South Windsor, Connecticut and Long Island, New York
Plastering residential and commercial pool remodels and new builds; licensed PebbleTec applicators
David Cooke Plaster Co. on prioritizing relationships
David Cooke’s introduction to the pool industry began as many origin stories do — with a girl.
“I was dating a girl,” Cooke says. “Her brother and another guy were plastering pools in New Jersey and lost their laborers, so they needed a mule.” When they informed Cooke he would earn $25-$35 a job, he was in.
That was in 1977. Six years later, Cooke started his own business — David Cooke Plaster Co. — in Massachusetts before moving to Connecticut in 1986, where he has been ever since, though now he spends more time working on the business than in the business. In 2009, the company expanded to a second location in Long Island, New York, which is run by general manager Rob Romano.
Early on, Cooke learned a valuable lesson about the importance of customer satisfaction that shapes the way the company does business today. In the early ’90s, the business was going through a period of growth with opportunities to keep building its customer base. After observing other companies chase the money and end up letting their customers down, Cooke decided that extra profit from growth was not worth sacrificing customer loyalty.
“We can’t take care of the customers we have if we add more,” he says as he reflects on that time. “In my mindset, you always be loyal to the people who have been putting bread on the table for a long time. You take care of those who take care of you, and it works both ways.”
This loyalty carries over into industry relationships as Cooke and Romano share a collaborative, education-focused mindset that has resulted in the company providing classes and workshops for builders and other professionals.
“I don’t know any other plasterer that’s out there doing what Dave and I do,” Romano says. “When it comes to the education pieces, I’d love to see more people coming out and teaching their builders what they expect. Our builders appreciate it. They want to do right by us; they want to do right by their customers.”
David Cooke Plaster Co. also promotes education within the company. Beyond the employees in the field, they encourage education for office employees, so that no matter who answers the phone when a customer calls, they can provide a knowledgeable response.
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“We’re always striving to improve,” Romano says. “Our goal is to be the best out there, and I feel like we are hitting it. We’re always striving to be that much better than last year.”
“[It] helps us keep our finger on the pulse of the industry,” Romano explains. “We have a network [so] that we can reach out if we have a question that we can’t answer, and someone will know the answer.”
That network comes in handy during the busy season. Being in the Northeast, David Cooke Plaster Co. has a short window for work. That doesn’t throw them off track — they simply understand the job is controlled by the seasons and adjust accordingly.
“In April, May, June and July, we’re going to do 60%-70% of our work,” Cooke explains. “We just go seven days a week, and then get to August when we become a five-day-a-week company.” This “normal” schedule lasts until Labor Day when Cooke says the floodgates open again, and they have another wild few months until they have to start battling the weather in November.
“We don’t live by a calendar,” Cooke says. “We live by weather. We live by trying to get as much done as we can the right way every day. That’s all we can do.”
Despite a hectic schedule, the company keeps the emphasis on the people they work with and serve.
“I enjoy the relationships,” Romano says. “When we are done with a renovation, for example, and a customer is really, super happy, and we get notes from our customers or we get praise [from them] — that is what makes me get up in the morning.”