Five Star Plumbing Owner Rick Hottois partnered with seven-year colleague, Mike Sessa, to launch a new Boca Grande business with longtime ties to many islanders.
The 56-year-old Hottois said the new business came together quickly after he and Sessa first discussed it in October 2011. His confidence in Sessa, "the best plumber there is," was one key to the new business taking off.
"It was a little iffy," Hottois said. "I said it was the last time I'm changing jobs. I've been doing plumbing 30 years. This guy here, I wouldn't have done it with anybody else. He's the best plumber I've ever known. He understands more than field operations. He's got business sense."
Five Star Plumbing owner Rick Hottois, right, and Mike Sessa.
The phone rang steadily during the interview. In between doing business, here's Hottois on the future of Five Star Plumbing on Gasparilla Island.
QUESTION: Why did it make sense to set up Five Star Plumbing's HQ on Gasparilla Island?
ANSWER: We've been 15 years taking care of all these customers with other companies. These absentee owners know and trust us.
Rick Hottois at a glance:
Age: Jan. 15, 1956
Occupation: Owner of Five Star Plumbing of Boca Grande
Business open: July 13
Hours: 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays with 24-hour emergency service
Hometown: Brook Park outside Cleveland
Residence: Port Charlotte
Family: married 39 years with one daughter
Discovered Boca Grande: I used to camp out and go fishing on Cole Island. When I did work for Brad Baldwin when he was just starting in 1985-86, I did the plumbing for the houses on Golden Beach for Baldwin and I did the Village Homes at the Boca Grande Club and Marina Village.
Q: How is business? You opened during the slow part of the island season.
A: I've got a full board and can't keep up so we hired another guy. The response has been overwhelming. It's a good problem to have. We've more than doubled our business plan.
Q: Where does the name Five Star Plumbing come from?
A: It comes from every name we looked at. We liked this, we liked that. We were in my office and Mike suggested "Prestige" and "Integrity" and "Five Star." And I went. "I like that." The Five Stars indicate the premier work we do.
Q: What sets your business apart from your competition?
A: We're on the customer's side. We'll do the best job at the best price we can give them. We're state-certified and full service with construction remodeling service, anything to do with plumbing.
Q: It is a big deal when you decide to launch a new business, especially while the economy is in recovery from the Great Recession. How long did you and Mike talk about it?
A: The talk wasn't that long. About a month. Rick had to get his state certification.
Q: Did the state or county assist in any way to open the business or was red tape a hindrance?
A: No, we didn't get any help but it wasn't a problem. We'll get through it.
Q: When did you move to Florida from your hometown just outside Cleveland?
A: 1971. My mother forced me to move here. (Laughs). My father passed away and Port Charlotte was growing. I don't think my dad ever would have. My dad died when I was 15 years old.
Q: Is there anything unique about Boca Grande plumbing needs given it's a barrier island?
A: No, they just want someone they can trust. And that's us.