. D’Attile is in his fourth decade of providing plumbing and air-conditioning services to customers across a 50-mile radius in Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties.
The “Art” in the name refers to his father, who founded the company, and at age 85 still handles permits and takes care of scrap metal for the 25-employee operation, which includes 12 box trucks and a 5,000-square-foot warehouse. D’Attile’s 79-year-old mother, Marie, is the company bookkeeper. His nephew Art D’Attile also works for the company, giving the family four generations of plumbers.
“When we first started down here, we did a lot of new construction,” Gregg D’Attile notes. “Around 1992, we started to really specialize in service work, and in 1996 we added air conditioning. We’ll do anything involving plumbing in the house whether it’s re-piping, new installs, leak searches or water heaters. We seal up attics and do water treatment. We do a little bit of everything.”
D’Attile’s company has drawn quite a bit of attention on the streets of south Florida thanks to a creative design on the side of his Mitsubishi and Ford service trucks with Hackney Performer P-2000 service bodies (featuring D’Attile’s custom shelving). An artist-type figure wearing a beret and holding a paintbrush is depicted on the side of the trucks with the tagline: “The Picasso of Plumbing & A/C.”
“That was from an advertising designer (Mike Fagin) way back in the day,” the 47-year-old D’Attile explains. “He played off my dad’s name, Art, and the artist aspect. About five years ago, we updated his picture.”
The truck design has produced a steady stream of comments over the years.
“People love it or they say stuff like, ‘You work like an artist,’” chuckles D’Attile, a member of the board of directors of the Nexstar best practices group (he’s been a Nexstar member since 2003).
The truck’s design has even caught the attention of the big screen. A local production company cast it in the 2008 romantic comedy “Sex Drive.”
“It’s a tiny, quick shot,” D’Attile laughs. “We were on a service call over at the building and the art director loved the truck. The truck was gone for a week. I’ve had friends call me from all over the place saying they saw the truck in the movie.”
In addition to stressing punctual customer service, D'Attile also demands his service trucks be in pristine condition. Each Wednesday, he holds a truck-cleaning contest among his employees. The top three finishers each week earn cash prizes.
“We provide them the materials to clean the trucks,” he notes. “They get judged on 15 points of cleanliness, including things like getting bugs off the windshield.”
Looking back, D’Attile admits there was some initial trepidation in leaving his native New York behind.
“Sure,” he says, “we moved to a new state and didn’t have a job. It was kind of scary. It’s been an amazing transformation going from working out of a garage in our house to being in the position we are today - pretty darned close to being a debt-free company.”