While thousands of stores boarded up their businesses earlier this month before the U.S. presidential election, there were lessons to be learned, according to one Boston emergency services specialist.
While many contractors seized the chance to make some quick money boarding up stores before Election Day, Boston Board Up Emergency Services’ founder Louis Falzarano discussed the delicacy of dealing with clients facing difficult times, whether that be the potential for civil unrest, severe weather, fires, construction mishaps, break-ins or other unexpected calamities.
”We’re typically busy anyway with broken windows, cars crashing into buildings, falling trees, storms and all kinds of stuff,” he said, declining to pinpoint how many stores and businesses his company boarded up this month. “It was unfortunate that we had to do one,” he said.
The importance of neutrality during these politically divisive times is essential for Falzarano, a former firefighter who started his business seven years ago. “I want to think that I can stand next to anybody because I truly care about everybody. I respect the way you feel, no matter which way it is,” he said.
Now that many Boston retailers have removed the plywood from their storefronts, or are planning to, those who have adequate storage space for the boarding are doing so, according to Falzarano. “It could be for a multitude of reasons. It’s probably because of the uncertainty or they could use the plywood to repurpose it,” he said, “Different people do it for different reasons. With the storms, the fires, COVID-19 and everything shutting down, supplies are pretty tough to come by sometimes. It makes sense to hold onto the materials,” he said, adding that glass, plywood and 2×4’s can be scarce in certain areas of the country.
Having boarded up the Newbury Street branch of Lord & Taylor and other Boston stores, he said, “People are saying, ‘You’re making a lot of money.’ I’m not. I didn’t raise the rents or the prices of materials. Prices are going up because the prices of materials are going up.”
Noting that he is in the emergency services business, Falzarano runs a 24/7 operation that vows to be on site within an hour of a call. “It’s just horrible that people are spending money for the what ifs…if nothing happens, it’s been a waste of money because you don’t get anything. Or even if it’s boarded up and they still get in the building, you spent that money.”
When asked by customers for his professional opinion, he speaks with clients about their concerns. “I can’t say what the probability is. I ask, ‘How do you feel about it? However much it’s going to cost you to do it, is it worth that peace of mind whether it’s $5 or $5,000?’“ he said.
With insurance policies varying vastly, more companies are taking into consideration the potential loss of business expenses. “Some may have insurance on their building or on their products, but no loss of business insurance,” he said, adding that those costs can run high if windows are smashed or an interior is trashed. Either scenario could lead to 90- to 120-day closures.
He said, “I am trying to provide a service, if somebody needs that service. I’m as neutral as I can be. I’d rather that people not [need to] spend the money on doing it, than doing it. But they have a reason why they feel they need to do it, and therefore are doing it. I respect that also.“
The way he sees it, “everybody feels like they’re being bullied so everybody is pushing back. We as people need to come together and spread kindness to each other. Next time you’re in line at Dunkin’ Donuts, buy the person behind you a cup of coffee. Don’t even look at them to judge what they are or who they are. Just buy them something. Spread it. Play it forward,” he said. “Maybe then things will start to change. We’ve never been more divided. It’s horrible.”